Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Facebook Tries to Hook Users Longer With Games in News Feed, Messenger

November 29, 2016

Instant Games is latest effort to get people to spend more time in the social network’s ecosystem

Instant Games will start in 30 countries with 17 titles, including mobile versions of arcade classics such as Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.’s “Pac-Man” and new games such as Activision Blizzard Inc.’s “Shuffle Cats Mini.”
Instant Games will start in 30 countries with 17 titles, including mobile versions of arcade classics such as Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.’s “Pac-Man” and new games such as Activision Blizzard Inc.’s “Shuffle Cats Mini.” PHOTO: THE OUTCAST AGENCY

Updated Nov. 29, 2016 12:39 p.m. ET

Facebook Inc. on Tuesday launched a new way to play games on the social network and in its messaging app, the latest effort to get people to spend more time in its ecosystem.

Instant Games will start in 30 countries with 17 titles, including arcade classics such as Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.’s “Pac-Man” and new games such as Activision Blizzard Inc.’s “Shuffle Cats Mini.” The games, available on iOS and Android devices as well as the web, will be free.

Facebook is trying to reignite its presence in gaming while transforming Messenger into a hub for shopping, news and entertainment. Messenger’s evolution resembles that of its parent, which years ago moved beyond its role as a place for friends to share status updates. Messenger, which launched as a separate app in August 2011, has a billion monthly users.

Gaming is an important tool for engaging Facebook’s more than 1.79 billion users and attracting advertisers, Leo Olebe, Facebook’s director of global games partnerships, said in an interview. Videogame industry revenue is expected to rise 8.5% this year to $99.57 billion world-wide, according to research firm Newzoo BV.

In August, Facebook struck a partnership with Unity Technologies Inc. to make it easier for developers to bring games to its website. Earlier this month, it launched Gameroom, a free desktop app for games.

Facebook generates about $45 million in monthly revenue from gaming, down from a peak of $65 million in December 2011, according to investment bank Piper Jaffray Cos.

Still, 15% of the time people spend on Facebook’s website involves games, Mr. Olebe said. Instant Games will try to build on that interest by baking games straight into the news feed and Messenger, so people won’t have to launch separate apps or pages to play.

Facebook is experimenting with other ways to entice users to stick around, adding the ability to hail rides, stream live video and read whole articles. In April, Facebook said it would let third-party developers build so-called chatbots in Messenger to field customer-service questions and help people order goods.

One challenge for Instant Games is monetization. There will be no ads to watch or virtual goods to buy, at least for now, meaning developers will have no options for generating revenue.

“Monetization will come at some point,” Mr. Olebe said, declining to be more specific. He said companies using Instant Games will benefit from the exposure that comes with being a part of Facebook’s news feed.

Zynga Inc. is bringing a new version of its popular “Words With Friends” to Instant Games. It launched a different version last month on Apple Inc.’s iMessage app, which lets developers charge for downloading games playable there and allows in-app purchases.

“While it’s not a major audience or revenue driver for the Words franchise, the experience has created more ways to engage existing consumers and bring new players to our network,” Zynga Chief Executive Frank Gibeau, said in a letter to shareholders earlier this month.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at

Facebook Made Censorship Tools for China’s Internet

November 23, 2016

BBC News

“Facebook would be trading in their principles in exchange for access to the market. It would have tremendous implications for human rights.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, center, waits on stage before the start of a panel discussion held as part of the China Development Forum at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Saturday, March 19, 2016.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg recently spent time with China’s leader Xi Jinping, as well as taking time to learn Mandarin. AP photo

Facebook worked on special software so it could potentially accommodate censorship demands in China, according to a report in the New York Times.

The social network refused to confirm or deny the software’s existence, but said in a statement it was “spending time understanding and learning more” about China.

No decisions about the company’s approach in the country had yet been made, a spokeswoman said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group which campaigns for better privacy online, told the BBC the project sounded “extremely disturbing”.

“Kudos to the Facebook employees who brought this to the attention of the New York Times,” said the EFF’s global policy analyst Eva Galperin.

“It’s very nice to know there are some principled people still working there.”

The sources quoted by the New York Times – both current and former employees – stressed that like many pieces of software worked on internally, it may never be implemented.

Censorship concessions

Since 2009, the only way to access Facebook in China has been via a virtual private network – software designed to “spoof” your real location and avoid local internet restrictions.

Facebook, which has 1.8 billion active users, is aggressively looking to expand in parts of the world beyond its existing markets.

In the developing world, that means experimenting with new technology to connect rural areas.


Image copyright AFP

And in China, it appears the site is at the very least considering making concessions to China’s notoriously tightly-monitored internet.

According to employees quoted anonymously by the New York Times’ reporter Mike Isaac, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about the plans in an all-staff meeting earlier this summer.

“It’s better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it’s not yet the full conversation,” he is reported to have said while stressing it was early days.

Facebook’s spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the quote was accurate.

Mr Zuckerberg recently spent time with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as well as taking time to learn Mandarin.

Third-party company

Facebook regularly removes content from the network at the request of governments.

It makes this process relatively public with a yearly report detailing the quantity and nature of take-down requests.

Where this software would differ is in that it would enable a third-party, likely a Chinese company working with Facebook, to prevent messages from appearing in the first place.

The range of topics censored in mainland China is vast. Most famously, searches related to the Tiananmen Square yield no results relating to the 1989 massacre.

