Tag: Donald Trump

Trump accuses Google of biased searches

By Darlene Superville and Barbara Ortutay for WWayTV3 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google and other U.S. tech companies of rigging search results about him “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” He offered no evidence of bias, but a top adviser said the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google should face federal regulation.

Google pushed back sharply, saying Trump’s claim simply wasn’t so: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

The president’s tweets echoed his familiar attacks on the news media — and a conservative talking point that California-based tech companies run by CEOs with liberal leanings don’t give equal weight to opposing political viewpoints. They also revealed anew his deep-seated frustration he doesn’t get the credit he believes he deserves.

The president, who has said he runs on little sleep, jumped onto Twitter before dawn Tuesday to rehash his recent complaints about alleged suppression of conservative voices and positive news about him.

Related Article: Las Vegas shooting leaves GOP-backed gun bills in limbo
He followed that up with vague threats in Oval Office comments.

“I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing. That’s a very serious charge,” Trump said, adding that Google, Twitter, Facebook and others “better be careful, because you can’t do that to people.”

Trump claimed that “we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. … So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, told reporters later that the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google searches should be subject to some government regulation. That would be a noteworthy development since Trump often points proudly to his cutting of government regulations as a spur for economic gains.

In his tweets, Trump said — without offering evidence — that “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” He added, again with no evidence, that “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.”

A search query Tuesday morning, several hours after the president tweeted, showed stories from CNN, ABC News, Fox News and the MarketWatch business site, among others. A similar search later in the day for “Trump” had Fox News, the president’s favored cable network, among the top results.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, said its aim is to make sure its search engine users quickly get the most relevant answers.

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” the company said in a statement. “Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Experts suggested that Trump’s comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work.

Google searches aim to surface the most relevant pages in response to a user’s query, even before he or she finishes typing. The answers that appear first are the ones Google’s formulas, with some help from human content reviewers, deem to be the most authoritative, informative and relevant. Many factors help decide the initial results, including how much time people spend on a page, how many other pages link to it, how well it’s designed and more.

Trump and some supporters have long accused Silicon Valley companies of being biased against them. While some company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias.

Media analyst Ken Doctor said it doesn’t make sense for mass-market businesses like Google to lean either way politically. He characterized the complaints as a “sign of our times,” adding that, years ago, if the head of General Electric was supporting a Republican candidate, people who disagreed wouldn’t then go out and boycott GE products.

“The temperature has risen on this,” Doctor said.

Steven Andres, who teaches about management information systems at San Diego State University, said people often assume that if you give a computer the same inputs no matter where you are that you “get the same outputs.”

But it doesn’t work that way, he said. “You’re seeing different things every moment of the day and the algorithms are always trying to change the results.”

Trump didn’t say what he based his tweets on. But conservative activist Paula Boylard had said in a weekend blog post that she found “blatant prioritization of left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets” in search results.

Boylard based her judgments on the political leanings of media outlets on a list by Sharyl Attkisson, host of Sinclair Television’s “Full Measure” and author of “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, Think, and How You Vote.” Sinclair is a significant outlet for conservative views.

Trump began complaining about the issue earlier this month as social media companies moved to ban right-wing “Infowars” conspiracy theorist Alex Jonesfrom their platforms. The president also argues regularly — and falsely — that the news media avoid writing positive stories about him and his administration.

Jones is being sued for saying the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur and has argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because he was acting as a journalist.

Trump has praised Jones’ “amazing” reputation.

The issue is also of concern on Capitol Hill, where the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., recently announced that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to testify before the panel on Sept. 5 about the platform’s algorithms and content monitoring.

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24 

The rand came under “massive pressure” on Tuesday morning, having weakened from R13.63 to R13.90, following news that US President Donald Trump is threatening new tariffs on Chinese imports.

TreasuryONE’s lead dealer Wichard Cilliers said in a snap note that all eyes would now be on the trade spat.

