POLITICO Morning Tech Friday: Fake news hysteria — State of EU tech — Tax lady
FAKE NEWS HYSTERIA: Everywhere you look, online misinformation has been rife this week.
It started with the U.K. parliaments interim report on fake news, made a pitstop on Tuesday when Facebook suspended a number of dodgy accounts, U.S. lawmakers held a hearing Wednesday into social media and foreign interference, and, as Joanna explored in Thursdays Morning Tech, speculation is swirling that Russians have been meddling in Frances Benalla affair.
I called up Jason Reifler, a professor at the University of Exeter, who co-authored an influential research paper on the effects of fake news sites on the 2016 U.S. election. “Misinformation has always been a problem,” he told me. “There are no easy technical fixes to make misinformation go away.”
And its an issue that will only grow ahead of Swedens elections in September, the U.S. mid-terms in November and next years European elections.
Yes, it is right to clamp down on out-right falsities online. But it remains an open question whether such disinformation actually changes voter behavior (currently, academic literature suggests it doesnt) and if regulation, as well as potential online content censorship, would help to solve the problem.
— Whats the global consensus? As always, tackling these issues is very culturally specific. The Poytner Institute has a good breakdown of the roughly 25 countries worldwide that are taking steps to tackle misinformation.
— Definitions matter: From the Atlantic Council: disinformation: the deliberate spread of false information; misinformation: the unintentional spread of false information. But “Fake News” is a moniker that has lost much of its meaning.
— Its not about a one-off event: Ever since this issue popped onto most peoples radar in 2016, policymakers looked for a smoking gun when it comes to misinformations ability to alter global events. Sorry to say, that has proven maddeningly difficult to verify as much of peoples online consumption of content has been steered toward buttressing their existing prejudices, and not toward changing their underlying beliefs.
But — and its a big but — misinformation may have a longer-term effect in changing the political discourse by bringing extremist views (from both the left and right) into mainstream debates. That, says Reifler, is when the overblown hysteria over fake news turns into something more concrete.
If radically-partisan views move from the fringes to the center of political debate — often fueled by social media campaigns propped up by trolls and automated accounts — then you dont need to alter individual voters habits. Youve already won by changing the context in which the discussion takes place.
“Misinformation is a much larger problem than one-off fake news sites,” said Reifler. “It can change what is considered legitimate political discourse and that may influence elections.”
Hello and welcome to Morning Tech. Its still deathly quiet across Europe. Got an event to tell us about? Submit it to our calendar.
EU TECH — THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES: Lets start off with the good news. Europes tech investment, so far this year, is on track for another record year, according to figures by data provider DealRoom.
In total, European & Israeli firms have pocketed €10.3 billion in the six months through June compared to €8.7 billion for the same period last year. The country that garnered the most investment? The U.K., followed by Germany, France and Israeli, respectively. (And who said there was a French tech bump?)
— Wheres the money going? Traditional favorites like enterprise software (i.e. all the back office tech that we mostly take for granted), health and financial services come out on top. Something to keep an eye on: the growing amount of money heading to so-called “deep tech” — companies based on groundbreaking new science or technologies — has grown by more than 30 percent in a year.
— Rise of the corporates: While U.S. tech firms still rely heavily on traditional venture capitalists, Europes entrepreneurs take a more Chinese approach to raising cash by turning to traditional corporates. The upside: the ability to tap into these companies existing business networks. The downside: being swallowed by a traditional company that is loathe to embrace change.
— And the rub: Europes having a good year. But the U.S. and China are having even better ones. American firms garnered a staggering $23 billion in the second quarter alone, while their Chinese counterparts received a further $21 billion, according to CB Insights, another data provider.
THE TAX LADY COMETH: Everyones favorite commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, may be on vacation, but her reach is still felt as both Apple and Google continue to respond to the actions of Europes competition chief.
— Apple: Just as Apple became the first public company worth $1 trillion, the iPhone maker said it only paid two-thirds of its 2016 state aid fine (€13 billion, plus €1 billion in interest) into escrow while it appeals the European Commissions ruling. The final chunk, according to Apple, will be transferred by the end of the year.
— Google: Here are a couple of dates for the diary. Google has until October 10 to appeal last months blockbuster €4.3 billion Android fine, and until October 28 to implement the European Commissions ruling, according to POLITICOs Simon Van Dorpe. Company executives have already said the search giant will likely appeal, though expect last-minute haggling as Google tries to leverage its position ahead of potentially opening up Android to greater competition at the end of October. Read more below or click here.
DATA BREACH: Frances privacy regulator doesnt just fine U.S. tech companies, it appears. The CNIL issued a €50,000 levy against DailyMotion, the local online video site owned by Vivendi, after the company failed to protect 82 million email addresses and 18 million passwords from hackers. DailyMotion got off relatively easy. If the hack had happened under Europes new data protection rules, the fine could have been significantly higher.
— Talking of data breaches: Reddit, the popular social network, suffered two hacks that put its users data at risk. The site, though, has been criticized for not doing enough to inform people if their accounts have been hacked.
AMAZON TAX: The online retailers main U.K. subsidiary paid just £1.7m of tax on profits of more than £72m last year, by utilizing share-based awards that offer companies a legal way to reduce tax payments. The FT reported.
INTERNET OF THINGS: Dublin is taking on the likes of Amsterdam and Barcelona in the race to become a so-called smart city. The Irish capital has penned a deal with SoftBank, the Japanese tech and telecoms giant, to test internet of things technology such as sensors and other gadgetry to improve Dublins transport and climate mitigation systems. “Many companies have their European headquarters in Dublin, so were looking for collaborations,” Hidebumi Kitahara, SoftBanks vice president of business strategy said.
