April 25, 2017 Last Updated 8:20 am

New editor unveils HuffPost rebrand; Alex Jones and InfoWars sued for defamation by Chobani

Morning Brief: The first target of the new Trump trade wars turns out not to be China or Mexico, but Canada, which is being slapped with import duties ranging from 3 percent to 24 percent on shipments from Canadian softwood lumber producers

The Huffington Post’s editor-in-chief, Lydia Polgreen, last night unveiled the website’s rebranding. From today the site founed by Arianna Huffington is to be known as HuffPost, the name most of us use the second time the site is mentioned in a story.

In a meandering letter to readers, Polgreen, who was associate masthead editor before joining HuffPost in December, talks about the lack of trust in the media and the polarization of the electorate. Ultimately, the letter is about what changes readers can expect at the news website, now that its founder is gone, and its owner, AOL, is part of a megacorporation (Verizon).

“In the months ahead you’ll see much more original journalism from across the country,” Polgreen said. “We’re expanding Highline, our ambitious digital magazine, to bring the rigor and depth of their work to you with more frequency and in new formats. We’ll create bold and compelling video that moves you. Expect us to hit the road and listen, from the ground up, to people who may not know HuffPost, or think it doesn’t tell stories for people like them.”

Reader reaction to the redesign is so far fairly negative, but that is to be expected. “I liked you because i could scroll and everything was in the center and you didnt look like CNN. Now you’re trying to replicate CNN and other flashy pages,” wrote one reader.

Honestly, the new look is not that radically different from the old look, but the differences will have an effect. The Huffington Post was, when it came to news, an aggregation site, throwing lots of content at people, hoping something would stick. It stacked contributor stories on top of one another, each unrelated to the next. The redesign makes the content holes larger, forcing reader to scroll down more to see as much content as one glance would produce in the old design.

This will benefit original content when it appears, but will deemphasis the rest – we’ll see it the former NYT editor can must up enough important original content to make it worth possibly alienating long time, loyal readers.

After fending off trolls, bots and DDoS attacks last summer as the publisher of two media-related websites, I continue to be amazed how hard it is to get some to take seriously the involvement of Russia in last year’s election. The House and Senate investigations appear to be going nowhere, and the US intelligence services are sitting on what they know and don’t seem to be very eager to come forward with either charges or a summary of evidence.

So, things continue on as they were, meaning other western nations are having to deal with the same issues the US dealt with last year.

The cybersecurity firm Trend Micro has found that hackers that they believe are a Russian intelligence unit sent emails to the campaign of Emmanuel Macron in an attempt to lure them into giving up their passwords. These phishing efforts were not as successful as those against the DNC as the Macron campaign appears to have been on guard against such efforts.

Photo: Hacker-1 by iaBeta used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

“This is the new normal,” Tom Kellermann, chief executive at Strategic Cyber Ventures, told the NYT.

It’s the new normal because we are not doing anything about it.

The New York Times, Nicole Perlroth:

Russian Hackers Who Targeted Clinton Appear to Attack France’s Macron

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report.

The report has heightened concerns that Russia may turn its playbook on France in an effort to harm Mr. Macron’s candidacy and bolster that of Mr. Macron’s rival, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, in the final weeks of the French presidential campaign.

The Daily Beast, Christopher Dickey:

Amid Hacking Threat, Macron Campaign Blacklists Putin’s TV Network

On Monday, the day after Macron and Le Pen beat nine other candidates to enter the second phase of the election, which will culminate in a sudden-death vote on May 7, sources in the Macron campaign told The Daily Beast they have refused accreditation to RT, the Russian international television network.

“It is not just an outlet like the others,” said one of these sources, “it is a propaganda organ. Therefore we have decided not to give it accreditation.”

An RT staffer reached in London by text message told The Daily Beast, “All I can say is that we weren’t on the list and were told we can’t come in, despite the fact that our French producers applied for accreditation well in advance.”

The extent to which the Macron campaign was victimized in the past by “Russian-influenced” fake news and cyberattacks has been the subject of multiple reports in the European, British, and American press, but, as U.S. investigators have found, it is hard to draw firm conclusions about who is behind such operations.

The new president complained about unfair trade during the campaign, accused China of currency manipulation, and said he would build a wall along the US-Mexico border. But once in office Trump has gone after Australia and other soft targets. Now, he has slapped a tariff on Canadian lumber.

