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John Martin is CEO of Turner, Time Warner’s powerful portfolio of cable networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT. But President-elect Donald Trump says he doesn’t like CNN. And AT&T wants to buy CNN and the rest of Time Warner.
Here are some of her previous stances on issues that may affect the transportation industry.
Donald Trump will reportedly nominate Elaine Chao — the former secretary of labor under the Bush administration who also served as the deputy secretary of transportation under the previous Bush administration — to be the Department of Transportation secretary.
Given both Trump’s promises of a lighter regulatory arena and Chao’s public views on how to regulate new technologies, her appointment may be a good thing for companies like Uber, Google and others with self-driving ambitions.
If Chao’s nomination is confirmed, the Beltway insider will be taking over the agency at a crucial time for the industry. Under current Secretary Anthony Foxx, the DOT has made significant progress on self-driving technology and is in the middle of soliciting comments on its most recent regulatory guidelines on the testing and deployment of autonomous cars.
Here are some of the industry’s most pressing issues that are left to be sorted by the Trump administration and how some of Chao’s previous stances may impact the transportation industry.
Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure
First and foremost, Donald Trump’s priority — and perhaps by extension Chao’s — is his $1 trillion infrastructure plan to repair the country’s roads, bridges and tunnels.
That could mean two things: Self-driving regulations may not be at the top of Chao’s agenda but the DOT and Chao have the opportunity to work with the tech and transportation industries to create roads and infrastructure that are friendly to autonomous tech.
Trump only briefly mentioned self-driving technology during his campaign and Chao has made very few public statements on transportation technology save for a speech she gave on labor as it relates to companies like Uber — we’ll get to that in a minute.
Trump on driverless cars: “Safer or catastrophic? … It’s sort of a weird thing to look over and there’s nobody in the car.”
Trump’s infrastructure plan is focused on refurbishing the country’s bridges and roads which in turn will ostensibly create jobs. But there’s a significant opportunity to create roads that will survive the self-driving revolution.
However, Trump has made little attempt to reach out to the tech industry and has gone after automakers like Ford and GM for outsourcing some of its manufacturing to Mexico.
Here’s where Chao can become particularly useful. The Taiwanese-American politician has been described as an “ambitious operator” with an “expansive network” who almost immediately reached out to the then-president of the AFL-CIO when President Bush chose her to be the DOL secretary. In other words, she knows when and how to reach out to the relevant stakeholders.
That will be increasingly important because the introduction of self-driving technology may require a complete reimagination of how cities and roads work, especially with the implementation of technology that enables vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
From the gig economy to self-driving cars
Uber and Lyft, as well as the Self-Driving Coalition — the lobbyist group representing the two companies in addition to Google and Volvo — are seemingly pleased with Trump’s choice.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with [Elaine Chao] on bringing the safety and mobility benefits of fully self-driving vehicles to America’s roads and highways,” the Self-Driving Coalition’s General Counsel David Strickland wrote in a statement.
“We have the utmost respect for Elaine Chao, an accomplished public servant and highly capable leader,” Adrian Durbin, Lyft’s spokesperson, told Recode.
Uber’s head of federal affairs, Niki Christoff, echoed Lyft’s sentiment and said, “Ms. Chao’s knowledge of transportation issues is extensive and we look forward to working closely with her.”
Uber and Lyft’s approval of Trump’s pick is likely tied to her comments on the gig economy during a speech at an American Action Forum event.
While Chao is unlikely to be making many labor decisions as the head of the DOT, her praise of the “flexibility” independent contractor models like Uber’s afforded workers is a good sign for these sharing-economy companies.
In her speech, she specifically bemoaned any attempt to “impose the old paradigm on the new workforce” as opposed to creating a new system of benefits and protections for workers.
That outlook in particular bodes well for how she may choose to regulate new technologies. Her comments generally point to a progressive approach that works to avoid forcing new technologies to operate under “antiquated” laws.
This is especially significant given Chao will have the power to completely buck the current voluntary self-driving guidelines the DOT has implemented, which many companies are largely in favor of save for some questions that remain regarding things like data sharing.
But what about jobs?
Given her work in labor, it’s also worth watching if and how Chao will deal with the implications self-driving technology will have on the country’s workforce. At the end of her tenure as DOL secretary, Chao was criticized by the AFL-CIO for siding with corporations over workers when there were union disputes. (Chao believed her critics were partisan and unfair.)
So far, there have been little to no regulatory conversations about what role either the corporations that once employed drivers and are now replacing them with robots or the government should and will have to play as hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of losing their jobs.
If her comments on the gig economy — which seem to suggest relieving corporations of the responsibility of providing benefits to their contractors and instead puts the onus on the government to come up with new legal solutions — are any indication, Chao may leave the labor implications of autonomous technology to regulators.
The Transportation Trades Department, a segment of the AFL-CIO, welcomed Chao’s nomination but emphasized the need to “oppose the agenda of special interests.”
“Transforming the president-elect’s campaign commitments on transportation and jobs into reality will require leadership and a willingness to stand up to the dangerous austerity and job-killing proposals being advanced by some in Washington,” Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, said in a statement.