By 09:14 the local currency was trading 1.92% weaker at R13.90 against the US dollar after breaching this level for the first time since November 27 last year when the rand traded at R14.00/$.

“The trade wars are heating up with US president Trump to identify $200bn in Chinese imports for additional tariffs of 10% and on another $200bn after that if Beijing retaliates,” said Cilliers.

Trump reportedly said that the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world. “We will continue using all available tools to create a better and fairer trading system for all Americans,” Trump said.

The IMF noted that this could place global growth at risk.

Bloomberg reports the tariffs could be the latest round of punitive measures in an escalating dispute over the large trade imbalance between the two countries. Trump recently ordered tariffs on $50bn (R692.77bn) in Chinese goods in retaliation for intellectual properly theft. The tariffs were quickly matched by China on US exports.

Apart from the trade wars, locally load shedding is also adding to currency weakness, commented NKC Africa Economics.

NKC expects the rand to trade within a range of R13.65/$ to R13.95/$.

RMB economist Mpho Tsebe noted that the rand was among Monday’s worst-performing emerging market currencies, along with the Colombian peso and the Thai baht.

“Given the fragile growth outlook and inflation contained within the 3%-6% target band, the SARB (South African Reserve Bank) is unlikely to increase interest rates to support the currency,” she said.

Peregrine Treasury Solutions’ Bianca Botes said investors are dumping emerging markets for safe haven assets, including US treasury bonds. “South Africa, due to the liquidity that our local market offers, often leads the losing streak, she said.

“Should these tensions elevate and strong data from the US keeps making its way to market, emerging market currencies will remain under pressure and one could very well see the rand target R14/$,” Botes warned.

However, Andre Botha, senior currency dealer at TreasuryONE was optimistic that the rand could recover.

“We still believe that the rand is overdone at these levels and should the tide turn and risk-taking behaviour start taking precedent again the rand could stage a comeback.” He echoed views that the rand’s performance largely depends on global events rather than local factors.

By Nikki Schwab for DailyMail

President Trump is to have dinner with his biggest Silicon Valley backer, Peter Thiel, DailyMail.com has confirmed.

The dinner, a source close to Thiel said, will be a strategy session on how the president might be able to regulate Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google.

Trump has been fixated on Amazon as of late, blasting the online retailer again from the White House on Tuesday.

President Trump is expected to get advice from billionaire Peter Thiel on how to regulate the top tech companies that include Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple.

“Amazon’s gonna have to pay much more money to the Post Office. There’s no doubt about that.”

Trump charged the U.S. Post Office is “losing billions of dollars” all because it delivers packages for Amazon at below cost “and that’s not fair”.

Behind-the-scenes, a source told Axios that Trump is “obsessed with Amazon”.

“He’s wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law,” a source told the publication.

Axios pointed out that the president ‘would love to clip CEO Jeff Bezos’ wings,’ but he doesn’t have a plan to do so. With billionaire Thiel’s advice, that could change.

Facebook has made its data crisis worse

Facebook Inc tried to get ahead of its latest media firestorm. Instead, it helped create one.

The company knew ahead of time that on Saturday, the New York Times and The Guardian’s Observer would issue bombshell reports that the data firm that helped Donald Trump win the presidency had accessed and retained information on 50-million Facebook users without their permission.

Facebook did two things to protect itself: it sent letters to the media firms laying out its legal case for why this data leak didn’t constitute a “breach.” And then it scooped the reports using their information, with a Friday blog post on why it was suspending the ad firm, Cambridge Analytica, from its site.

Both moves backfired.

On March 16, Facebook said it “received reports” that Cambridge Analytica hadn’t deleted the user data, and that it needed to suspend the firm. The statement gave the impression that Facebook had looked into the matter. In fact, the company’s decisions were stemming from information in the news reports set to publish the next day, and it had not independently verified those reports, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. By trying to look proactive, Facebook ended up adding weight to the news.

