December 20, 2016 Last Updated 8:24 am

Journalists may worry about fake news, but it would not be as influential without the media infrastructure built around it

Morning Brief: Bloomberg reports that Uber lost $800 Million in third quarter, dampening hopes of investors of being able to cash out via a company IPO

The world of journalism is still grappling with the concept of ‘fake news’ but I think it may take much longer for many in the business to begin to understand where fake news fits into the universe of partisan news coverage. Fake news is seen from the perspective of readers, but it is also tool to be used by practitioners of partisan news coverage, it is the thing that reinforces the theme. On its own, fake news is just that, fake. But when combined with partisan news coverage, one can see why readers might be tempted to believe the story.

Take this as an example: the story that the FBI would soon be rounding up Hillary Clinton and members of her staff.

“BREAKING: The FBI Has Ordered ALL Agents To Report To D.C. For MASS Arrest Warrants Of Clinton Camp” read the headline on one website. The story came just after FBI Director James Comey said there were new emails to look at involving Clinton staff, but before he said “we found nothing.”

“According to sources with the FBI, it is being heavily reported that FBI Director James Comey has ordered all agents in the Washington D.C. field office and Hoover Building headquarters to report to work immediately Friday morning,” Conservative Daily Post said. “We’re preparing for many arrests from the top down,” an FBI source stated. “I cannot elaborate beyond that.”

The story, of course, was fake, and even a couple of comments on the story point that out. But the story was picked up elsewhere – in fact, one really can’t determine if this site simply was picking up the story idea from elsewhere or originated it themselves. Does it matter? The point is that that the news infrastructure on the right is like on live organism that acts in unison and within minutes of a news story appearing that reinforces their agenda.

Now take this story from Think Progress (below). On its surface it is explosive. It alleges that the president-elect, or his staff, have pressured a foreign government to cancel an event at one DC hotel and switch it to the Trump owned property. If true… but that is the instinct that would be avoided at all costs in the world of fake news. Who cares if it is true, right? Which is why one does not see the story in any of the major newspapers. In fact, a Google News search only shows that one media outlet picked it up: The Hill. It should be noted that The Hill was also quick to pick up the ‘Clinton to be arrested” stories, as well.

Fake news is more than just spurious content being spread for clicks and digital advertising, it is part of an infrastructure that resides on one side of the political spectrum. It matters whether there is truth behind the Think Progress story, and The Washington Post, which the president-elect has called partisan, has not picked up the story (and neither has the NYT) and likely won’t until their own reporters confirm it and can add to it.

Think Progress, Judd Legum:

Under political pressure, Kuwait cancels major event at Four Seasons, switches to Trump’s D.C. hotel

A source tells ThinkProgress that the Kuwaiti embassy, which has regularly held the event at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, abruptly canceled its reservation after members of the Trump Organization pressured the ambassador to hold the event at the hotel owned by the president-elect. The source, who has direct knowledge of the arrangements between the hotels and the embassy, spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly. ThinkProgress was also able to review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account…

…Kuwait has now signed a contract with the Trump International Hotel, the source said, adding that a representative with the embassy described the decision as political. Invitations to the event are typically sent out in January.



Investors in Uber, the ride sharing service, would really like the company to go public. But it won’t help matters if its earnings, which right now don’t have to be publicly reported, continue to leak to the media. This report from Bloomberg shows that the company is bleeding red ink, even as their bookings continue to grow (despite leaving the Chinese market). Uber remains an interesting company, one that has both so much going for it, and so much wrong with it – from complaints from drivers, to complaints from passengers, it appears Uber is racing to grow and go public, yet has underlying problems that may make the whole enterprise implode.


Photo: Uber by Melies The Bunny used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Bloomberg, Eric Newcomer:

Uber’s Loss Exceeds $800 Million in Third Quarter on $1.7 Billion in Net Revenue

Even as Uber Technologies Inc. exited China, the company’s financial loss has remained eye-popping. In the first nine months of this year, the ride-hailing company lost significantly more than $2.2 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. In the third quarter, Uber lost more than $800 million, not including its Chinese operation.

At the same time, the company’s revenue has continued to grow even after leaving the world’s most populous country. Uber generated about $3.76 billion in net revenue in the first nine months of 2016 and is on track to exceed $5.5 billion this year, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Uber, a closely held company based in San Francisco, has stayed mum about its financial performance even as its valuation has soared to $69 billion, making it more valuable on paper than General Motors Co. and Twitter Inc. combined.



There is no doubt that we are about to enter a period of relaxed US government regulation of businesses. In fact, expect it to appear like something out of Batman, with Gotham got crazy. But over in Europe, the regulators continue their work. What will be interesting to see is what DJT’s reaction will be when European regulators crack down on US companies, will the Trump administration see that is simply a matter of European sovereignty, or a reason to retaliate?

The New York Times, Mark Scott and James Kanter:

European Officials Accuse Facebook of Misleading Them on WhatsApp Deal

European competition officials filed charges on Tuesday against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of making misleading statements to receive regulatory approval for its $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp, the internet messaging service.

The accusation, which could lead to a fine of up to 1 percent of Facebook’s yearly revenue, meaning a penalty of about $200 million, comes amid growing tension with Europe’s policy makers over how the company is able to dominate much of the region’s digital world…

…On Tuesday, Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition chief, said Facebook had misled regulators in 2014 when it bought WhatsApp. She said the company did not outline its plans to match people’s Facebook accounts with those on the popular messaging app, which now has more than a billion users worldwide.



With all the horrible news regarding the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, the Berlin Christmas market attack, and the shooting at a Zurich Islamic Center, it would be easy to have missed this development:

The New York Times, Alison Smale:

Austria’s Far Right Signs a Cooperation Pact With Putin’s Party

The leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party has signed what he called a cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling party and recently met with Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the designated national security adviser to President-elect Donald J. Trump of the United States.

Word of the agreement with Russia was the latest sign that the Kremlin is forging bonds with political parties across Europe in what some European leaders suspect is a coordinated attempt to meddle in their affairs and potentially weaken Western democracies. Many of these efforts are murky and involve obscure groups, and it is unclear what, if any, direct involvement President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia may have…

…The Freedom Party, founded in the 1950s by ex-Nazis, surged this year to nearly capture the largely ceremonial presidency of Austria in May, but was defeated in a final runoff on Dec. 4. Still, its ascendance, alongside the rise of rightist parties in many European countries and with Mr. Trump’s victory, has raised new questions about political realignment across the continent.

The Week:

Austria’s Freedom Party casually mentions it met with Trump’s national security adviser before signing pact with Moscow

In announcing the pact, Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache mentioned that he also met with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s designated national security adviser, in Trump Tower a few weeks ago. “Internationally, the Freedom Party continues to gain in influence,” he wrote. Norbert Hofer, the Freedom Party candidate who recently lost his bid for Austria’s presidency, traveled to Moscow with Strache…

…Sergei Zheleznyak, the United Russia official who signed the pact for Moscow alongside Pyotr Tolstoy, the party’s deputy chairman in the lower house of parliament, suggested Europe’s “migration crisis” as a point of cooperation, while Strache said on Facebook that another goal would be “to get rid of the sanctions that damage the economy and are in the end useless.”

Zheleznyak is barred from traveling to the U.S. under 2014 sanctions America and Europe levied against Russia for seizing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

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