November 13, 2017 Last Updated 7:24 am

Another election, followed by another reevaluation of polling by journalists; Softbank invests in Uber, will it be another Ziff?

Morning Brief: The Independent looks at Brexit supporting Twitter account with 100K followers and sees the tell tale signs of a Russian troll farm or automated bot

The press corp is still in a bit of shock over what happened last week on election night. The stage had been set for another Republican upset victory and more disappointed Democrats. The polls had showed a tightening race between Ralph Northan, the Democrat, and the Republican Ed Gillespie. But they clearly showed Northam ahead, but journalists saw the tightening as a sign of impending doom for the Democrats.

It didn’t work out that way, Northam won going away, and journalists again had to explain how they could be so wrong. Again.

Makes you wonder if any polls being taken for the Senate race in Alabama should be trusted, or if too much is being read into them.

Journalists have bene having problems with polls for a while now. After Obama’s second victory there was a lot of talk about the weakness of several of the more popular polls. Gallup went so far as to say that they had had it, they would be out of the horse race business.

But Trump’s win really had journalists in a panic, despite the fact that most polls accurately predicted Clinton’s popular vote win. Now the landslide win by Northam has many journalists again thinking there must be something wrong with polling, in general.

The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan:

Trump won, and Northam crushed Gillespie. Why believe polls ever again?

“There’s a strong desire for a narrative, and a lot of groupthink,” the founder of Fivethirtyeight.com told me last week.

I had called him up to ask why should anyone ever trust polls again.

After all, last year, we were told that Hillary Clinton would be a shoo-in over Donald Trump. And when that turned out to be spectacularly wrong, there was hand-wringing throughout the land, and a call to substitute shoe-leather reporting for cold numbers…

…As Bonier puts it: “Pollsters and prognosticators — and I would include the media — need to do a better job presenting the uncertainty.”

AL.com, Paul Gattis:

Doug Jones takes lead on Roy Moore in new Senate poll

A new Alabama Senate poll, released Sunday morning, gives Democrat Doug Jones his first lead over Republican Roy Moore.

The race, though, remains close.

Louisiana-based JMC Analytics conducted the poll after allegations of sexual misconduct by Moore were reported by The Washington Post. The poll had Jones received 46 percent support in the poll to Moore’s 42 percent. With a margin of error of 4 percent, however, the race is essentially a statistical tie.

(Typo of the year so far → → → →)



Whenever I hear that Softbank is involved with another deal, I am reminded of the Ziff Davis deal. The Japanese firm bought Ziff for $2.1 billion and press reports at the time said this would make Softbank “the world’s largest publisher of computer magazines.”

When was the last time you read a computer magazine?

So, when news broke that Softbank is leading a group to buy about $1 billion worth of newly issued Uber shares, I could only respond by saying this feels like Softbank being Softbank.

Los Angeles Times, Tracy Lien:

SoftBank is buying a chunk of Uber. Here’s what that means

First off, the deal would bring in money, which Uber could use to help fund expansion and its costly ride-hailing operations amid growing competition from U.S. rival Lyft.

But perhaps more important, it could help bring peace to a company defined in 2017 by scandal and infighting.

According to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, the long-anticipated SoftBank investment could soon be finalized because of an accord between former chief executive Travis Kalanick and early Uber investor Benchmark.

The Wall Street Journal, Jacky Wong:

SoftBank’s Uber Deal Shows Doubts About Ride-Hailing

The logic appears sound, but this is still a substantial gamble. After all, the entire global taxi market only generated about $108 billion in revenue last year, according to Goldman Sachs , which is half the $217 billion Apple Inc. generated on its own. The likes of Uber and Didi, as platforms between drivers and passengers, only take a roughly 20% slice of that revenue pie.

Yet those two privately-owned firms together are already worth nearly $120 billion, based on their latest rounds of fundraising. To justify such valuations, ride-hailing companies would have to take over not just the global taxi market, but replace other forms of transportation, like private cars, too.



Reporters keep looking into all the fake social media accounts that are oh-so-popular with a certain segment of the political spectrum, and what they are seeing is what social media users have been seeing for a while. That while many of us love to use Twitter and other social media outlets for information, we know so much of the conversation is being dominated by fake accounts.

The Independent, Lizzie Dearden:

Pro-Brexit Twitter account with 100,000 followers could be part of Russian ‘disinformation campaign’

A “passionate Brexit supporter” with more than 100,000 Twitter followers could be in the pay of the Russian government as part of an international disinformation campaign, analysts have said.

“David Jones” has been tweeting from the handle @DavidJo52951945 for more than four years, amassing an extensive following and interactions high-profile figures including Tommy Robinson and Ukip spokesman John Bickley…

…The account has been tweeting prolifically in support of Ukip, Brexit, Donald Trump, Bashar al-Assad and – tellingly – Russia.

Research by a US-based analyst going by the name of Conspirador Norteño showed that the intensity of messaging has coincided with key points of Russian government interest, including its annexation of Crimea in 2014, intervention in Syria and the wider support for Mr Trump and Brexit seen in state media.

Adweek, Marty Swant:

Trump Campaign’s Digital Director Says He Didn’t Know Russian Bots Were on Twitter During the Election

Brad Parscale, who served as digital director for Trump’s campaign last year and now runs a pro-Trump Super PAC, said he was not aware of Russian operatives on Twitter, Facebook or any other platform that might have been acting to influence voters. During the campaign, Parscale and other Trump campaign officials retweeted a tweet about media bias from a handle disguised as that of Tennessee Republicans.

During a session Wednesday at the Web Summit tech conference, Parscale talked about the campaign exactly one year after Trump was elected president. He said he has no regrets about retweeting what is now evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

“I don’t think Twitter posted a Russian flag with the IP address of other entities,” Parscale said. “I retweeted lots of tweets. Millions of people retweet tweets. You don’t have any idea who’s behind that account. I agree with the message that the media was biased. Did I have any idea who was behind that? No.”

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