Facebook isn’t the first first Silicon Valley giant to grapple with the moral maze of doing business in China.

Google famously pulled out of mainland China after a backlash surrounding the censorship of search results. It now routes all traffic to Google Hong Kong.

LinkedIn, the network for professionals, does censor some content – although as the firm isn’t typically seen as a host of public debate, the move is not seen as being nearly as contentious.

If Facebook follows LinkedIn’s lead, the EFF’s Ms Galperin said “Facebook would be trading in their principles in exchange for access to the market. It would have tremendous implications for human rights.”

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC and on Facebook



Facebook Said to Create Censorship Tool to Get Back Into China


The New York Times
NOV. 22, 2016

President Xi Jinping of China, center, speaking with Mark Zuckerberg, right, the chief executive of Facebook, and Lu Wei, China’s Internet czar at the time, in 2015 at a gathering at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash. Credit Pool photo by Ted S. Warren

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Jared Kushner Helped Trump Win The White House — Gets High Praise from Google’s Eric Schmidt, and Rupert Murdoch

November 22, 2016

Exclusive Interview: How Jared Kushner Won Trump The White House

I cover the Forbes Under 30 franchise, technology and entrepreneurs.

This story appears in the December 20, 2016 issue of Forbes. Subscribe

Jared Kushner (Jamel Toppin for Forbes)

Jared Kushner (Jamel Toppin for Forbes)

It’s been one week since Donald Trump pulled off the biggest upset in modern political history, and his headquarters at Trump Tower in New York City is a 58-story, onyx-glassed lightning rod. Barricades, TV trucks and protesters frame a fortified Fifth Avenue. Armies of journalists and selfie-seeking tourists stalk Trump Tower’s pink marble lobby, hoping to snap the next political power player who steps into view. Twenty-six floors up, in the same building where washed-up celebrities once battled for Trump’s blessing on The Apprentice, the president-elect is choosing his Cabinet, and this contest contains all the twists and turns of his old reality show.

Winners will emerge shortly. But today’s focus is on the biggest loser: New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has just been fired from his role leading the transition, along with most of the people associated with him. The episode is being characterized as a “knife fight” that ends in a “Stalinesque purge.”

The most compelling figure in this intrigue, however, wasn’t in Trump Tower. Jared Kushner was three blocks south, high up in his own skyscraper, at 666 Fifth Avenue, where he oversees his family’s Kushner Companies real estate empire. Trump’s son-in-law, dressed in an impeccably tailored gray suit, sitting on a brown leather couch in his impeccably neat office, displays the impeccably polite manners that won the 35-year-old a dizzying number of influential friends even before he had gained the ear, and trust, of the new leader of the free world.

“Six months ago Governor Christie and I decided this election was much bigger than any differences we may have had in the past, and we worked very well together,” he says with a shrug. “The media has speculated on a lot of different things, and since I don’t talk to the press, they go as they go, but I was not behind pushing out him or his people.”

The speculation was well-founded, given the story’s Shakespearean twist: As a U.S. attorney in 2005, Christie jailed Kushner’s father on tax evasion, election fraud and witness tampering charges. Revenge theories aside, the buzz around Kushner was directional and indicative. A year ago he had zero experience in politics and about as much interest in it. Suddenly he sits at its global center. Whetsubher he plunged the dagger into Christie–Trump insiders insist the Bridgegate scandal did him in–is less important than the fact that he easily could have. And that power comes well-earned.

Kushner almost never speaks publicly–his chats with FORBES mark the first time he has talked about the Trump campaign or his role in it–but interviews with him and a dozen people around him and the Trump camp lead to an inescapable fact: The quiet, enigmatic young mogul delivered the presidency to the most fame-hungry, bombastic candidate in American history.

“It’s hard to overstate and hard to summarize Jared’s role in the campaign,” says billionaire Peter Thiel, the only significant Silicon Valley figure to publicly back Trump. “If Trump was the CEO, Jared was effectively the chief operating officer.”

“Jared Kushner is the biggest surprise of the 2016 election,” adds Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who helped design the Clinton campaign’s technology system. “Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources.”

No resources at the beginning, perhaps. Underfunded throughout, for sure. But by running the Trump campaign–notably, its secret data operation–like a Silicon Valley startup, Kushner eventually tipped the states that swung the election. And he did so in manner that will change the way future elections will be won and lost. President Obama had unprecedented success in targeting, organizing and motivating voters. But a lot has changed in eight years. Specifically social media. Clinton did borrow from Obama’s playbook but also leaned on traditional media. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, delved into message tailoring, sentiment manipulation and machine learning. The traditional campaign is dead, another victim of the unfiltered democracy of the Web–and Kushner, more than anyone not named Donald Trump, killed it.

That achievement, coupled with the personal trust Trump has in him, uniquely positions Kushner to be a power broker of the highest order for at least four years. “Every president I’ve ever known has one or two people he intuitively and structurally trusts,” says former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who has known Trump socially for decades and is currently advising the president-elect on foreign policy issues. “I think Jared might be that person.”

JARED KUSHNER’S ASCENT from Ivanka Trump’s little-known husband to Donald Trump’s campaign savior happened gradually. In the early days of the scrappy campaign, it was all hands on deck, with Kushner helping research policy positions on tax and trade. But as the campaign gained steam, other players began using him as a trusted conduit to an erratic candidate. “I helped facilitate a lot of relationships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” Kushner says, adding that people felt safe speaking with him, without risk of leaks. “People were being told in Washington that if they did any work for the Trump campaign, they would never be able to work in Republican politics again. I hired a great tax-policy expert who joined under two conditions: We couldn’t tell anybody he worked for the campaign, and he was going to charge us double.”