FACEBOOK: A judge in California will rule Friday on efforts by Six4Three, a creator of a bikini-finding app now banned on Facebook, to unseal insider documents at the social media giant, which allegedly highlight Mark Zuckerbergs efforts to clamp down on competition and to share peoples data without their permission. Facebook vigorously denies the accusations. But if the judge rules to make the reams of documents public, it could prove to be another embarrassment for the beleaguered tech giant.
— WhatsApp $$ plan: The Facebook-owned messaging service will start charging companies who want to use it to contact customers. The move comes after WhatsApps co-founders publicly fell out with Facebooks top management over putting ads onto the internet messenger.
ELECTION MEDDLING: U.S. policymakers reasserted that Donald Trumps administration would not tolerate any Russian meddling in the countrys upcoming mid-term elections. The move comes after the White House was criticized for not taking the potential interference seriously enough, POLITICO reported.
5G PODCASTING: Everyone these days has a podcast. And now, Deutsche Telekom is wading into the fray. The carriers startup incubator, known as Hub:Raum, has started its own weekly show — known as Sneakers & Suits — with its first guest (not surprisingly) Alexander Lautz, head of Deutsche Telekoms 5G program. Take a listen to what he sees as the future for the next generation of mobile networks.
— Talking of 5G: MVNO Europe, a trade group of so-called mobile virtual network operators, is calling on Germanys telecoms regulator to ensure its members have full access to the countrys 5G networks once theyve been built, likely early next decade. Their gripe? That the likes of Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone (which will actually build these costly networks) wont give them unfettered access to run their networks through wholesale agreements. Expect the regulator to weigh in later this year.
— And even more German 5G: Audi and telecoms maker Ericsson signed a deal today to deploy 5 technology to speed up work in the automakers production facilities. The first trial will include connecting up robots that perform gluing operations on car bodies on the production line. Further details are thin on the ground, but the benefit to factories comes through 5Gs quick latency — meaning no gaps or lag in connection compared to older telecom connection or simple WLAN. “It allows for faster data throughput rates and more network capacities, as well as promising highly secure availability,” the two companies said in a statement. “Ultra-low latency ensures fast response times between equipment in the factory system.”
HATE SPEECH — SPOTIFY REMOVES ALEX JONES: The Swedish streaming service pulled the plug on the outspoken far-right talk show host after Spotify claimed he had violated its policies against hate speech. Facebook and YouTube banned the controversial host last week.
DIGITAL INDUSTRY — KEEP CALM & CLICK ON: Morning Tech loves to get caught up in all things digital. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that many Brits arent as tech-obsessed as you might imagine. That was the take-out from an annual report by local telecoms regulator Ofcom, which says roughly three-quarters of Brits say they would be fine if they were cut off from the internet.
COPYRIGHT — ILLEGAL MUSIC DOWN: Anyone remember Napster, the long-gone service that let you download almost any song in the world (illegally) for free? Well, those days are certainly way behind us after a YouGov poll showed that only one in 10 Brits (down from 18 percent of the population 5 years ago) illegally download music. The main driver for the change? Services such as Spotify allow people to access limitless music for a low price. “Many dont feel they need to go to the same lengths to acquire the music they want,” said Russell Feldman, YouGovs Director of Digital, Media and Technology. “Now they have it at their fingertips.”
BROADCASTING — PROSIEBEN TAKES ON NETFLIX: Max Conze, chief executive of Germanys ProSiebenSat.1 Media, wants the company to launch an “all-out digital attack” to compete with digital players like Netflix. Its part of a broader strategy expected to be fully unveiled in November. More from Bloomberg.
GERMANY BLOCKCHAIN: Dorothee Bar, the countrys digital minister, took to Twitter, claiming that Germany shouldnt classify digital tokens as securities as that would slow down blockchain innovation.
FACEBOOK — THE TECH QUEEN HAS SPOKEN: Facebook is facing a mountain of issues, from Russian election meddling and Holocaust denial to the threat of regulation. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he feels “a deep sense of responsibility” to try to fix his companys problems. But Kara Swisher argues in a New York Times op-ed that Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley have weaponized social media, and we are all paying the price.
Morning Tech wouldnt happen without Kate Day and Zoya Sheftalovich.
***POLITICO Pro Articles***
Google has until October 28 to execute EU Android order
— By Simon Van Dorpe
Google has until October 28 to implement the European Commissions decision fining it €4.3 billion over its Android mobile operating system, a person familiar with the matter said.
Googles 90 days compliance deadline started running from the moment the decision was officially notified to Google, which, according to the person, was on Monday July 30.
The notification came 12 days after the Commissions decision and announcement on June 18, which is significantly longer than last year, when it took only three days — between June 27 and June 30 — for an antitrust decision over Googles comparison shopping service to be notified to the company.
Google has to stop three types of contractual restrictions that it imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators “to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine,” EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said when announcing her decision.
Android runs on 24,000 different devices belonging to more than 1,300 brand owners, according to Google.
October 28 is also the day by which the Mountain View, California-based company needs to put up bank guarantees for the €4.3 billion fine it owes the EU. The largest fine in antitrust history will flow back to EU member countries if, and after, the courts confirm the Commission decision.
Google has until October 10 to challenge the Commissions decision in front of the EU General Court, whose two months and 10 days deadline is also calculated from the day Google was notified.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai announced the tech giants intention to appeal the decision immediately after Vestagers press conference.