It’s not that Mark Zuckerberg set out to dismantle the news business when he founded Facebook 13 years ago. Yet news organizations are perhaps the biggest casualty of the world Zuckerberg built. There’s reason to believe things are going to get worse.
A sprawling new manifesto by Zuckerberg, published to Facebook on Feb 16, should set off new alarm bells for journalists, and heighten news organizations’ sense of urgency about how they—and their industry—can survive in a Facebook-dominated world. Zuckerberg uses abstract language in his memo—he wants Facebook to develop “the social infrastructure for community,” he writes—but what he’s really describing is building a media company with classic journalistic goals: The Facebook of the future, he writes, will be “for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.”
A US-born scientist was detained at the Houston (TX) airport until he gave customs agents the passcode to his work-issued device.
Less than a month before he was elected president, Donald Trump promised to make cybersecurity “an immediate and top priority for my administration.” He had talked about technology often on the campaign trail—mostly to attack Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server when she was Secretary of State. But less than two weeks into his presidency, it’s Trump and his team who have struggled to plug important security holes, some of which are reminiscent of Clinton’s troubles. Rather than sparking an uproar, the problems have largely been buried the by other changes and crises of the Trump administration’s first days. But even without the distracting firehose of executive orders, announcements, and tweets, half of America wouldn’t blink at the new president’s computer-security shortcomings. That’s because cybersecurity, like just about everything else, has become burdened with political baggage.
When President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan 27 issuing a temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, it went into effect immediately. The order had immediate consequences for thousands of people. But beyond harming long-term US residents, their families, their education, and their work, the executive order could cause long-lasting shockwaves in the business world—and especially in the technology sector.
Computer-related jobs are the top source of new wages in the US, according to analyses from Code.org, a nonprofit organization that advocates for more access to computer-science education. But there aren’t enough skilled American workers to fill open tech jobs in the US: There are more than 500,000 open computing jobs, but only about 43,000 Americans graduate from college with computer-science degrees every year. That’s a problem that H-1B visas—non-immigrant visas that allow high-skilled foreign workers to be employed, temporarily, by American companies—are designed to solve. A forthcoming executive order will likely change the rules to make it harder for companies to grant foreign workers H-1B visas.
How media technology and Donald Trump have changed the way journalists think about describing falsehoods
Questioning a sitting president’s truthfulness and actually using the words “lie,” “lied,” or “lying” has often been relegated to the opinion pages, editorials, or put in quotation marks: Let somebody else suggest the chief executive is lying about Yalta, or Cuba, or Vietnam, or trading arms for hostages, or “no new taxes,” or sexual relations with that woman, or weapons of mass destruction. This is the stuff of standard journalistic fairness. The standard, however, is coming under pressure. Not just by the bombastic new president of the United States and his famous tendency to exaggerate, but by that president’s embrace of new-age publishing technology and his over-the-top disdain for journalism at a frenetic moment for the media industry.
Newsrooms have wrestled with how to characterize the misinformation Donald Trump spreads since the presidential campaign, when his eyebrow-raising statements tended more toward “pants on fire” than true, according to at least one fact-checking site. This challenge is only intensifying with Trump in the Oval Office, and backed by an administration eager to provide “alternative facts” when the actual facts don’t flatter the president.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counselor, called Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first official press conference a “tour de force.” That’s not strange, because Trump advisers’ main rhetorical approach is to reflect their boss’ penchant for exaggeration. What’s strange is that much of the media seemed to agree.
Two days earlier, reporters from mainstream outlets had panned a bizarre appearance by Spicer in which, flanked by photographs of the inauguration, he loudly berated the media, saying that the press had “engaged in deliberately false reporting” for failing to note that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration––period––both in person and around the globe.” While many outlets reported that Spicer had “attacked the media,” many more emphasized that Spicer’s claims about crowd size were comically wrong, and reported that Spicer was lying. Spin, obfuscation, eliding context, or even lying by omission––these are normal acts of dishonesty expected from political spokespeople. It is the job of press secretaries to put a gloss on the facts that makes their boss look good. In administrations run by both parties, this has sometimes turned into outright lying or dishonesty. Spicer’s behavior however, was so different in degree so as to be different in kind––he was demanding that reporters report that 2+2 =5, and chastising them for failing to do so. He was not merely arguing for a different interpretation of the facts, he was denying objective reality. Both Spicer and the mainstream press used that first encounter to establish the ground rules of their relationship, drawing lines for what each would allow the other to get away with.
There’s a category of often-misleading news sources that seems to have escaped the notice of tech companies: state-sponsored outlets like RT, a TV network and online news website that’s funded by the Russian government. As my colleagues Julia Ioffe and Rosie Gray wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review and BuzzFeed, respectively, RT—formerly known as Russia Today—routinely shapes its coverage portray Russia in the best possible light, and to make the West, and especially the United States, look bad. RT stories regularly appear toward the top of Google search results.
[Commentary] Interrogating the meaning of “the media” has become more important in recent months, as no American president has tried so aggressively to discredit all journalists. This sort of wholesale antagonism can only occur in a world that is drastically oversimplified into binaries. If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t “hate the media” or “love the media,” but see it as the complex professional-commercial-personal-political ecosystem that it is.
Making sweeping claims about “the media” jumbles up journalists with infotainment and partisan pundits and advocates. Many of us see the absurdity in that type of overgeneralization, and yet we contribute to it, with every mention of “the media” as if it were some monolithic entity. That sort of usage enables the painting of this monolithic entity as either corrupt or not, trustworthy or not. It further jeopardizes what little trust remains in the profession that exists only to convey truth. The profession that grows more necessary by the day.
On March 19, an IT employee at the Hillary Clinton campaign gave John Podesta, the campaign chairman, some computer-security advice. “John needs to change his password immediately,” he wrote in an e-mail, “and ensure that two-factor authentication is turned on his account.” The helpdesk staffer was responding to a Google alert with a bright red banner that had been sent to Podesta’s personal Gmail account. An aide to Podesta had forwarded the warning when she saw it in his inbox. The warning, it turned out, was fake. It was designed to look authentic by Russian hackers, who also created a fake password-reset page that would capture Podesta’s password when he entered it.
But the Clinton IT employee, Charles Delavan, made a crucial error when he responded to the aide who forwarded the warning. “This is a legitimate email,” he wrote back. Somebody on the campaign clicked on the fake link, entered Podesta’s password, and the hackers gained access to tens of thousands of his e-mails. In a detailed new report from The New York Times, Delavan said he didn’t intend to legitimize the phishing email back in March: "He knew this was a phishing attack, as the campaign was getting dozens of them. He said he had meant to type that it was an “illegitimate” e-mail, an error that he said has plagued him ever since"
If the public is to stay informed about foreign hacking that the executive branch wanted to keep quiet, whistleblowers in the intelligence community would have to come forward to leak important findings. But under President Barack Obama, leakers have faced steep penalties for sharing classified information with the press or the public—and President-elect Donald Trump seems far more hostile toward transparency, as evidenced by his stances on journalism and free speech. In the absence of official reports about hacking, the private sector would have a bigger role to play, too.