Data Sheet—Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 15, 2016, 1:41 PM UTC

Every time the topic comes up, Mark Zuckerberg strenuously denies that his creation is a media company. “We’re a tech company,” the Facebook CEO protests, waving his hands and pointing at the social network’s algorithm, the way a magician waves a handkerchief to try and distract you.

And yet, the evidence continues to pile up that Facebook not only is a media company—or at least acts a lot like one, and should probably be treated like one—but may be the most powerful media entity in the world.

Zuckerberg et al would like to pretend that Facebook is just a platform, agnostic about content, just distributing whatever its users want, and run by an impartial algorithm. But the reality is that the site routinely removes content for its own purposes (often without saying why), and more recently it has begun funding, buying and developing its own content, specifically video.

That process began with a $30 million fund that Facebook started doling out to existing media organizations like The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Time Inc. (the parent company of Fortune magazine) to get them to produce live video in order to promote its Facebook Live feature.

Now, it appears that the company is planning to buy, fund, or create its own TV-style content. CollegeHumor founder Ricky Van Veen, who joined Facebook earlier this year, told Recode he is looking for “video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted, and sports content, that takes advantage of mobile and the social interaction unique to Facebook.”

Yes, Facebook is a platform, and yes, it is powered by technology. But it is also a hugely powerful entity that controls the distribution of media in a way no other company ever has. And now it is funding and developing its own content. That sounds like a media company to me.


Tech leaders meet a kinder, gentler Donald Trump. During the public portion of a 90-minute roundtable in New York, the President-elect set aside his often-nasty campaign rhetoric, offering that he was "here to help" the industry continue to do well in innovation. Off camera, the group discussed education, immigration, and trade with China. The attendees included the usual suspects from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle—but Twitter didn't get an invite. (FortuneReutersNew York Times)

Yahoo fesses up to another, record-breaking data breach. It thinks hackers stole personal information—including passwords and dates of birth but not credit-card information—from more than 1 billion accounts back in 2013. That's twice as many as its 2014 incident. (Fortune)

Arista prevails in copyright fight with Cisco. The networking giant wanted the much smaller company, founded by a former executive, to pay $335 million for allegedly copying the command interfaces for its Ethernet switches. A California jury says Arista doesn't owe Cisco anything. The two are still fighting over patents. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)

California's motor vehicle agency isn't pleased with Uber. The giant ride-sharing company is sending its self-driving cars out on the streets of San Francisco without proper permits, according to state officials. One even ran a red light. The vehicles aren't fully autonomous, Uber counters, because there are both a "driver" and an engineer along for the ride. (Reuters, Fortune)

Alibaba's cloud service moves into Japan. The new data center, which is a joint venture with Softbank, gives Aliyun coverage in 14 global regions. Over the long term, it wants to compete with market leader Amazon, which this week opened up its latest facility in London. (Fortune, Fortune)

Evernote wants to read your notes. The app company is adjusting its privacy policy in January, ostensibly so that employees can check up on how well its machine learning software find patterns. But that change is a big problem for some customers. (Fortune)

This Las Vegas hotel is installing an Amazon Echo in every room. Wynn Resorts wants to offer guests the option of controlling lights, adjusting the temperature, and closing the drapes using voice commands. (VentureBeat)

Salesforce is buying yet another company. Its latest acquisition is Twin Prime, which specializes in technology that helps improve the performance of mobile apps. Terms of the deal—its 13th this year—weren't disclosed. (Silicon Valley Business Journal)

This computer could help accelerate your artificial intelligence project. Life sciences and software developers are talking up a new $129,000 system from Nvidia that's specifically configured to tackle machine learning tasks. That's more than it would cost to build a similar system from scratch, but early customers suggest the investment is worth it. (MIT Technology Review)


How Autonomy Fooled Hewlett-Packard, by Jack Ciesielski

Nokia Brand Returns on Super Cheap Dumb Phones, by Aaron Pressman

Apple Suspends Smartwatch Update After Glitches, by Don Reisinger

This Beacon Will Help You Find Your Uber Ride More Quickly, by Kia Kokalitcheva

Google Shows How FBI Makes Secret Demands for Gmail Account Info, by Jeff John Roberts

New York Plans Splashy New Virtual Reality Lab, by Lisa Eadicicco

This 'Aggregator' App for Uber and Lyft Hopes to Make the Cut, by Kia Kokalitcheva


Watch Amazon's drone complete its first delivery in rural England. The package made it to the customer's doorstep just 13 minutes after the order was placed. (Fortune)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.
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