After weeks of denying that the spread of viral “fake news” stories was a problem that it needed to be concerned about, Facebook has finally announced some concrete measures designed to blunt the force of hoaxes and misinformation, including a partnership with external fact-checking organizations who call out fakes. Now comes the hard part.
Within hours of the announcement on Thursday—which involves making it easier for users to flag fakes, as well as alerting readers when the accuracy of a story has been called into question—conservative outlets were already dismissing the move as a conspiracy of left-leaning partisans, designed to smother alternative sources and protect existing “gatekeepers.”
Snopes, for example, which has been fact-checking dubious Internet stories for over two decades, was dismissed by some as a “far-left group,” as was fellow verification site Politifact. Others even criticized Facebook as a whole for being a left-leaning entity (which might come as a surprise to board member Peter Thiel, a Trump adviser).
All of this helps explain why Facebook didn’t want to wade into this issue in the first place, not to mention why it resists being defined as a media company so strenuously (although it clearly is one). Facebook likes things that are neat and tidy, like algorithms—not things that are all muddy and gray and complicated, like defining what constitutes fake news.
Unfortunately, that is the world we all live in now, and it is the world in which Facebook has become one of the leading sources of news for large numbers of people.
It may not be pretty, and it may not be something that a bunch of twenty-somethings with math and computer science degrees are equipped to fix. But that doesn’t change the fact that Facebook is in it up to its eyeballs. It is either going to be part of the solution, or it is going to be part of the problem.
BITS AND BYTES
Oracle spins tale of cloud software domination. The software company reported approximately $9.1 billion in revenue for its second quarter ended Nov. 30, which was up slightly from the year-earlier period. Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd took the opportunity to declare his company as “number one in SaaS cloud applications sales” within businesses with more than 1,000 employees. Salesforce.com might want to argue over that. (Fortune, MarketWatch, Reuters)
Verizon is demanding a better deal for Yahoo. The telecommunications company agreed to pay $4.8 billion for Yahoo’s core Internet business back in July. Now, it wants that price to reflect the economic damage related to two massive data breaches, including the 2013 one disclosed this week that affected 1 billion accounts. (Reuters)
More companies are buying cyber insurance. Premium spending on policies that protect businesses against the cost of data breaches could reach $7.5 billion by 2020, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers. (Wall Street Journal)
The clock is officially ticking on a net neutrality rollback. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said he’ll resign on Inauguration Day. The move wasn’t unexpected, but his decision to leave quickly signals a death knell for his signature communications policies, including rules that prohibit discrimination against Internet sites and services. (Fortune)
California wants to know how much power your computer uses. After four years of work, the state has passed first-of-a-kind energy efficiency standards for information technology that take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Many personal computers and monitors come with features to reduce electricity consumption, but very few of the ones currently in use there will meet the new requirements. (New York Times)
This Chinese firm can now sell BlackBerry smartphones anywhere. Canadian firm BlackBerry, which is prioritizing its software and security talents, tapped TCL Communication Technology Holdings to manufacture and sell mobile devices that carry its iconic brand name. This is the first such global licensing arrangement. (Reuters)
Instagram is still growing at a furious place. The photo-sharing app added 100 million more users in the last six months, boosting its total over 600 million. (Reuters)
Microsoft officially ditches Flash support. The next update to its Edge browser (the replacement for Internet Explorer) will prevent the video player from displaying media automatically when someone visits a website that uses it. (Fortune)
This stealthy startup uses artificial intelligence to improve forms processes. New York-based HyperScience, which Friday disclosed $18 million in early-stage venture funding, is working on software for processing hand-written forms, such as job applications or insurance claims, more accurately and quickly. (TechCrunch)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz is joining Donald Trump’s transition team. She’s keeping her day job, though. Catz participated in the President-elect’s meeting with more than a dozen top technology executives on Wednesday. So she’ll be able to speak up for the industry’s top priorities. (Reuters, Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Customer Sues IRS Over Probe of Coinbase Bitcoin Accounts, by Jeff John Roberts
20th Century Fox Partners With Virtual Reality Studio Startup, by Jonathan Vanian
The Cost of Replacing a Lost AirPod Is Pretty Steep, by Kevin Lui
ONE MORE THING
It’s Lego vs. Microsoft in virtual block-building faceoff. The forthcoming Lego Worlds will compete directly with Microsoft’s wildly popular Minecraft So Lego is offering early buyers a price cut. (VentureBeat)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Consumer Electronics Show: An annual conference and exhibition dedicate to the business of consumer technology. (Jan. 5-8; Las Vegas)
IBM Connect 2017: Redefine work with Watson. (Feb. 20-23; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (West): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (Feb. 26-28; Phoenix)
Microsoft Envision: Drive digital transformation. (Feb. 28-March 2; Los Angeles)
Pure//Accelerate: The future of data storage. (March 6-8; San Francisco)
Google Cloud Next: Products and perspectives for developers and customers. (March 7-10, 2017; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (East): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (March 19-21; Hollywood, Fla.)
IBM Interconnect: Tap into advanced cloud technology. (March 19-23; Las Vegas)
JiveWorld: Strategies and technologies for workplace collaboration. (May 1-3; Las Vegas)
Cisco Live: Education for technology innovators. (June 25-29; Las Vegas)