Kushner’s role expanded as the Trump ticket gained traction–so did his enthusiasm. Kushner went all-in with Trump last November after seeing his father-in-law pack a raucous arena in Springfield, Illinois, on a Monday night. “People really saw hope in his message,” he says. “They wanted the things that wouldn’t have been obvious to a lot of people I would meet in the New York media world, the Upper East Side or at Robin Hood [Foundation] dinners.” And so this Harvard-educated child of privilege put on a bright-red Make American Great Again hat and rolled up his sleeves.

A power vacuum awaited him at Trump Tower. When FORBES visited the Trump campaign floor in the skyscraper a few weeks before Kushner’s Springfield epiphany, there was literally nothing there. No people–and no desks or chairs or computers awaiting the arrival of staffers. Just campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, spokesperson Hope Hicks and a strategy that centered on Trump making headline-grabbing statements, often by calling in to television shows, supplemented by a rally once or twice a week to provide the appearance of a traditional campaign. It was the epitome of the super-light startup: to see how little they could spend and still get the results they wanted.

Kushner stepped up to turn it into an actual campaign operation. Soon he was assembling a speech and policy team, handling Trump’s schedule and managing the finances. “Donald kept saying, ‘I don’t want people getting rich off the campaign, and I want to make sure we are watching every dollar just like we would do in business.’ ”

That structure provided a baseline, though still a blip compared with Hillary Clinton’s state-by-state machine. The decision that won Trump the presidency started on the return trip from that Springfield rally last November aboard his private 757, dubbed Trump Force One. Chatting over McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, Trump and Kushner talked about how the campaign was underutilizing social media. The candidate, in turn, asked his son-in-law to take over his Facebook initiatives.

Despite his itchy Twitter finger, Trump is a Luddite. He reportedly gets his news from print and television, and his version of e-mail is to handwrite a note that his assistant will scan and attach. Among those in his close circle, Kushner was the natural pick to create a modern campaign. Yes, like Trump he’s primarily a real estate guy, but he had invested more broadly, including in media (in 2006 he bought the New York Observer) and digital commerce (he helped launch Cadre, an online marketplace for big real estate deals). More important, he knew the right crowd: co-investors in Cadre include Thiel and Alibaba’s Jack Ma–and Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, a formidable venture capitalist who also cofounded the $2.7 billion insurance unicorn Oscar Health.

“I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff,” Kushner says. “They gave me their subcontractors.”

At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Kushner and father-in-law Donald Trump, the President-elect. (Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Kushner and his father-in-law Donald Trump, America’s President-Elect. (Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

Television and online advertising? Small and smaller. Twitter and Facebook would fuel the campaign, as key tools for not only spreading Trump’s message but also targeting potential supporters, scraping massive amounts of constituent data and sensing shifts in sentiment in real time.

“We weren’t afraid to make changes. We weren’t afraid to fail. We tried to do things very cheaply, very quickly. And if it wasn’t working, we would kill it quickly,” Kushner says. “It meant making quick decisions, fixing things that were broken and scaling things that worked.”

This wasn’t a completely raw startup. Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions–say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface.

Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations–even the topics of the speeches. “He put all the different pieces together,” Parscale says. “And what’s funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn’t pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well.”

For fundraising they turned to machine learning, installing digital marketing companies on a trading floor to make them compete for business. Ineffective ads were killed in minutes, while successful ones scaled. The campaign was sending more than 100,000 uniquely tweaked ads to targeted voters each day. In the end, the richest person ever elected president, whose fundraising effort was rightly ridiculed at the beginning of the year, raised more than $250 million in four months–mostly from small donors.

As the election barreled toward its finale, Kushner’s system, with its high margins and up-to-the-minute voter data, provided both ample cash and the insight on where to spend it. When the campaign registered the fact that momentum in Michigan and Pennsylvania was turning Trump’s way, Kushner unleashed tailored TV ads, last-minute rallies and thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls.

And until the final days of the campaign, he did all this without anyone on the outside knowing about it. For those who can’t understand how Hillary Clinton could win the popular vote by at least 2 million yet lose handily in the electoral college, perhaps this provides some clarity. If the campaign’s overarching sentiment was fear and anger, the deciding factor at the end was data and entrepreneurship.

“Jared understood the online world in a way the traditional media folks didn’t. He managed to assemble a presidential campaign on a shoestring using new technology and won. That’s a big deal,” says Schmidt, the Google billionaire. “Remember all those articles about how they had no money, no people, organizational structure? Well, they won, and Jared ran it.”

CONTROLLED, UNDERSTATED and calm, Jared Kushner couldn’t be more different from his father-in-law in personality and style. Take Twitter. While Trump’s impulsive tweeting to his 15.5 million followers reportedly forced his staff to withhold his phone during parts of the campaign, Kushner–who has had a verified account since April 2009–has never posted a single tweet.

