News

Fox News barely mentioned Tuesday’s elections—which just so happened to be Democratic wins


Republican strategist Rick Wilson summed it up on Tuesday night, as elections in Virginia, Maine, and other states went broadly for Democrats.

As Republicans suffered a variety of electoral setbacks—including a historic turn in the Virginia statehouse—Fox News chose to insulate its viewers, barely mentioning the evening’s events. The coverage stands as the best indication yet that Fox News has not only moved to embrace Trump but also to entirely coddle its viewership (Trump included) by moving beyond a conservative slant and into an entirely alternate reality when necessary.

No news, it turns out, is the way to good Trump news.

FNC’s evening shows, which the channel says are not news programs, focused on everything but the elections. Tucker Carlson did devote the first half of his show to the election, but then focused on stories around the Texas church shooting, Harvey Weinstein, and the Democratic National Committee’s relationship with Hillary Clinton. 

By the time it got to Sean Hannity, FNC viewers were firmly in the warm cocoon of Trump TV.

In the handoff between Hannity and Carlson, Hannity downplayed the news and then never spoke of it again. Hannity’s show focused on Trump’s visit to South Korea, offering lavish praise for his diplomacy.

FNC commentator Monica Crowley was evidently scheduled to appear to discuss the election, but that never happened. Instead, Hannity’s entire show was focused on Trump, even airing more than 30-straight minutes of the president’s speech with no interruption. 

After that, Laura Ingraham focused on stories from the church shooting in Texas, as did the “news” show following Ingraham.

The morning wasn’t any better. Fox & Friends somehow discussed everything but the election, including a Trump election victory lap. It reportedly dedicated an entire minute to the elections.

The website of Fox News, often more focused on current events than its television arm, downplayed the news as well.

Fox News isn’t entire alone here. Most of Breitbart’s front page on Monday morning was a celebration of Trump’s election victory exactly a year ago. Same with GatewayPundit and The Daily Caller. 

The biggest exception was the Drudge Report, still an important part of the conservative media world. “DEMS BORN AGAIN,” its homepage blared, with the Democratic party’s Donkey in blue and red.

Fox’s willingness to ignore the biggest day of elections since Trump took office shows just how far the channel has moved in the past two years. When Trump first ran for office, the channel veered toward the #NeverTrump movement, including a public conflict with Megyn Kelly, then FNC’s second-biggest star behind Bill O’Reilly. 

FNC’s own problems—a sexual harassment and assault scandal that took down founder Roger Ailes and top personality Bill O’Reilly—provided the vacuum necessary for pro-Trumpers to take hold. Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham now make up a decidedly Trump-centric core, with Fox & Friends adding its own rosy picture of Trump’s America.

Together with the rest of the pro-Trump media, FNC has helped create an alternate history of Trump’s reign. This isn’t entirely new for FNC or for any other media on that tend to cater to the left or the right. More recently, however, FNC has entered new territory that risks completely separating itself from dealing with current events. 

Tuesday night ended up being another big step in that direction. FNC wasn’t just spinning the news. It ignored it entirely. Just like Trump would have wanted.

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Facebook, Twitter, and Google fake news problem explained via NFL protests


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Facebook, Google, Twitter are currently being scrutinized by U.S. lawmakers for their influence and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But the hearings in Washington aren’t just about politics. Several senators used the National Football League protests to explain the scale of the misinformation problem on tech platforms.

During a hearing with the Senate Intelligence committee on Wednesday, Sen. Angus King shared top hashtags from Sept. 23 and 24 and used by ۶۰۰ Russian websites. The hashtags included Syria, NFL, boycotted, standforouranthem, MAGA, and takeaknee.

“We have Make America Great Again, Russia, Take A Knee. In other words, they were tweeting on both sides of the NFL dispute in order to exacerbate the divisions,” Sen. King said. 

The “Take A Knee” protests, started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have ignited a dispute in the NFL and among football fans. Players have chosen whether to stand or to kneel. Fans have cheered or boycotted. 

On Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube, Russian propagandists — or anyone really — can participate in these conversations. The concern from senators is that Russians are leveraging these open networks to manipulate these conversations.

“One witness to this committee had said that their strategy is to take a crack in our society and turn it into a chasm. That’s exactly what we’ve seen. We saw in 2016, and my point here is it hasn’t stopped, and it won’t stop,” Sen. King said. 

“My point here is it hasn’t stopped, and it won’t stop.”

The spread of misinformation is quite prolific on Twitter for several reasons. Twitter is real-time and 140 characters (for the majority of users), which lends itself to spreading quick, not fact-checked information. Twitter users also do not have to use their real names, so there’s less ramifications for sharing something inaccurate. 

Asked “why on earth” Twitter would not require real names by Sen. Martin Heinrich, Twitter’s General Counsel Sean Edgett shared the company’s mission of free speech and providing a secure channel for activists.

But that also means that Russian trolls can amplify negativity around any topic. Twitter, for example, revealed that only 9 percent of the tweets from Russia-linked accounts were election-related. Edgett said Wednesday the company had seen activity related to the NFL boycott on the platform. 

That may never stop on Twitter, and it’s a concern from these senators. Sen. James Lankford echoed Sen. King’s sentiments. 

“This is not an opposition to free speech though. This is actually a battle to try to protect free speech. We want to have good American dialogue, and the fear is that your platforms are being abused by foreign actors who want to abuse free speech,” Sen. Lankford said. 

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Facebook outsources its fake news problem to Wikipedia—and an army of human moderators


Facebook made nearly $27 billion last year, but the tech giant can’t seem to figure out how to fix its fake news problem on its own. 

Their solution: enlist a nonprofit that has successfully done so—with the help of 133,540 moderators.

In its latest move to prove it’s no longer a threat to democracy, Facebook is tapping Wikipedia. Now, when Facebook users see articles on News Feed, they can click on a little “i” button and see the Wikipedia description of the publisher. They also will see a button to follow the Page and see trending or related articles.

Facebook previously balked at the notion of using human editors to oversee the flow of news and information across its network, instead relying on algorithms to handle everything from publisher posts to advertisements. Now, it’s slowly starting to embrace the human touch, hiring editors and now even partnering with Wikipedia an its army of moderators. 

Why not just show the description on the publishers’ Facebook Page? Perhaps because Facebook can’t trust that. Publishers could have such a space and fill it with terms like “Jew haters” or other malicious words. Of course, publishers could also do that on Wikipedia, but Wikipedia has managed to monitor for and prevent such abuse. 

Remember when teachers told you not to trust anything you read on Wikipedia? Well, according to Facebook, you now should. But you might not want to trust everything you read on Facebook. Wikipedia is not perfect, but it’s been able to curb a fake news problem by enlisting volunteers—real, living people—to moderate pages while incorporating other algorithmic systems. 

Wikipedia has long taken the fake news problem seriously. In its early days, anyone could create and get away with making pages with false information. People took advantage of this. But as Wikipedia grew, it created a community of moderators that helped prevent those misleading pages and errors from staying up. English Wikipedia now has 133,540 editors who have edited a page in the last 30 days, according to a Wikipedia page. 

Facebook seemed to only wake up to the problem of fake news after the 2016 election. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook influencing the election was a “pretty crazy idea” and said fake news was only a small portion of posts on the site. 

While that scale may be true, Zuckerberg has since apologized for his words, and his company has been working to release solutions to prevent fake news from spreading on the platform. Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project, and it recruited third-party fact-checking organizations to help monitor for fake news.

But early reports show that it may be more of a pony show than a serious initiative, and we may have Facebook to blame. Fact-checkers enlisted by Facebook told Politico last month their efforts have been harmed because Facebook refuses to share information. Fact-checkers are unable to see if the “disputed” tags they add to articles actually have an effect and are not able to prioritize stories. 

Facebook said its efforts are working. “We have seen data that, when a story is flagged by a third party fact-checker, it reduces the likelihood that somebody will share that story,” Sara Su, a product manager on Facebook’s News Feed team, told Politico. But she declined to share data proving the point. 