While much of how she will manage the DOT is up in the air, one thing is clear: She’s a moderate choice for Trump. When Chao was nominated to head up the DOL, the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce said, “We know she shares the president-elect’s views on the limited role of government and supports free-market principles.”
It’s a stance that has self-driving advocates optimistic about what Trump’s administration might hold for the advancement of the technology.
“Extrapolating President-elect Trump’s posture on regulations, he’s clearly looking to having a much lighter regulatory environment,” Strickland said during a press call last week.
The action camera company is laying off 15 percent of its staff, and President Tony Bates is stepping down.
GoPro was never really a media company despite how much it kept pushing that narrative to investors, and today it announced it is cutting 15 percent of its workforce and dropping its entertainment division.
Two hundred full-time positions will be eliminated in an attempt to reduce operating expenses.
Tony Bates, the president of GoPro since June 2014, will also step down by the end of the year. Bates came to GoPro from Microsoft and previously also served as the CEO of Skype. He joined right before GoPro went public and oversaw the company’s unsuccessful attempt to expand its entertainment offerings.
GoPro isn’t profitable. Its shares have lost half their value this year. With the restructuring, GoPro expects to reduce operating costs to $650 million by 2017 and return to profitability. The company estimates the layoffs will cost between $24 million and $33 million.
Hopes of cashing in on GoPro user-generated content — as well as its large YouTube audience, which now clocks in at over 4.3 million subscribers and in 2014 boasted status as YouTube’s top brand channel — never panned out.
GoPro was always fundamentally a hardware company. Its attempt to revive sales this year with its hyped Karma drone failed after the product was recalled within three weeks of its launch date following reports that units were losing power and could fall from the sky.
This isn’t the first wave of layoffs to hit the company in 2016. GoPro announced a 7 percent reduction in staff in January, which amounted to about 100 layoffs, after 2015 holiday sales failed to meet quarterly expectations.
Still, GoPro reports 2016 Black Friday camera sales were up over 35 percent from last year at top U.S. retailers. Best known for its high-quality, rugged cameras, GoPro should go back to focusing on making their hardware deadlines. That, if anything, will be their salvation.
It will work on your iOS and Android devices, starting today.
After hinting at it for months, Netflix is finally let its users download some of its shows and movies, so they can watch them when they don’t have an internet connection.
Some other streaming services, notably Netflix rival Amazon, have already offered the same feature.
In countries like the U.S., it’s a nice option for people on planes and other scenarios where they won’t have readily available Wi-Fi. But Netflix has said it is most concerned about customers in developing countries, where internet connections aren’t always cheap and/or available.
“As we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it’s something we should keep an open mind about,” CEO Reed Hastings said in April.
Netflix hasn’t said how many of its movies and shows will be available for download, though the company emphasized Netflix originals in a blog post announcing a move.
A Netflix rep said the one notable omission will be Disney-owned shows and movies. That includes new releases like “Zootopia,” as well catalog stuff like “Fantasia.” And it also includes Netflix exclusives made in conjunction with Disney, like the new Marvel superhero shows “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage.”
No comment from Netflix about why the Disney titles aren’t available. A reasonable assumption would be that Disney wants to reserve those rights for its own download service, which it hasn’t launched but has been considering for years.
Netflix’s download option is available for users with iOS and Android devices, using an update of the company’s app that’s out today. Once you have it, you can see what titles Netflix is offering for download by looking at a new “available for download” tab.
You’re a media company now, Facebook. Behave like one.
Welcome to Mossberg, a weekly commentary and reviews column on The Verge and Recode by veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg, executive editor at The Verge and editor at large of Recode.
Totally false news isn’t a new thing in the United States. In our fourth presidential election, in 1800, two of our most brilliant founders — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — faced off in a vicious campaign that involved newspaper editors on the take and numerous false, often personal attacks. Some historians even claim that partisans for Adams spread the rumor that Jefferson was dead. (He won anyway.)
But they didn’t have Facebook to present, amplify and repeat those falsehoods instantly to millions of people. And that’s why the fake news problem is so serious, even outside the context of a presidential election.
Back in May, the Pew Research Center found that roughly 44 percent of the U.S. adult population got at least some of its news from Facebook. And that was before the general election. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Many, if not most, news organizations — old and new, big and small (including this one) — post stories and videos on the social network. And readers and viewers are moved to share stories, whether publishers have embraced the platform or not.
But that puts a heavy responsibility on Facebook to make sure it’s not helping to spread outright lies masquerading as news or publishing the output of made-up news organizations. Yet that’s exactly what happened during the 2016 presidential campaign. In the best-known example, BuzzFeed discovered that over 100 mostly pro-Trump fake news sites in a single town in Macedonia were pumping out false “news” on Facebook in an effort to make money from ads.
Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has posted two long statements on the social network. On Nov. 12, while he said “we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook,” he also said it was “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election.” But that was a weaselly excuse. Facebook has done controversial experiments to investigate whether the News Feed can affect emotions — surely fake news can affect beliefs as well.