And whereas Trump’s office is wall-to-wall Donald, a memorabilia-stuffed shrine to ego, the headquarters for the Kushner Companies is sparse and sober. A leather-bound copy of Jewish teachings, the Pirkei Avot, sits on a wooden pedestal in the reception room, and identical silver mezuzahs adorn the side of each office door. The only decoration in his large, terraced boardroom is an oil painting of his grandparents, Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the U.S. after World War II. But enter Kushner’s corner office and you see–under a painting with the words “Don’t Panic” over a canvas of New York Observer pages–two critical commonalities that unite the pair: columns of real estate deal trophies and framed photos of Ivanka. If you are looking for a consistent ideology from either Kushner or Trump, it can be summarized in a word: family.

Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Kushner and his wife, businesswoman Ivanka Trump. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Jared and Ivanka met at a business lunch and started dating in 2007. During the courtship Kushner had met Donald only a few times in passing when, sensing the relationship was getting serious, he asked Trump for a meeting. Over lunch at the Trump Grill (which Trump briefly made a household name with his infamous taco bowl tweet), they discussed the couple’s future. “I said, ‘Ivanka and I are getting serious, and we’re starting go down that path,’ ” Kushner says and laughs.

“ He said, ‘You’d better be serious on this.’ ”
Jared and my father initially bonded over a combination of me and real estate,” Ivanka Trump says in her Trump Tower offices as dark-suited Secret Service agents stand watch in the halls. “There’s a lot of parallels between Jared as a developer and my father in the early years of his development career.”

Like Trump, Kushner grew up outside Manhattan: New Jersey in Kushner’s case, versus Trump’s Queens. Also like Trump, Kushner is the son of a man who created a real estate empire in his local market–Charles Kushner eventually controlled 25,000 apartments across the Northeast–and steeped his children in the family business. “My father never really believed in summer camp, so we’d come with him to the office,” Kushner says. “We’d go look at jobs, work on construction sites. It taught us real work.” Raised with three siblings in an observant Jewish home in Livingston, New Jersey, Kushner went to a private Jewish high school and then to Harvard (a 2006 book about college admissions would later single out Kushner as a prime example of an alumnus’ child getting preferential treatment; administrators quoted within that work later challenged its accuracy, calling it “distorted” and “false”). Next came New York University, for a joint J.D. and M.B.A.

His father was a huge supporter of Democrats, giving $1 million to the Democratic National Committee in 2002 and $90,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate run in 2000, and Jared largely followed suit, with more than $60,000 to Democratic committees and $11,000 to Clinton. During grad school Kushner interned for Manhattan’s longtime district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, before a family scandal upended his life. In 2004 Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering. The latter charge brought national tabloid attention. Angry that his brother-in-law was talking to prosecutors, Charles had paid a prostitute to entrap him–a tryst that he secretly taped and then mailed to his sister.

Just 24, Jared, as the elder son, suddenly found himself charged with keeping the family together. He saw his mother most days and flew to Alabama to visit his father in prison on most weekends. He also developed a deeper bond with his brother, Josh, who had just started Harvard when the scandal broke. Says Josh, who considers Jared his best friend: “He is the person that I turn to for guidance and support no matter the circumstance.”

“The whole thing taught me not to worry about the things you can’t control,” Kushner says. “You can control how you react and can try to make things happen as you want them to. I focus on doing my best to ensure the outcomes. And when it doesn’t go my way I have to work harder the next time.”

That applied to the family business, too, which Kushner now led. To start fresh, he took aim at Manhattan, just as Trump did 40 years before, determined to play in America’s most lucrative and competitive real estate market.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. His first big purchase as CEO of the Kushner Companies, 666 Fifth, for a record-breaking $1.8 billion, closed in 2007–just in time for the financial crisis. Rents fell, leases broke, funding vanished. To stay solvent, Kushner sold 49% of the building’s retail space to the Carlyle Group and others for $525 million and seemingly restructured every loan agreement possible, showing a willingness to pay more down the road for room to breathe in the short term. In the end he avoided the kind of bankruptcy maneuvers that Trump pulled in the 1990s and weathered the storm.

Kushner had learned a lesson. Rather than chase top-dollar, blue-chip addresses around New York, he would try to ride up with cooler, up-and-coming neighborhoods, which he has done to the tune of $14 billion worth of acquisitions and developments, in places like Manhattan’s SoHo and East Village and Brooklyn’s Dumbo. “Jared brings a youthful perspective, an innovative mind-set, to a very traditional industry that’s comprised of predominantly 70-year-old men,” Ivanka Trump says. He has also pushed into resurgent areas–Astoria, Queens, and Journal Square in Jersey City–that were once the stomping grounds of Fred Trump and Charles Kushner, respectively.

PART OF THE REASON Jared Kushner has engendered such public interest, besides the power he suddenly wields and the curiosity generated by his near-invisible media presence, is the paradoxes that he represents.

He brought the Silicon Valley ethos, which values openness and inclusiveness, to a campaign that promised closed borders, trade protection and religious exclusion. He is the scion of prodigious Democratic donors yet steered a Republican presidential campaign. A grandson of Holocaust survivors who serves a man who has advocated a ban on war refugees. A fact-driven lawyer whose chosen candidate called global warming a hoax, linked vaccines to autism and challenged President Obama’s citizenship. A media mogul in a campaign stoked by fake news. A devout Jew advising a president-elect embraced by the alt-right and supported by the KKK.

Kushner’s answers to these conflicts come down to one core conviction–his unflagging faith in Donald Trump. A faith that, ironically, given his role in the campaign, he defends with the “data” he’s accumulated about the man over a decade-plus relationship.