Meanwhile, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been quite outspoken about the fake news problem. 

“I would say just in the last couple of years, I feel like things have gotten much worse in terms of clickbait headlines, fake news,” Wales told Mashable earlier this year. “People will contribute if they’re asked, and if they’re protected from trolls.” 

In fact, Wales is taking the fake news problem so seriously that he launched a new company. Earlier this year, he announced WikiTribune, an online news site with articles reported and written by professional journalists. The site will also have volunteer researchers and fact-checkers. 

So, yes, Facebook is a profitable company with a glaring fake news problem led by someone who once brushed off about the severity of the issue. Wikipedia is a nonprofit that enlisted volunteers years ago to battle misinformation and is led by someone who wants to do more to help. 

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Facebook is dropping $1 billion on video, and that’s pretty great news


For years now, media companies have hoped and prayed that Facebook would get serious about shelling out cash to partners.

Looks like that time has come.

Facebook is reportedly prepared to spend up to $1 billion on video as part of its big move into original content, exemplified by its recent launch of Watch (Mashable is a Watch partner). 

The news, reported by the Wall Street Journal, will come as sweet relief for many media companies that have found huge audiences on Facebook but little in the way of actual revenue. Facebook has slowly inched forward with some programs that shared ad revenue on things like Facebook Instant Articles, but had resisted cutting checks directly to media companies.

That started to change about a year ago when Facebook launched its Live video project with some media partners who were paid to produce content. Now, Facebook Watch features a variety of partners who are receiving payments for original video. 

Watch so far has been a relatively small experiment, but $1 billion is a decent chunk of cash, and follows on a similar report about Apple’s growing ambition to make original video. Apple, however, is reportedly looking for only a handful of major projects. 

It’s also a drop in the bucket compared to the budgets of companies like Netflix and Amazon, who are each laying out tens of billions of dollars in the pursuit. 

Those budgets, however, aren’t going to smaller publishers. Facebook’s, it would seem for now, is — at least for now.

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Tomi Lahren is headed to Fox News


Tomi Lahren speaks at Politicon in Los Angeles, on June 26, 2016.
Tomi Lahren speaks at Politicon in Los Angeles, on June 26, 2016.

Image: Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Is a story breaking news if it’s felt inevitable for months?

Tomi Lahren is headed to Fox News as a contributor, where she will now get to shout various right-wing things to a much larger (and largely friendly) audience, reports Variety

Lahren will make her Fox debut on Wednesday on anchor Sean Hannity’s show, where Lahren fans are likely to find her for months to come.

Lahren also shared a Facebook post announcing her new role.

The announcement shows that Lahren’s social media stardom has officially translated to the mainstream, despite being fired from her earlier platform on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze

Lahren got canned after expressing a pro-choice opinion on The View in March, but her fame had never been tethered to any particular conservative outlet. 

Lahren’s Facebook page has nearly 4.5 million likes on the platform. She also has more than 700,000 followers on Twitter. Additionally, her “Final Thoughts” videos have wracked up millions upon millions of views. 

That social media staying power has led her to the TV ranting promised land. Who knows where she’ll go from there.

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Fox News stopped broadcasting in the UK and frankly nobody will miss it anyway


Fox News is no more — at least in the UK. And it doesn’t look like there are many people who will miss it.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned TV channel has been turned off across the pond because its viewership was low. Like, astonishingly low. 

U.S. media group 21st Century Fox said it would stop broadcasting the pro-Trump channel because it attracted only about 2,000 viewers a day in the country. 

“[Fox] has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK,” a spokeswoman for the company told The Guardian

“Fox News is focused on the US market and designed for a US audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the UK. We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the UK.”

The company said the decision to pull Fox News is unrelated to Murdoch’s £۱۱٫۷ billion ($15.1 billion) takeover bid for Sky. Fox already controls 39% of Sky, but it wants to take a majority stake. Culture secretary Karen Bradley is due to take a decision on whether to refer Fox’s Sky takeover bid to the competition regulator. 