A week later, in the second post, he got more detailed and outlined a series of steps the company was working on. These included better detection of fake news, a better reporting system for users to report fake news, and possibly flagging fake news with warning labels.
(Oddly, both posts briefly disappeared Tuesday. Shortly after The Vergereported that they were gone, they returned and the company said it was due to a system error.)
In both posts, Zuckerberg stressed the difficulty of deciding what was true or false, what was legitimate opinion or fact, and the need to balance dealing with fake news with protecting freedom of speech.
I agree that these considerations, and others, make this a delicate problem to solve. I especially agree that free speech and the right to opinions, on politics and everything else, must be protected — whether they are popular or not — as long as they aren’t hate speech.
But I am also convinced that Facebook has the financial, technical and human resources to ferret out and totally block almost all fake news and hate speech, both of which it says it wants gone from its service. It’s a company that earned nearly $3 billion just last quarter, and which is reportedly building a tool capable of preventing controversial content from appearing in its News Feeds in countries like China.
Yet the Zuckerberg posts suggest that, while the company is working to better detect fake news, it’s still hoping to rely on the all-too-common Silicon Valley belief that the wisdom of the crowd, plus third-party input, will save the day.
“We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves,” Zuckerberg says, “but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.” Thus, among the ideas he lists for banishing fake news are those labels, that easier user reporting of fake news, and making fake news economically less enticing for its creators. (The company did bar known fake news sites from its ad networks, as did Google.)
But Facebook isn’t just a technology platform where news happens to be published, along with baby pictures, vacation bragging and amateur sports commentary. It’s clearly a media company. It is now publishing articles and videos directly from a host of news organizations, including The Verge. Including this very column. These are encoded in a special way to work best on Facebook, and there are business terms behind the practice. Increasingly, people read news on Facebook and never even visit the originating site or publication.
Hell, even those Macedonian teens understood that Facebook was a media company. They made up fake media organization names from which to post. (Really, Facebook, you weren’t even a little suspicious about DonaldTrumpNews.co?)
So, yes, in my view, Facebook has a direct responsibility to get rid of fake news, and it cannot simply rely on its audience or others to shoulder the burden. I’m happy to see tools made available to readers that help report such trash, and happy that Facebook is working with third-party fact checkers. But the ultimate responsibility is Facebook’s.
Nobody wants Facebook to tinker with legitimate news and opinion — again, except for hate speech. But getting rid of purely fake news from purely fake sources is an eminently achievable task, especially for a huge, well-funded, tech-savvy media company serving nearly two billion people.
I’m encouraged that the Nov. 19 Zuckerberg post says the company wants to “detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves.” But again, I think Facebook needs to step up and take direct responsibility for expunging fake news, not just label it or give it less weight in the News Feed.
Facebook might even consider hiring a distinguished, non-partisan editor and a small staff to help in the effort. The company abandoned such human input in its little-known Trending box after conservatives complained that right-leaning stories were being culled. But if weeding out verifiably fake news — conservative or liberal or whatever — angers some users, that’s the price of being a news platform, even if it slightly affects growth. It’s the right trade-off.
All of this would mean Facebook would have to act like the media company it has become and stop pretending.
The “snooper’s charter” — formally the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 — is now law in the U.K., requiring web and phone companies to store users’ browsing data and call records for a year and granting police and government agencies unprecedented access to that data, along with new surveillance powers. — [Alan Travis / The Guardian]
Facebook users like to play games. Facebook likes to keep users inside Facebook. The company’s solution: Instant Games, like Pac-Man and Words With Friends, that can be played inside Facebook’s mobile apps. — [Kurt Wagner / Recode]
Our Code Media event starts tonight at 6 pm ET in New York City. The best way to enjoy it is live, in person. Those of you who can’t join us at the Steelcase WorkLife Center can still tune in: We’ll have live video with John Martin, CEO of Turner, as well as coverage of our interviews with Janine Gibson, editor in chief of BuzzFeed U.K., and Jim VandeHei, the co-founder of Politico. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. — [Recode]
Billy Sorrentino will go to work on Apple’s design team.
One of Wired’s top editors has left the company to join Apple.
Billy Sorrentino, the publication’s creative director, announced his departure today. A Wired rep says Sorrentino will be joining Apple’s design team, but wouldn’t offer more detail.
Sorrentino’s official title at Wired since 2013 was Head of Creative, which is a big deal at a design-focused publication like Wired. Wired’s bio says his job put him in charge of “the brand’s four creative departments—design, photo, video, and production, and is responsible for cross-channel brand presence, including print, web, digital editions, mobile, social media, retail, and live events.”
Another way of putting it: Sorrentino got to touch or advise on just about everything Wired did, including its recent photoshoot with Barack Obama, who guest-edited a recent issue of its print magazine.
Or yet another way of putting it: Scott Dadich’s Wired’s current editor-in-chief, used to be Wired’s creative director. So it’s a job he takes seriously.
Two other high–ranking editors left Wired in August. Wired says David Moretti, previously its deputy creative director, will take Sorrentino’s place.