“If I know somebody and everyone else says that this person’s a terrible person,” he says, “I’m not going to start thinking that this person’s a terrible person or disassociating myself, when my empirical data and experience is a lot more informed than many of the people casting these judgments. What would that say about me if I changed my view based on what other people think, as opposed to the facts that I actually know for myself?”

Regarding Trump’s worldview: “I don’t think it’s very controversial in an election to become the president of the United States to say that your position is to put America first and to be nationalist as opposed to a globalist.”

As for Trump’s endless stream of statements that insulted and threatened Muslims, Mexicans, women, prisoners of war and U.S. generals, among others? “I just know a lot of the things that people try to attack him with are just not true or overblown or exaggerations. I know his character. I know who he is, and I obviously would not have supported him if I thought otherwise. If the country gives him a chance, they’ll find he won’t tolerate hateful rhetoric or behavior.”

On his political affiliation, he defines himself thus: “To be determined. I haven’t made a decision. Things are still evolving as they go.” He adds: “There’s some aspects of the Democrat Party that didn’t speak to me, and there are some aspects of the Republican Party that didn’t speak to me. People in the political world try to put you into different buckets based on what exists. I think Trump’s creating his own bucket–a blend of what works and eliminating what doesn’t work.” (Though in using the GOP-favored pejorative “Democrat Party” over the traditional “Democratic Party,” Kushner gives a hint about the contents of his bucket.)

The allegations of anti-Semitism hit closer to home. In July, Trump tweeted a graphic of Hillary Clinton against a background of dollar bills and a six-pointed star that contained the words “most corrupt candidate ever,” an image that had allegedly originated on a white supremacist message board. Dana Schwartz, a reporter for Kushner’s Observer, wrote a widely read piece for the paper’s site urging her boss, given the prominence he places on his faith and family, to denounce the tweet. Kushner responded with an opinion piece that defended Trump using the same old line: that he knows Trump. “If even the slightest infraction against what the speech police have deemed correct speech is instantly shouted down with taunts of ‘racist,’ then what is left to condemn the actual racists?”

Kushner insists today that there will be no hate element in the Trump Administration, starting at the top. “You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then all of a sudden become a racist, right?” he says. “You can’t not be an anti-Semite for 69 years and all of a sudden become an anti-Semite because you’re running.”

His reaction to fringe elements, like the KKK and the white nationalist alt-right, who have embraced Trump? “Trump has disavowed their support 25 times. He’s renounced hatred, he’s renounced bigotry, and he’s renounced racism. I don’t know if he could ever denounce them enough for some people.” He then paraphrases a quote he attributes to Ronald Reagan: “Just because they support me doesn’t mean that I support them.”

Kushner’s support extends to Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategic advisor, who had been accused by his ex-wife of making anti-Semitic comments (he denies it) and whose website, Breitbart, has often published articles that dog-whistle racist, anti-Semitic sentiments. “Do you hold me accountable for every single thing that the Observer’ s ever written, like they came from me?” Kushner says. “All I know about Steve is my experience working with him. He’s an incredible Zionist and loves Israel. He was one of the leaders in the anti-divestiture campaign. And what I’ve seen from working together with him was somebody who did not fit the description that people are pushing on him. I choose to judge him based on my experience and seeing the job he’s done, as opposed to what other people are saying about him.”

And that seems to reflect how Kushner feels about friends upset by his role in electing someone who offends their values, to the point where, before the election, several wrote to him in fits of pique. “I call it an exfoliation. Anyone who was willing to change a friendship or not do business because of who somebody supports in politics is not somebody who has a lot of character.

“People are very fickle,” he adds. “You have to find what you believe in, challenge your truths. And if you believe in something, even if it’s unpopular, you have to push with it.”

MANY OF THOSE fickle friends are likely to return now that Kushner, after masterminding Trump’s stunning victory, has the ear of the future president. What he will do with that power is anyone’s guess.

For now, Kushner plays coy: “There’s a lot of people who have been asking me to get involved in a more official capacity. I just have to think about what that means for my family, for my business and make sure it’d be the right thing for a multitude of reasons.”

It’s unlikely that he can hold a formal position in the Trump White House. Nepotism laws established after President Kennedy made brother Bobby attorney general bar the president from giving government roles to relatives–including in-laws. Reports have stated that the administration is exploring every legal angle to get Kushner into the West Wing–including adding him as an unpaid advisor, though even that may be covered by the law, which was written to ensure fealty to the Constitution rather than the individual.

But it may be a moot point. With or without a government title or a $170,000 federal salary, there’s no law that bans a president from seeking counsel from whomever he wants. It’s clear America’s tech and entrepreneurial leaders, who heavily backed Clinton and collectively denounced Trump, will use Kushner as a go-between and that Trump will lean on him just as heavily.

“I assume he’ll be in the White House throughout the entire presidency,” says News Corp. billionaire Rupert Murdoch. “For the next four or eight years he’ll be a strong voice, maybe even the strongest after the vice president.”

Is This Fake News? NYT Advocates Internet Censorship

November 21, 2016

Exclusive: The New York Times wants a system of censorship for the Internet to block what it calls “fake news,” but the Times ignores its own record of publishing “fake news,” reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In its lead editorial on Sunday, The New York Times decried what it deemed “The Digital Virus Called Fake News” and called for Internet censorship to counter this alleged problem, taking particular aim at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for letting “liars and con artists hijack his platform.”

