Zuckerberg: ‘Crazy’ to say
Facebook influenced election
interview Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, with “The Facebook Effect” author
David Kirkpatrick, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the idea that
Facebook influenced the outcome of the U.S. election is a “crazy idea.”
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
New York (AP) - Facebook CEO
Mark Zuckerberg says the idea that fake news spread on Facebook
influenced the outcome of the U.S. election is “crazy.”
Still, the majority of Americans
(six in 10) say they get at least some news from social media, mostly
Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. While a lot of this news
comes from established outlets - whether CNN or BuzzFeed News,
misinformation spreads on Facebook just as information does, shared by
users, recommended by software and amplified by both.
Sources of spurious information
have ranged from news articles produced by “content farms” for the sole
purpose of getting clicks, to “hyperpartisan” sites from both sides of
the political spectrum, churning out stories that are misleading at
Case in point: “FBI AGENT SUSPECTED
IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE” - a
fabricated headline from a fake news site called the Denver Guardian,
was shared thousands of times in the days leading up to the election.
Is it possible that voters were
swayed for or against a candidate, much like those same people might buy
a product after seeing an ad on Facebook?
Zuckerberg says voters deserve more
During an interview Thursday with
“The Facebook Effect” author David Kirkpatrick, Zuckerberg said idea
that people voted the way they did because of bogus information on
Facebook shows a “profound lack of empathy” for supporters of Donald
“Voters make decisions based on
their lived experience,” he said.
Given the acerbic political contest
from which the country just emerged, when countless longtime friends,
even family, were unfriended, many are left to wonder if there would be
an alternative American history being written today if it were not for
Facebook, Twitter and the like.
This, after all, was the first
truly social media election, playing out on Twitter and Facebook as much
or more than it did on major networks, in living rooms and around water
But isn’t social media just a
reflection of our world as it exists? Has Facebook become an easy
scapegoat when the answer is far more complex?
While Pew found that many believe
political discussions on social media to be “uniquely angry and
disrespectful,” a comparable number have the same impression of
face-to-face conversations when it comes to Democrats, the GOP, or
When it comes to Facebook users,
Zuckerberg said almost everyone has friends on the “other side.” Even if
90 percent of your friends are Democrats, for example, 10 percent will
be Republican. Still, that’s not a very big number, and the idea of a
“filter bubble” - that social media allows people to surround themselves
only with the people and ideas with whom they agree, has been a hot
topic this election cycle.
“By far the biggest filter in the
system is not that the content isn’t there, that you don’t have friends
who support the other candidate or that are of another religion,”
Zuckerberg said. “But it’s that you just don’t click on it. You actually
tune it out when you see it. I don’t know what to do about that.”
Facebook has long denied that it’s
a publisher or a media company, or that it acts remotely like either.
Its cheery slogan - to make the world more “open and connected” -
seemingly invites a broad range of viewpoints, diverse, lively
discussion and the free flow of information, rather than censorship.
But it could also make clamping
down on fake news difficult. At a time when everyone seems entitled, not
just to their own opinions, but to their own facts, one person’s
misleading headline might be another person’s heartfelt truth.
“We take misinformation on Facebook
very seriously,” Adam Mosseri, the executive in charge of Facebook’s
news feed, said in a statement to the tech blog TechCrunch this week.
“We value authentic communication, and hear consistently from those who
use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation.”
Facebook acknowledges that it has
more work to do, and it seems to be putting a lot of faith in the power
of data, artificial intelligence and algorithms as the solution.
Over the summer, Facebook fired the
small group of journalists in charge of its “trending” items and
replaced them with an algorithm. The catalyst appeared to be a report in
a tech blog, based on an anonymous source, that the editors routinely
suppressed conservative viewpoints.
Subsequently, fake stories ahead of
the election began to trend.
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant arrives on Fire tablets
undated file image provided by Amazon shows color options of the new
Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet. (Amazon via AP, File)
New York (AP) -
Amazon’s Fire tablets are getting the Alexa
announced feature has already started rolling out to customers. It’s
meant to complement what users get on other Alexa devices, such as the
Echo speaker. Through voice commands, users can get the news read out to
them or listen to music from services such as Amazon Music or Pandora.
The Fire tablets
will go beyond Echo by offering full-screen cards with additional
details. For instance, when you ask for the weather, Alexa will speak
out the current temperature and offer the day’s forecast, just as she
does on Echo. But the visual card will also display the week’s forecast.
For news and music, the card offers playback control such as pausing and
For those with both
Fire and Echo, making a request on Echo will trigger the Fire’s screen
to turn on and present the detailed cards, as long as a Voicecast
feature is enabled through the Alexa app.
Amazon says Alexa
will differ from Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant in being designed
for tablets first, rather than phones. That means focusing on tasks
typically done at home, such as entertainment, recipes and timers. For
tasks on the go, such as finding nearby restaurants, Alexa performs a
standard web search or directs you to the Alexa app. Apple and Google
have special interfaces with restaurant ratings, price ranges and more,
and both integrate that information into their chat apps, too.
overall tablet market has been slumping, Amazon.com Inc. has managed to
stay strong by slashing prices and encouraging people to buy more than
one. Its bare-bones base model costs just $49. Last month, Amazon
introduced a new 8-inch tablet for $90, down from $150 for similar
models in the past.
