One of the tragedies of today’s deteriorating political/social environment is that we are rapidly losing all ability to distinguish fact from fantasy. Our politicians clearly have something to do with this. Boris Johnson, who takes office as prime minister of the U.K. today, is another on the list of leaders who use language to achieve effect rather than reveal truth. Social media is also a contributor.
But the rise of “deep fakes” threatens to take us one great leap further into the post-fact world. Sure, there have always been those who believe the moon landing was faked, or that an airplane didn’t hit the Pentagon. But new technology makes it increasingly easy to manufacture fake photos and videos in ways that are very hard to detect. As Bernhard Warner writes in this piece for the August issue of Fortune magazine: “For now, bad actors have the advantage.” You can read his story here.
By the way, Warner notes that “so far, women have been the biggest victims of deep fakes.”
Separately, should companies go on the offensive against their cyber attackers? Congress is considering a bill that would make that sort of cyber vigilantism legal. But some smart folks think that’s a recipe for trouble. You can read Robert Hackett’s story here.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has opened a sweeping antitrust investigation of big tech companies.
Other news below.
The DOJ Investigates Tech
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether big tech companies smother competition, amid rising calls among lawmakers to tighten regulation of Silicon Valley. The DOJ did not name any specific companies that were being investigated, but the investigation appears similar in scope to a bipartisan probe from the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. Fortune
Eurozone manufacturing slows
A closely watched signal of the eurozone’s manufacturing levels hit its lowest point in six and a half years, in July data released on Wednesday morning. That comes on the back of unimpressive manufacturing numbers from the bloc’s two largest economies, Germany and France, and is just the latest sign that Brexit worries and trade tensions are wearing on the region. FT
Daimler Loses $1.3 Billion
In other gloomy eurozone news, German car manufacturer Daimler—the maker of Mercedes-Benz—lost $1.3 billion in the second quarter, over one-off charges related to costs over its handling of the diesel emissions scandal and airbag recalls, as well as slowing demand from China. The company remains under investigation in Germany and the U.S. over its cars’ diesel emissions. Fortune
WeWork Moves Up IPO Date
The company is now expected to file paperwork for its IPO in August, setting it up to go public in September—earlier than many analysts expected. The company is also reportedly meeting with banks this week about an asset-backed loan, and is expecting to raise $5 to $6 billion, $2 billion more than it had originally aimed to raise. But that could still put WeWork on track for the second-largest IPO this year, after Uber. WSJ
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
Who is Boris Johnson?
Meet (or re-meet) the man who once said he had a greater chance of being “reincarnated as an olive” than getting to the Prime Minister’s office. Now, Johnson—who is known for being charming, funny, offensive and calculating, all in equal measure—will head to Downing Street, olive or not. His job is extracting the U.K. from the mess of Brexit. But from past experience, what can we expect? Scandals, screw-ups, quips and, perhaps, more remarkable comebacks. Fortune
Epstein’s Deutsche Bank Links
Jeffrey Epstein has had accounts with the bank—now in the midst of a painful restructuring, and facing scrutiny over its links to President Trump—since at least 2013, years after he had been convicted on charges involving a teenage girl. But the bank only started trying to shut down his accounts after a Miami Herald investigation into Epstein’s behavior last year, which proved to be a game of whack-a-mole: Epstein had dozens of accounts across the bank, with some still open into late spring. New York Times
Singapore is Caught in the Middle
Chipmakers in Singapore have slowed production and begun laying off workers, as the island-state has been caught between the U.S.-China trade war. Making the chips made up about a third of the country’s manufacturing output last year. Semiconductor sales are expected to drop 12-13% globally this year, and Singapore in particular is often seen as a bellwether for the global economy. Reuters
Through the Strait of Hormuz
The captain of a 1,100 foot vessel, with a value between the vessel and cargo of more than $100 million, provides a first-hand account of what it’s like to traverse the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint, as tensions escalate between Iran, the U.S., and the U.K. Bloomberg