As this mainstream campaign against “fake news” quickly has gained momentum in the past week, two false items get cited repeatedly, a claim that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump and an assertion that Trump was prevailing in the popular vote over Hillary Clinton. I could add another election-related falsehood, a hoax spread by Trump supporters that liberal documentarian Michael Moore was endorsing Trump when he actually was backing Clinton.

But I also know that Clinton supporters were privately pushing some salacious and unsubstantiated charges about Trump’s sex life, and Clinton personally charged that Trump was under the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin although there was no evidence presented to support that McCarthyistic accusation.

The simple reality is that lots of dubious accusations get flung around during the heat of a campaign – nothing new there – and it is always a challenge for professional journalists to swat them down the best we can. What’s different now is that the Times envisions some structure (or algorithm) for eliminating what it calls “fake news.”

But, with a stunning lack of self-awareness, the Times fails to acknowledge the many times that it has published “fake news,” such as reporting in 2002 that Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes meant that it was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program; its bogus analysis tracing the firing location of a Syrian sarin-laden rocket in 2013 back to a Syrian military base that turned out to be four times outside the rocket’s range; or its publication of photos supposedly showing Russian soldiers inside Russia and then inside Ukraine in 2014 when it turned out that the “inside-Russia” photo was also taken inside Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story.

The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21 Sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base.

These are just three examples among many of the Times publishing “fake news” – and all three appeared on Page One before being grudgingly or partially retracted, usually far inside the newspaper under opaque headlines so most readers wouldn’t notice. Much of the Times’ “fake news” continued to reverberate in support of U.S. government propaganda even after the partial retractions.

Who Is the Judge?

So, should Zuckerberg prevent Facebook users from circulating New York Times stories? Obviously, the Times would not favor that solution to the problem of “fake news.” Instead, the Times expects to be one of the arbiters deciding which Internet outlets get banned and which ones get gold seals of approval.

The Times lead editorial, following a front-page article on the same topic on Friday, leaves little doubt what the newspaper would like to see. It wants major Internet platforms and search engines, such as Facebook and Google, to close off access to sites accused of disseminating “fake news.”

Photograph published by the New York Times purportedly taken in Russia of Russian soldiers who later appeared in eastern Ukraine. However, the photographer has since stated that the photo was actually taken in Ukraine, and the U.S. State Department has acknowledged the error.

The editorial said, “a big part of the responsibility for this scourge rests with internet companies like Facebook and Google, which have made it possible for fake news to be shared nearly instantly with millions of users and have been slow to block it from their sites. …

“Facebook says it is working on weeding out such fabrications. It said last Monday that it would no longer place Facebook-powered ads on fake news websites, a move that could cost Facebook and those fake news sites a lucrative source of revenue. Earlier on the same day, Google said it would stop letting those sites use its ad placement network. These steps would help, but Facebook, in particular, owes its users, and democracy itself, far more.

“Facebook has demonstrated that it can effectively block content like click-bait articles and spam from its platform by tweaking its algorithms, which determine what links, photos and ads users see in their news feeds. … Facebook managers are constantly changing and refining the algorithms, which means the system is malleable and subject to human judgment.”

The Times editorial continued: “This summer, Facebook decided to show more posts from friends and family members in users’ news feeds and reduce stories from news organizations, because that’s what it said users wanted. If it can do that, surely its programmers can train the software to spot bogus stories and outwit the people producing this garbage. …

“Mr. Zuckerberg himself has spoken at length about how social media can help improve society. … None of that will happen if he continues to let liars and con artists hijack his platform.”

Gray Areas

But the problem is that while some falsehoods may be obvious and clear-cut, much information exists in a gray area in which two or more sides may disagree on what the facts are. And the U.S. government doesn’t always tell the truth although you would be hard-pressed to find recent examples of the Times recognizing that reality. Especially over the past several decades, the Times has usually embraced the Official Version of a disputed event and has deemed serious skepticism out of bounds.

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, co-author of the Iraq “aluminum tube” story.

That was the way the Times treated denials from the Iraqi government and some outside experts who disputed the “aluminum tube” story in 2002 – and how the Times has brushed off disagreements regarding the U.S. government’s portrayal of events in Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Increasingly, the Times has come across as a propaganda conduit for Official Washington rather than a professional journalistic entity.

But the Times and other mainstream news outlets – along with some favored Internet sites – now sit on a Google-financed entity called the First Draft Coalition, which presents itself as a kind of Ministry of Truth that will decide which stories are true and which are “fake.”

If the Times’ editorial recommendations are followed, the disfavored stories and the sites publishing them would no longer be accessible through popular search engines and platforms, essentially blocking the public’s access to them. [See’s “What to Do About ‘Fake News.’”]

The Times asserts that such censorship would be good for democracy – and it surely is true that hoaxes and baseless conspiracy theories are no help to democracy – but regulation of information in the manner that the Times suggests has more than a whiff of Orwellian totalitarianism to it.

And the proposal is especially troubling coming from the Times, with its checkered recent record of disseminating dangerous disinformation.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Turkey has overtaken China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists

November 19, 2016

By Aamna Mohdin

November 18, 2016

Turkish journalists have been subjected to fierce attacks by the government. Since the failed coup attempt in July, the government has arrested more than 100 journalists and closed around 150 media outlets.

