Season’s greetings, Data Sheet readers. This is Fortune’s last tech newsletter before the holidays. We’ll be on hiatus until Dec. 30th. Have a happy, healthy, hearty holiday with your loved ones. Stay warm!
It was a small step, perhaps, but still a noteworthy one. After months of denying that Facebook is a media company, Mark Zuckerberg admitted in a recent one-on-one interview with his COO, Sheryl Sandberg, that the social network actually is a media company—although not a traditional one.
For years, Zuckerberg has argued that Facebook is just a simple technology platform, one that distributes content created by others, using an impersonal and objective algorithm. In other words, not a media company. And certainly not an “arbiter of truth,” as he put it.
That position has been getting increasingly difficult to defend, however, as Facebook has been paying media companies to create content and planning to develop its own TV-style shows. Not only that, but the social network has also borne part of the blame for the rise of “fake news,” and has recently announced plans to try and help stamp out the problem.
In his interview, Zuckerberg said Facebook “is not a traditional media company,” since it doesn’t write the news that appears on the platform. But he admitted that the network “does a lot more than just distribute news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.”
That’s a significant move for the Facebook founder, given his past intransigence on the subject. To admit that the company plays a significant role in the way that people consume information, and that this role isn’t just as a distributor of news, suggests that he is willing to at least consider what kinds of responsibilities Facebook might have.
Given the vast numbers of people who use Facebook daily, and the similarly large numbers of users who get a lot of their news there, it’s incumbent on Zuckerberg to be part of the conversation around how to fix the “fake news” problem. So it’s nice to see that he is prepared to admit that Facebook has some duty to the public discourse. Now he needs to follow through on that.
BITS AND BYTES
Baidu bucks IPO rumor. The Chinese Internet giant has denied a Wall Street Journal report that the company planned to list iQiyi, its video streaming site, on Hong Kong or U.S. stock exchanges in a possible $1 billion IPO next year. Baidu said that it has no timetable for such plans. (Reuters, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
More evidence links DNC hackers to Russian military. Researchers at the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike said they discovered a malware campaign targeting Ukrainian troops that used essentially the same attack code as the hackers who breached the Democratic National Committee. The finding adds weight to their belief that the perpetrators are linked to the Russian military, and specifically to the country’s foreign intelligence agency GRU. (Fortune, CrowdStrike)
Uber’s self-driving cars towed to Arizona. A day after losing its license to operate in California, Uber shipped its self-driving vehicle fleet to Phoenix, Arizona. The ride-hailing firm transported its Volvo XC90 cars by truck to the city where the company plans to begin testing its wheeled-computers in the coming weeks. (Fortune)
Hedge fund giant builds brain-computer. Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, has embarked on a project to develop a software system that essentially codes founder Ray Dalio’s brain into software. The “Book of the Future” or “Principles Operating System,” as the software project is known, intends to automate nearly three-quarters of the firm’s management decisions within five years. (Wall Street Journal)
Bitcoin is booming. The price of all circulating Bitcoins, a digital currency that affords seamless, pseudonymous money transfer over the Internet, surged to a record high above $14 billion on Thursday. The web-based cryptocurrency has doubled in price this year, a trend primarily driven by the declining yuan in China. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
Here’s Fortune contributor John Patrick Pullen on why playtime will never be the same with high-tech toys. Brio bores my boy.
There, I said it. The little wooden trains—the darling toy of generations of well-meaning parents—can barely hold my 2-year-old son’s attention for fifteen minutes before he tramples the tracks like a giant toddler monster. This is distressing on multiple levels, not the least of which being: What does an overworked guy like me need to do to get some low-impact dad time? (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
A Look Inside Amazon’s Two-Hour Delivery Warehouse…In Midtown Manhattan by Anne VanderMey
These Were the Biggest Tech Stories of 2016 by Robert Hackett
High-Tech Lingerie Company Peach Wants to Build You a Better Bra by Anna Teregulova
Here’s What YouTube Has Planned for 2017 by Andrew Nusca
ONE MORE THING
A brief economic history of time. Broadly defined, an economy is a way for a society to cope with the future. Economies and their attendant technologies, meanwhile, influence people’s perception of time, as the age of exploration’s precision timepieces and the industrial revolution’s standardized time zones once did. Terms like “weekend” and “happy hour” are modern inventions—and excellent ones at that. (The Atlantic)
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)