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Data Sheet—How Unregulated Social Media Fed the Fyre Festival Scam

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I guess if it’s Monday it’s time for me to tell you about the documentary I watched over the weekend that deals with an entrepreneur who faked it ‘til it caught up with them, with the newfangled tools of the technology world playing a supporting role.

This time it is FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a new Netflix film about a music festival in the Bahamas whose organizers were criminally unprepared for the customers they lured to a Caribbean island. At its root, this is simply an old-fashioned story of over-the-top hucksterism. Moreover, when the president of the United States gained acclaim for televising a fake business competition, it’s not really that surprising that this sort of thing goes on.

But the Fyre debacle also is yet another cautionary tale of how “social media” publishers need strict regulations, and not of their own making. (And they are publishers.) The swindlers at the center of this drama invited supermodels to a tropical island, filmed them cavorting, posted the images to Twitter and Instagram as an example of what the festival would be, and then promised “influencers” free lodging and admission to the yet-to-be-planned festival in exchange for promoting the event.

Old-fashioned media norms would have dictated truth in advertising. The shills weren’t just recommending something they loved; they were being paid for their support. But the move-fast-and-break-things culture of today’s Internet skipped that step, which was funny—until it wasn’t. The documentary is simultaneously amusing and horrifying, and it’s as compelling as its central character is pathetic.

In case you missed our link last week, the federal government has accused Facebook of allowing its advertising algorithms to be used for discriminatory housing schemes. It turns out this whole business of connecting the world allows a lot of bad behavior. Stricter rules clearly would help. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had some suggestions in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday. But things will need to get even stricter than Zuckerberg would like.

Adam Lashinsky


Packing. You may not have to pull your laptop and your shampoo out of your carry-on bag at the airport anymore soon. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Friday it will roll out new security scanning gear that relies on computed tomography, or CT, scanning so it can see everything inside a bag just fine. “It’s not a little bit better, it’s a lot better,” TSA administrator David Pekoske told reporters.

The doctor will see you now. Speaking of better vision, the A.I. startup DeepMind, owned by Google parent Alphabet, is close to releasing its first commercial product, the Financial Times reports. The company’s prototype device can diagnose eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration matching the accuracy of human medical experts.

Action and reaction. A day after the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights group in the U.S., revoked its endorsement of Google over a so-called gay conversion app, Google yanked the app. Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft earlier dropped the app developed by the Texas-based Christian group Living Hope Ministries, an anti-gay organization that claims to help gay people change their sexuality.

Traffic jam. Shares of No. 2 ride hailing app Lyft posted a modest 9% gain in their first day of trading. With the stock closing at $78.29 on Friday, Lyft was worth almost $27 billion. Many more tech IPOs are expected this year. One that could trump the value of Lyft is the newly-formed spinoff from African tech conglomerate Naspers. The as-yet-unnamed spin off will include a variety of tech investments, from a stake in DeliveryHero valued at $1.35 billion to a $133 billion piece in Chinese game-maker Tencent.

Quick work. In a not uncoincidentally related story, U.S. stocks posted their strongest first quarter in more than 20 years, led by tech companies. While the S&P 500 Index gained 13% overall, Square gained 34%, Netflix and eBay rose 33%, Facebook increased 27%, and IBM rose 26%.

Overheated. If you were one of the three people excited about Apple’s pre-announced AirPower charging mat, the Friday afternoon news dump brought bad news. Apple said it had cancelled the project, first announced in 2017.

Eye on A.I. The second issue of Fortune’s new weekly newsletter about the intersection of artificial intelligence and industry hits on Tuesday. Sign up here and you’ll get exclusive briefings covering the people, products, and innovations in this fast-growing, nascent area.


Numbers make the world go ’round, especially in business and finance. But history professor Jerry Muller at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is out with a new book arguing against what he calls “the tyranny of metrics.” In a short essay in Aeon, Muller explains some of the ways that setting numerical goals can backfire:

Contrary to commonsense belief, attempts to measure productivity through performance metrics discourage initiative, innovation and risk-taking. The intelligence analysts who ultimately located Osama bin Laden worked on the problem for years. If measured at any point, the productivity of those analysts would have been zero. Month after month, their failure rate was 100 per cent, until they achieved success. From the perspective of the superiors, allowing the analysts to work on the project for years involved a high degree of risk: the investment in time might not pan out. Yet really great achievements often depend on such risks.

The source of the trouble is that when people are judged by performance metrics they are incentivized to do what the metrics measure, and what the metrics measure will be some established goal. But that impedes innovation, which means doing something not yet established, indeed that hasn’t even been tried out.


Huawei Revenue Soars to $107 Billion Despite U.S. Security Concerns By Don Reisinger

Amazon Is Reportedly Working on a Fire TV News App That Could Compete With Roku By Alyssa Newcomb

Amazon Is Allowing Companies to Make Office-Specific Alexa Apps By Emily Price

Amazon’s Giving Prime Members Free Year of Nintendo Switch Online By Chris Morris

Intel Lays Off Hundreds of Tech Administrators By Brittany Shoot


The leading theory of the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs is a giant meteor strike about 66 million years ago. Now some paleontologists think they have discovered a fossil bed from the exact time of the collision. The New Yorker has a fascinating deep dive into the discovery and its ramifications.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.