I wouldn’t mess with the Canadians if I were Trump, they are in a foul mood, what with both the Maple Leafs and Canadians bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.

National Post, Drew Hasselback:

Canada vows to fight ‘unfair and punitive duty’ as Trump slaps tariff on softwood lumber

The U.S. Commerce Department has imposed import duties ranging from 3 per cent to 24 percent on shipments from Canadian softwood lumber producers.

While the U.S. has slapped tariffs on Canadian lumber before, the measures taken Tuesday are unusually harsh because they come with a finding of “critical circumstances.”

That finding means the tariffs will be implied not only immediately, but also retroactively by 90 days to compensate for what the U.S. Commerce Department says was unusually massive influx of Canadian lumber prior to the tariff announcement.

It has been hard for the mainstream media to learn, then except, that most Americans no longer depend on their daily newspaper, monthly magazine, or even daily TV news programming for information on the world. They get their information through social media such as Facebook, where they are presented the content these sites know they want, information that is consistent with their biases.

As for Facebook, it knows it has tremendous influence, but they see this as a sign of success, not something that should create a sense of caution and self-reflection.

The New York Times, Farhad Manjoo:

Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?

The company, which Zuckerberg co-founded in his Harvard dorm room 13 years ago, has become the largest and most influential entity in the news business, commanding an audience greater than that of any American or European television news network, any newspaper or magazine in the Western world and any online news outlet…

…As recently as a year ago, Zuckerberg might have proudly rattled off these facts as a testament to Facebook’s power. But over the course of 2016, Facebook’s gargantuan influence became its biggest liability. During the U.S. election, propagandists — some working for money, others for potentially state-sponsored lulz — used the service to turn fake stories into viral sensations, like the one about Pope Francis’ endorsing Trump (he hadn’t). And fake news was only part of a larger conundrum. With its huge reach, Facebook has begun to act as the great disseminator of the larger cloud of misinformation and half-truths swirling about the rest of media. It sucks up lies from cable news and Twitter, then precisely targets each lie to the partisan bubble most receptive to it…

…Underneath it all was a nagging feeling of complicity. Trump had benefited from a media environment that is now shaped by Facebook — and, more to the point, shaped by a single Facebook feature, the same one to which the company owes its remarkable ascent to social-media hegemony: the computationally determined list of updates you see every time you open the app. The list has a formal name, News Feed. But most users are apt to think of it as Facebook itself.

Last year Gawker Media was driven out of business due to a lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan. But it is unlikely the same fate awaits InfoWars, despite the fact that it is now the subject of a lawsuit by the yogurt maker Chobani. Unlike Hogan, and his lawyers, who asked for millions, Chobani is asking for only $10,000 in damages, attorney fees and punitive damages.

Why aren’t they suing for more right up front? Likely because suing for more would mean they would have to prove they actually lost that much business. Now, the jury can concentrate on the defamation more than the lost business.

Idaho Statesman, Zach Kyle:

Chobani sues Alex Jones, InfoWars for defamation over Twin Falls assault coverage

Chobani sued Jones and his InfoWars website on Monday in Idaho District Court in Twin Falls, where the company operates the largest yogurt plant in the world. The lawsuit said Jones, his network, and InfoWars’ Twitter feed and YouTube channel repeatedly published false information linking Chobani, owner Hamdi Ulukaya and Twin Falls to a sexual assault case involving refugee children at a Twin Falls apartment complex.

Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, has drawn threats for advocating for immigrants and refugees. The company employs more than 300 refugees at its plants in Twin Falls and upstate New York.

Think Progress, Laurel Raymond:

Chobani sues InfoWars for spreading xenophobic conspiracy theories

In June 2016, three boys sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in a Twin Falls apartment complex. The boys were all living in the United States as refugees, two originally from Eritrea and one originally from Iraq.

Right-wing websites like Infowars, Breitbart, and Drudge Report quickly pounced on the news with a series of extrapolations on the event, claiming that the crime was perpetrated by a group of Syrian men, that a rape occurred, and that a knife was involved.

But in reality, police and prosecutors said that there was no rape, no knife, and no grown men. The three boys — all of whom pleaded guilty on felony charges — were aged 14, 10, and seven.

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