So far, Amazon is
avoiding business-oriented tablets such as Apple’s iPad Pro and
Microsoft’s Surface. Aaron Bromberg, a senior product manager for Fire
tablets, said that while such devices work well as laptop replacements,
“we also see an awful lot of people that want tablets to use around the
house for entertainment.”
“We see the market
kind of dividing a bit,” he said.
Cheaper phones are fine
- if top-end camera isn’t a must
Oct. 21, 2016, photo shows a Motorola MotoG4, right, a Sony Xperia XA,
center, and a OnePlus A3000, in New York.
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
New York (AP) -
You can easily save hundreds of dollars on an Android phone - especially
if you, like many people, don’t need a top-end camera.
phones are, in many respects, adequate substitutes for pricier high-end
models such as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Google’s Pixel. There are dozens
worthy of consideration. I’m recommending three out of the handful I’ve
tested: the OnePlus 3, Sony’s Xperia XA and Motorola’s Moto G4. All
three are easy to use and have great battery life, enough for four or
five movies on Netflix.
The drawbacks? For
one, availability. Of the three phones, only the Moto is compatible with
all the major U.S. carriers. And then there’s the camera. All
smartphones take decent shots in good conditions, but high-end phones
typically do better in the dark. I’ll trade hundreds of dollars in
savings for a camera that does well most of the time, but shutterbugs
might seek perfection.
OnePlus 3 ($399)
You’re not sacrificing the speed or power of top-end models. The OnePlus
also has a fine camera - I could tell, even as a photography dummy. To
combat blurry shots, especially in low light, the OnePlus has an
anti-shake technology that’s rare for mid-range phones. Even selfies
taken at dusk turned out well. The camera’s interface is nice, too,
letting you swipe up or down to change from video to photo mode. OnePlus
also has bells and whistles like a fingerprint scanner to unlock phones
and a wireless chip for making payments in retail stores using Android
Pay. It ran Netflix the longest among the three phones tested.
The 5.5-inch screen is great for watching
video but makes the phone too big to use comfortably one-handed. That’s
a matter of personal preference, of course. Taking a screenshot is
awkward, requiring the power and volume key to be pressed
simultaneously, which is harder than it sounds. This is standard
Android, but a few other manufacturers have found ways to tweak this.
Folder icons don’t show you what apps are inside, making navigation
difficult if you forget where you put your apps (again, standard
Android). The phone’s not water-resistant.
Down The Road:
You can’t add storage, but it comes with a fairly generous 64 gigabytes.
And you don’t have as much flexibility to change carriers, as it’s not
compatible with Verizon or Sprint.
Sony Xperia XA ($279)
Aesthetics-wise, this light, sleek phone is my favorite. It is easy to
hold and use this 5-inch phone with one hand. Taking a screenshot is
simple - hold down the power key, tap the screenshot option. Folders
sport mini-icons of the apps they contain. You can set an alarm clock
with a few taps from the home screen. The phone supports Android Pay,
Its battery is the weakest of the bunch, in
part because the phone’s smaller than the others. At default settings,
the phone’s display is so dark that I sometimes had to squint to look at
it. It’s better once I turned off “adaptive brightness” in the settings.
Photos taken in a dimly lit room didn’t turn out well. Although one
swipe switches the camera from photo to video mode or from selfie to
outward-facing shots, it wasn’t intuitive and took a few hours to
notice. There’s also an annoying lag when switching between the modes.
The Xperia lacks a fingerprint scanner and isn’t water-resistant, unlike
Sony’s top-end models.
Down The Road:
You can add a MicroSD card for more storage beyond the stingy 16
gigabytes offered. As with the OnePlus, it won’t work with Verizon or
Moto G (starts at $200)
The phone has a textured plastic back, so it doesn’t feel as slippery.
You can customize the phone’s look when you order it with different
color combinations. The camera was fine, although not as good as that on
the OnePlus. There’s easy access to an alarm clock on the home screen. A
swipe to the right brings up your calendar, weather and news stories
linked to the Google Now digital assistant; although this is standard
Android, it’s missing on the other two phones. For $50 more, you can get
a Plus version with a more powerful camera and a fingerprint reader (I
tested the regular model).
It is bulkier than the other phones and looks
cheaper. Like the OnePlus, you need two hands for the 5.5-inch phone.
Taking a screenshot is difficult, and folders don’t show the apps
inside. There’s no Android Pay. Oddly, there’s also no indicator light
that comes on when the phone is charging. You can flick your wrist to
switch from selfie to regular camera mode, but I found this difficult to
do. Getting from photo to video mode takes two taps. Though Motorola
says the phone will resist spills and light rain, you can’t submerge it
Down the Road:
The regular G4 and Plus version both start with 16 gigabytes of storage,
again stingy these days, but you can pay for more up front or add
storage later with a MicroSD card. And hallelujah, it’s compatible with
all major U.S. cellular networks.
