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Data Sheet—Thursday, January 26, 2017

Facebook has been blamed by many for its complicity in the explosion of “fake news” during the recent election campaign, a phenomenon that some say helped Donald Trump take the Oval Office. After initially dismissing the issue, Mark Zuckerberg has talked more recently about taking concrete steps to attack the problem.

One step that Facebook is taking is to alter the way its “Trending Topics” section works in order to try and keep fake news items from moving up that leaderboard, which sits in the upper right-hand section of every user’s page. The change was announced on Wednesday in a blog post.

Instead of ranking topics based purely on the number of people sharing, liking, or commenting on them, Facebook says it will now look at whether those topics or stories are also being covered by a wide range of other publishers and media outlets. The company said it hopes this will reduce the likelihood of having an article from a fake-news website dominating the trending topics.

In addition to some of the fact-checking features that Facebook announced recently—which include integrating with the work being done by organizations like Politifact—this is a good step towards improving the environment for news on the social network.

To Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s credit, once he agrees that something is a problem, he usually moves swiftly to try and fix it. Let’s hope that he intends to follow through on his promises as far as fake news goes, because we will all be better off. And with Google also taking action to cut off advertising access for such sites, things may be looking up on the fake news front.

Mathew Ingram


Apple takes dispute with Qualcomm to China. The iPhone maker filed two lawsuits against the giant wireless chip company, accusing it of abusing its market dominance when setting prices and criticizing it for not licensing its patents more broadly. Apple filed a similar complaint last week in the U.S. Qualcomm executives hinted at retaliation during the company’s earnings call on Wednesday. (FortuneReuters, Wall Street Journal)

It looks like Snapchat has huge ad deals in the works. The messaging service wants some of the biggest names in advertising—like WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, and Interpublic—to commit between $100 million and $200 million this year, reports The Wall Street Journal. Those sorts of contracts will be crucial as parent Snap plans its initial public offering. (Wall Street Journal)

Former Xiaomi global exec is heading to Facebook’s VR team. Hugo Barra resigned his post at the Chinese smartphone maker earlier this week so he could return to Silicon Valley, citing homesickness and health concerns. It turns out that Barra, who previously ran Google’s mobile business, will now lead strategy for the Oculus virtual-reality goggles team. (Reuters, New York Times)

Uber is handling an appreciable chunk of corporate travel business. The ride-hailing app accounted for more than half of the transactions for ground transportation arrangements handled last quarter by Certify, the expense management service. That’s the first time this has happened. (Bloomberg)

The holiday season was kind of a bust for wearable technology. Fewer than 16% of Americans owned a smartwatch or fitness band by the end of 2016, up a smidge from about 12% at the beginning of the year, according to new data from researcher Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Buying plans for 2017 aren’t aggressive, with just 8% planning a purchase. (Fortune)

3D printing startup seeks to disrupt automotive manufacturing. Divergent 3D on Wednesday disclosed a $23 million early-stage round of funding. While other companies are working on technology for creating vehicle parts, Divergent is working on alternatives for creating lightweight vehicle chassis. (Fortune)

Here’s why the U.S. should spend more on robotics research. Even if President Trump succeeds in pressuring companies to build more U.S. factories, the irony is that it’s highly likely that many of those jobs will be handled by industrial robots manufactured in China, argues The New York Times‘ Farhad Manjoo. One solution: more government investments in robotics, akin to the billions of yuan that China has poured into this field over the past five years. (New York Times)



So, how are the Pixel smartphone and Google Assistant doing? Alphabet is set to report fourth-quarter financials after the stock market close on Thursday, with analysts forecasting $25.2 billion in revenue. Naturally, most of that will come from Google’s mobile search and advertising businesses, but Wall Street is also looking for more hints about how its hardware investments are paying off. (Recode)


The new Cisco is all about software, software, software. Why would Cisco, one of Silicon Valley’s old guard data center and networking hardware companies, buy a software maker used by businesses to monitor the performance of their apps?

Software apps like the one for ride-hailing service Uber don’t seem like they have anything in common to the switches and routers that Cisco sells, but it hopes software services like data and security analytics can pick up the slack from its weakening hardware business. As Fortune‘s Jonathan Vanian reports, the move sets the stage for Cisco to compete more rigorously with traditional tech giants IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, as well as cloud computing services powerhouse Amazon. (Fortune)


A Silicon Valley Lifer Talks Diversity in Tech, by Ellen McGirt

How the Last Minute, $3.7 Billion AppDynamics Deal Went Down, by Erin Griffith

Starbucks Wants Microsoft Chief Satya Nadella on Its Board, by Barb Darrow

Dropbox Didn’t Actually Delete Your Deleted Files, by Robert Hackett

Are Apple’s iPhone 6 Battery Problems Grounds for a Recall? by Jeff John Roberts

Ford Hires Former Apple Executive to Lead Branding Effort, by Kirsten Korosec

Billionaire Richard Branson Really, Really Likes Video Doorbell Startup Ring, by Polina Marinova


Surprise? Middle-aged Americans are more obsessed with social media than millennials. People between the ages of 35 to 49 spend almost seven hours a week on Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets. That compares with about six hours for those aged between 18 and 34. (Fortune)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.
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