Turkey has now surpassed China (paywall) to reclaim the title of the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. In 2015, China led, putting 49 journalists behind bars. Turkey was the world’s worst jailer in 2012 and 2013, detaining 49 and 40 journalists, respectively.

The government has been using emergency powers it assumed after the failed coup to arrest journalists on terrorism charges. Just this week it arrested and deported a French journalist, put three journalists on trial for terrorism charges, and arrested Şaban İba, a former editor of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has been providing regular updates on the government’s crackdown on the press.

Not only traditional media are affected. Turkey reportedly blocked access to Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube on Nov. 4, according to monitoring group Turkey Blocks. The crackdown took place at the same time that police arrested several pro-Kurdish politicians.

Even before the coup, the government had made numerous legal requests to Twitter to remove or withhold content. Of the 4,434 removal requests Twitter received in the first half of 2016, 1,781 came from Turkey, according to the company’s Transparency Report. The UN today called on Turkey to release all jailed journalists; it estimates that some 155 are currently in detention.

Turkey has overtaken China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists

Mark Zuckerberg comes clean Facebook’s “fake news” (somewhat)

November 19, 2016
November 19 at 10:05 AM

A week after trying to reassure the public that it was “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined several ways the company might try to stop the spread of fake news on the platform in the future.

“We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Friday night post on his own Facebook page. He then named seven approaches the company was considering to address the issue, including warning labels on false stories, easier user reporting methods and the integration of third-party verification.

“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” he cautioned, repeating the company’s long-standing aversion to becoming the “arbiters of truth” — instead preferring to rely on third parties and users to make those distinctions.

“We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content,” he said.

While none of the listed ideas are particularly specific, Zuckerberg’s post does provide more details on the company’s thinking about the problem of fake news.

Facebook’s concern with fake news predates the 2016 elections. Hoaxes have long plagued the site’s algorithms, which incentivize the creation of content that its users would like to share, true or not.

But fake news — and specifically, Facebook’s role in spreading it — became a story of wide interest just after the elections, when critics accused the platform of influencing voters by allowing political hoaxes to regularly go viral — particularly those favorable to the now President-elect Donald Trump. Zuckerberg has strongly denied that this was true, saying last week that the idea that Facebook influenced the elections in this way is “pretty crazy,” and that fake news “surely had no impact” on the outcome.

Zuckerberg did not contradict this denial on Friday, but his post reflects Facebook’s growing acknowledgment that it’s going to have to do a lot more about the plague of hoaxes and fake stories on the platform. On Monday, Facebook announced it was going to crack down on fake news sites that use its ad services to profit off hoaxes.

One of the ideas Zuckerberg presented on Friday indicates that the company wants to go further in “disrupting fake news economics,” and is considering more policies like the one it just announced, along with stronger “ad farm detection.”

Another promises stronger detection of misleading content. “This means better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves,” Zuckerberg wrote.

News Feed can already make some guesses about whether a post is authentic or not based on the user behavior around it. On Friday, Zuckerberg specified that Facebook currently watches for things like “people sharing links to myth-busting sites such as Snopes” to determine whether a post might be misleading or false. Zuckerberg didn’t go into specifics about what more Facebook might be looking to do on this front.

Facebook also indicated that it’s trying to find ways to rely more on users and third parties to help flag and classify fake stories. Zuckerberg listed “stronger reporting” methods for users, and listening more to “third party verification” services like fact checking sites. Zuckerberg also said Facebook was considering how to use third-party and user reports of fake news as a source for displaying warnings on fake or misleading content.

The site would also improve the quality of articles that appear in “related articles” under news stories that are posted to Facebook. And, Zuckerberg said, Facebook would “continue to work with journalists and others in the news industry” on the issue.

While Facebook has attracted the majority of scrutiny this week, the platform is hardly the only company struggling to address the spread of fake news on the Internet. On Monday, the top Google hit for the search “final election count” was a site falsely reporting that Trump had won the popular vote. Like Facebook, Google has also taken steps this week to try and stop fake news writers from using their ad services to make money.

Read More:

Facebook CEO Preaches ‘Connectivity’ Gospel at Peru Summit — Urging world leaders to help the company get more people online — Yesterday Zuckerberg said social media no the “arbiters of truth.”

November 19, 2016

LIMA, Peru — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is urging world leaders meeting in Peru to help the company get more people online.

The founder of the social network says in a speech to an Asian-Pacific Trade Summit that bringing the internet to more people will help reduce income inequality and raise living standards. He says about half the world now has no internet, either because they have no access to a network, can’t afford it or don’t appreciate the benefits.

He says connecting everyone will lead to “dramatic economic growth and lead to lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

Zuckerberg asked the leaders at the summit Saturday to work with companies like his to make the investments necessary to close the gap.


Photo at the top: FILE- In this April 12, 2016, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco. Facebook says, Wednesday, Nov. 16, it will work with independent companies like Nielsen and comScore to review its metrics after it uncovered new problems with the data it provides to advertisers and publishers that use its network. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Mark Zuckerberg Explains How Facebook Plans to Fight Fake News — But we are not “arbiters of truth.”

November 19, 2016

Facebook may put in place stronger detection and warning labels, among other things

But  Zuckerberg says Facebook’s role isn’t to be “arbiters of truth.”

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder of Facebook, at a conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Nov. 10.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder of Facebook, at a conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Nov. 10. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

Nov. 19, 2016 2:54 a.m. ET

Mark Zuckerberg late Friday outlined several steps Facebook Inc. is testing to fight misinformation, an acknowledgment that the social network could be doing more to avoid its proliferation.