On March 17, any goodwill the company earned by talking about the problem first was quickly undone when reporters revealed Facebook’s behind-the-scenes legal manoeuvring. “Yesterday Facebook threatened to sue us. Today we publish this,” Carole Cadwalladr, the Observer reporter, wrote as she linked her story to Twitter, in a post shared almost 15,000 times. The Guardian said it had nothing to add to her statement. The Times confirmed that it too received a letter, but said it didn’t consider the correspondence a legal threat.

Front-running the stories along with the letters to newsrooms are but two of several ways Facebook failed to contain fallout from the Cambridge Analytica revelations. Silence on the part of chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg didn’t help. Nor did a report late March 19 in the New York Times that chief security officer Alex Stamos is leaving after clashing with other executives, including Sandberg, over how Facebook handled Russian disinformation campaigns. Facebook said Stamos is still at the company, but didn’t outright deny that he plans to leave.

“Most of its executives haven’t done a real interview in ages, let alone answer deep questions,” Zeynep Tufecki, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who specialises in social networks and democracy, wrote in a post on Twitter.

In a sign of investor dismay, Facebook shares tumbled 6.8% on March 19, the biggest decline since March 2014. As the stock fell and criticism from lawmakers poured in from the US and Britain, the company worked to make it clear that it didn’t actually have enough information, on its own, to react to Saturday’s news reports in a stronger way.

Facebook put out another blog post, saying that Cambridge Analytica and the researcher who provided them the data, Aleksandr Kogan, had agreed to a digital forensics audit to prove they deleted it. Facebook said the one person who didn’t agree to the audit was Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica contractor who spoke to the newspapers about the data leak. With the post, Facebook aimed to stir more scepticism around Wylie’s information, according to a person familiar with the matter.

That didn’t resolve things quickly either. The auditors were already on site at Cambridge Analytica’s London office March 19 when they had to pause their work. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation.

The Cambridge Analytica saga is the latest in a series of bungled Facebook responses, often reactionary and sometimes unintentionally stirring public outrage instead of resolving concerns. The company’s interaction with the public tends to start with a carefully crafted blog post, and then evolve into a much more improvised Twitter-based conversation with lower-level executives who defend the social network and explain its decisions. It doesn’t always go well.

Earlier this year, when the US government indicted 13 Russians who used Facebook to manipulate voters, a Facebook advertising executive took to Twitter to clarify that overall, the Russian ads were primarily used to divide Americans, not influence the election. His comments went viral after President Donald Trump used them to back up attacks on the “fake news media.”

In 2017, Facebook made its disclosures on Russia’s activities in a slow drip, each time illustrating a bigger problem. An April white paper on “information operations,” for example, didn’t name the country. The company that October said 10 million users saw Russia’s ads. Later that month, Facebook said 126 million people saw Russia’s posts in general. The company upped the number to 150 million during Congressional interrogation, when a senator asked if Facebook could include Instagram, the photo-sharing app it owns, in the count.

Stamos, who has favoured more forthright disclosure, was frequently outvoted, according to the New York Times. He’s planning to leave the company in August, the newspaper reported. On Twitter, he later said he’s still fully engaged with his work at Facebook, without answering questions about his plans. But that would make him the most high-profile exit since Facebook’s election-related troubles began.

Meanwhile, higher ranking executives remain quiet. Zuckerberg and Sandberg, who in past years would post frequently about the issues of the day, have shied away from reacting to the most controversial news. Lawmakers have now called out Zuckerberg by name in both the US and the UK.

Zuckerberg and Sandberg plan to remain quiet on the Cambridge Analytica situation until the company completes its internal review of what happened, according to a person familiar with the matter. Until they do, questions about Facebook’s ability to cope with the Cambridge Analytica crisis will undoubtedly persist. — Bloomberg

By Sarah Frier for The Star
Image: 123rf

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