Google’s Pixel phone: Not much new, but still a standout
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, file photo, Sabrina Ellis, Google director of product
management, talks about the colors of the new Google Pixel phone during a
product event, in San Francisco. Google’s Pixel doesn’t offer a lot that’s
new. Yet it’s still one of the best out there (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
New York (AP) - Google’s
ambitious new smartphone, the Pixel, doesn’t offer a lot that’s new. Yet
it’s still one of the best out there.
Google achieves that by pulling
together the best features from Apple, Samsung and other phone makers and
offering them at prices comparable to iPhones - starting at about $650 for
the regular, 5-inch model and $770 for the 5.5-inch “XL” edition. Both
versions are on sale through Google’s online store.
I tested the Pixel XL model; the
regular version has identical features except for its smaller display and
battery - still enough for 13 hours of internet use, according to Google.
With either, you get an excellent camera and a strong voice assistant that
promises to get smarter - all without the bloat common with other Android
The Pixel isn’t quite an iPhone
replacement, as Google wants you to believe; hardware is just part of what
makes an iPhone an iPhone. But it might serve up a strong challenge to
Samsung, especially as people look for alternatives to the fire-prone Galaxy
The Pixel’s image quality is superb -
though purists may quibble. Colors in some shots look too strong and clean
to me, thanks to software processing intended to reduce distortion and
improve detail (something all phones do to some extent).
But automation pays off in another way:
The Pixel will automatically combine successive shots into an animated “GIF”
file, offering a fun way to share a toddler’s steps or a dog jumping. For
video, the Pixel’s stabilization technology compensates for shaky hands and
other movement, matching what the iPhone and Galaxy phones can do.
The Pixel borrows a quick-launch
feature from Samsung phones. Just double tap the power button to start the
camera, even if the phone is locked. To switch between the front and rear
cameras, just double twist the phone like a door knob - a feature Motorola,
which Google once owned, has long offered.
Low-light images taken with the Pixel
in three museums aren’t as crisp as those from the iPhone 7 and Samsung’s
Galaxy S7 (which has the same camera as the Note 7). But differences are
small, and the Pixel does better than typical smartphones. Where the Pixel
falls short is in extreme close-ups, such as shooting a flower petal or a
small bug; photos were typically blurry. The Pixel’s selfie camera is also
inferior, with no front flash or control over the focus. But it’s fine in
good light and at typical distances for selfies.
Google’s voice assistant, simply known
as Google Assistant, will seem familiar to those who have used Apple’s Siri
or Amazon’s Alexa features.
Google’s version goes further in
offering daily updates such as weather and news, though plenty of apps
already offer similar capabilities through notifications. Google is also
better at remembering preferences - say, if you prefer temperatures in
Celsius - and at integrating with its own services, such as Translate and
But Assistant doesn’t yet sync with a
similar Assistant in Google’s Allo chat app and upcoming Home speaker. And
it isn’t as proactive as the Google Now assistant already built into Android
phones. Google Now, for instance, will look through your Gmail account for
flight reservations and remind you when to head to the airport. It will
analyze your daily commute and warn of delays. Assistant waits for you to
Assistant holds up well compared with
Siri and Alexa, but for more, swipe from left to right to get the old Google
Now back. Google says Assistant will eventually get the Google Now
If you need help, you can reach
Google’s customer support and enable screen sharing reminiscent of Amazon’s
Mayday help feature. And the Pixel will work with Google’s upcoming Daydream
View virtual-reality headset, much as Samsung phones have Samsung’s Gear VR.
Long-pressing an app icon brings up a
menu of shortcuts, such as getting directions to home or launching the
selfie camera. It’s similar to the iPhone’s 3D Touch. The Pixel also offers
“Night Light,” a feature that tints your screen amber by filtering out blue
light that might keep you up at night. Apple calls it Night Shift.
Pixel owners get unlimited storage of
photos at original resolution, though that’s a little like offering Google
search for free. Google Photos already offers unlimited storage at up to 16
megapixels; the Pixel’s camera is 12 megapixels. The free offer will make a
difference for those who take video in ultra-sharp “4k” resolution, but the
default setting is lower, at 1080p, which is already free at Google Photos.
The Pixel will be OK if you spray it
with water, but don’t drop it in the pool. You also can’t expand its storage
with a memory card, as you can with the S7 and Note 7 - though for $100
more, the Pixel’s 32 gigabytes of storage quadruples to 128 gigabytes, and
the free online storage should take care of your photos and videos. The
battery isn’t removable, though that’s true for most phones these days.
Those looking for a Note 7 replacement
will find the Pixel missing a stylus. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll have
to brace yourself for the switch to Android, which would entail buying new
apps and learning new ways to navigate.
Google tries to make it easy to switch.
The phone comes with a transfer cable, and the set-up process walks you
through transferring photos, music and video, as long as it’s not encrypted
(so scratch iTunes video). But apps won’t switch over from iPhones; you need
to buy them again.