Facebook is looking to label certain stories as false, build tools to classify misinformation and work with fact-checking groups, Mr. Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder, said in a post.

“We take misinformation seriously,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. “We know people want accurate information.”

Mr. Zuckerberg’s comments Friday go significantly beyond his previous statements in recognizing the seriousness of the issue, and seek to quell steady criticism.

In the past week, Mr. Zuckerberg has defended Facebook against claims that fake news on the site distorted public discourse about the U.S. presidential election. Two days after the election, Mr. Zuckerberg said that the notion that Facebook helped tip the election in favor of Donald Trump was “a pretty crazy idea.”

In a lengthy post last weekend, Mr. Zuckerberg played down the prevalence of fake news on the site—accounting for less than 1% of global content—and said that Facebook’s role isn’t to be “arbiters of truth.”

On Friday, Mr. Zuckerberg reiterated that misinformation is a small part of Facebook content, but that it takes this problem seriously. Mr. Zuckerberg said the disclosure about the steps was unusual for Facebook because it doesn’t share specifics about works in progress.


The first and most important step is to rely on technology to better classify misinformation and “detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. Another step is to make it easier for users to report fake stories, he said. Facebook has long relied on users to flag objectionable content, including fake news.

Facebook is turning to outside groups for help in fact-checking, Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. It is also exploring a product that would label stories as false if they have been flagged as such by third-parties or users, and then show warnings to users who read or share the articles.

Facebook earlier this week announced it would bar fake-news sites from using the company’s ad-selling tools. Mr. Zuckerberg said he is looking into “disrupting the economics” of sites that traffic in fake information.

Mr. Zuckerberg reiterated that Facebook doesn’t want to become an arbiter of truth itself.

“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” he wrote. “We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible.”

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at

Amnesty International: Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn and others must resist China’s Orwellian vision of the internet

November 18, 2016

By Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

Facebook, Microsoft, and LinkedIn are among the tech firms expected to be on a charm offensive with Chinese officials at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, which starts today.

China has made clear to Western companies what tune they must dance to if they want to gain or keep access to the riches of the Chinese market, currently dominated by national players like Tencent and Sina.

chinese china internet online

A new Cyber Security Law passed in China last week goes further than ever before in tightening the government’s already repressive grip on the internet, embodied by its “Great Firewall”. It is a vast human and technological system of Internet censorship without parallel in the world. The new law codifies existing abusive practices and seeks to turn tech companies operating in China into de-facto state surveillance agents.

The new law forces companies to pass on vast amounts of data, including personal information and to censor users’ posts with insufficient safeguards to protect freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Companies would be liable for substantial penalties if they fail to do so and there is no transparency about how the data will be used by the authorities.

President Xi Jinping has insisted that “no cyber security means no national security”, but companies do not have to look far to see the chilling reality of what “national security” can mean under China’s broad and vague legal provisions. Over the years the government has detained hundreds, if not thousands, of people on national security charges, often solely for expressing views online critical of the government.

In a case that demonstrates the government’s renewed intransigence, bloggers Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu were criminally detained this year on the implausible charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for compiling and posting publicly available data on social protests in China.

For the Tibetan blogger Drulko, a simple internet posting commenting on a picture showing a heavy presence of armed soldiers at an important Tibetan Buddhist site triggered his arrest. For this and reposting a news report about talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment under the pretext of having “incited separatism”.

The new law substantially expands the state’s internet policing power. Information internet companies are required to remove and report to authorities would include items such as the data about protests in the blogs of Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu, and Druklo’s messages about religious freedom, together with personal information, even before the police request it. This practice is not limited to people like Lu Yuyu, Li Tingyu and Druklo, who were on the government’s radar but also includes those whose activities have not yet attracted the authorities’ attention.

li tingyu

Li Tingyu. Photo: China Change.

It is an Orwellian vision of the internet, a dragnet to trap those the government views as troublemakers, where the right to freedom of expression exists only at the discretion of the censors. Given the current political hardening under President Xi Jinping and the absence of an independent judiciary, there is no saying where the government will draw the line tomorrow.

Tech companies should use the opportunity of the gathering in Wuzhen to seriously question whether they are willing to do business on these terms. Are they prepared to be complicit in the abuse of individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy online?

To avoid fines, suspension or termination of business or the shutting down of websites, the law will require internet companies to self-censor, or censor their own users, to an extent not previously seen, even in China.

If internet companies follow the letter of the new law, users who refuse to sign up to real name registration will have no access to phone networks, the internet, social media or instant messaging services. Censorship will not stop at social media posts but includes private messages as well.

xi jinping

The Chinese government has justified these draconian regulations by invoking the need to protect the country’s “internet sovereignty” and manage “threats from outside”. While governments must protect people from genuine security threats, “internet sovereignty” goes much further and threatens the very principles of a global and open internet.

Technology companies have a responsibility to respect the right to privacy and freedom of expression. They should challenge the new law and make known to the government the company’s principled opposition to implementing any requests or directives which violate fundamental human rights.

It is not easy for companies to navigate the often fraught and complex negotiations with the Chinese government, and many have been burnt before. But the message they must deliver to Chinese officials this week is that principles and people come first and the terms laid out in the Cyber Security Law are not ones they are prepared to sign up to.