A quick look at the viewing data for the first week of August shows Fox News at 0.01% of the share, in the same section as Flava, Geo Kahani, and Horse & Country: 

Still, there were at least two people lamenting the end of Fox News on Twitter: 

Image: screenshot/twitter

Sorry guys!

WATCH: Smiling rescued donkey is so happy to be back on solid ground

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Facebook is going after one of the big ways fake news spreads


Less fake news should appear in News Feed.
Less fake news should appear in News Feed.

Image: BRITTANY HERBERT/MASHABLE

Facebook is continuing its crackdown on fake news. 

The social network Monday announced Facebook Pages will no longer be able to advertise on the site if they repeatedly share news articles that are marked as false by third-party fact-checking organizations. Page owners can win back the ability to run ads if they later choose to act responsibly. 

The move would limit one of the big ways that fake news spreads, since paying to boost posts is a big way for publishers to get stories in front of more people.

“We want people to stay informed on friends, family, and topics they care about on Facebook, and false news damages trust,” said Rob Leathern, product manager at Facebook. “This is mostly about removing incentivizes for the creation of false news.”

This update limits a user’s ability to growth hack a Facebook Page, as in gain followers (or Facebook “likes”) by sharing fake (but highly-engaging) news articles. Paying for Facebook ads allowed these fake news articles to appear in users’ News Feeds. 

Facebook introduced a partnership with third-party fact-checkers, months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg belittled the impact of fake news on the 2016 presidential election. Shortly after the election, Zuckerberg wrote “more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.”

Since that claim, Facebook has taken several steps to lessen the abundance of fake news on the network. Other moves include shutting down the bot networks used to defraud advertisers and suppressing links from websites with bad ad experiences. 

Facebook has broken up its fight against fake news into three buckets: disrupting economic incentives, building new products, and helping people make informed decisions.

The most recent change falls into the first category. Still, Facebook remains steadfast against being an arbiter of truth. Pages can regain the ability to advertise and are not banned.   

“It is possible that someone could inadvertently share something, so we want to make sure that it is a repeated behavior,” Leathern said. “We want there to be an incentive: good maintenance. If they no longer are sharing [fake] stories, they can regain the ability. A repeated pattern of this occurring has a consequence.”

Facebook declined to share an exact estimate of the financial impact. The company earned $9.32 billion in the second quarter of 2017, the majority of which comes from mobile advertising

“I think overall the order of magnitude of the size of this is relatively small,” Leathern said. 

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A German news magazine just gave us the most shocking Donald Trump cover yet


Trump speaking at press conference following Charlottesville attack.
Trump speaking at press conference following Charlottesville attack.

Image: AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Magazines have never held back when it came to depicting Donald Trump on their covers, but a German news publication has taken presidential trolling to the next level.

The latest cover for Stern, a German magazine, abandons any shred of subtlety — showing a lifelike image of Trump doing a Nazi salute while draped in American flag.

Damn.

Following Trump’s controversial stance on Charlottesville and his delayed response to condemn the violent behavior of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, other magazines featured similar KKK motifs — however, they’ve mostly been cartoons.

Stern’s jarring image of Trump, on the other hand, is so realistic looking it could give you chills.

The text over Trump reads “Sein Kampf,” or “His Fight/Struggle” — a clear reference to Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf,” which translates to “My Struggle.”

The text below the headline translates to “Neo-Nazis, Ku-Klux-Klan, racism: How Donald Trump fights hatred in America.”

Stern’s depiction heavily implies that Trump is “fighting hatred” by standing up for Nazis himself, as shown when the president equated protesters with white supremacists, showing sympathy in a recent press conference.

In the days after Charlottesville, The Economist, The New Yorker, and TIME also took bold visual stands against the president with covers featuring KKK hoods, and The New York Daily News highlighted Trump calling those at the Nazi rally “very fine people.”

It’s certainly not the first time Trump has been called out on a cover, and it likely won’t be the last. In the past Trump’s immigration ban and relations with Russia have also come under fire, each imagine consistently proving to be worth far more than a thousand words.

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