Facebook is mounting an aggressive good will campaign to rebuild trust and chart the course out of its two-year public relations crisis.

January 22, 2019 | Hollywood


Good morning. The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting is underway in Davos. Talk of the town: Seth A. Klarman's dire warning about global tensions and rising debt, which says markets have ignored the long-term implications of "a more isolated America" and "a world increasingly adrift."


• 🚨 Siren Stat, via Oxfam: The world's 26 richest people own as much as the 3.8 billion who make up the poorest 50%.


Lino Mirgeler/Getty

Facebook's redemption play


The Big Picture: Facebook is mounting an aggressive good will campaign — complete with multimillion-dollar investments, partnerships, promises and personal challenges — to rebuild trust and chart the course out of its two-year public relations crisis.


The Latest: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stopped in Munich en route to Davos to offer a status update on the redemption effort:


• In a 20-minute speech at DLD, Sandberg unveiled new investments and cited new statistics that highlight the overwhelming scope of Facebook's effort to combat fake news and misinformation.


• Sandberg also said Facebook would support "effective" government regulation that strikes a balance between reducing harm and protecting privacy, free expression and innovation.


• Top Line: "We are not the same company we were in 2016 or even a year ago. We have a lot of hard work to do – we are far from done. But we have a fundamentally different approach to how we run our company today."


New Stats:


• Facebook now has 30,000 people working on safety and security.


• Facebook blocks 1 million fake accounts every day.


New Investments:


• Facebook is investing $7.5 million to create a new Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich.


• Facebook and the German Federal Office for Information Security are creating an Integrity & Security Initiative to combat election interference in Germany and the European Union.


What's Next: The $435-billion question: Can Facebook regain the public trust? My sense is that will have less to do with redemption tours and more to do with product innovation. So the more important question may be: Can Facebook create or acquire a new product (a la Instagram) that is so innovative and engaging that people are willing to overlook the fact that it belongs to Facebook?

What Menlo Park is Reading


"Facebook thinks the New York Times’ coverage of it has gotten more critical. It has," by Recode's Rani Molla:


• "Sentiment in the Times’ coverage of Facebook has been, on average, almost exclusively negative since the 2016 elections, according to new data analyzed by researcher Joe Hovde.


• "That’s a turnaround from the paper’s Facebook coverage in the four years leading up to Donald Trump’s election, and it has continued into this year."


The chart.



Larry Page gets GDPR'd


Talk of the Valley: French regulator CNIL has fined Alphabet's Google nearly $57 million for failing to disclose to users how it collects and uses their personal information, the first major fine brought against a U.S. tech company since General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, went into effect in the EU last year.


This is the opening salvo in Europe's fight against Big Tech, with more on the way for Facebook and others. ... But it also highlights the limits of regulation, because $50 or $60-million fines are a relative pittance for Silicon Valley giants.


The Violations, via WaPo's Tony Romm:


• CNIL says "Google failed to fully disclose to users how their personal information is collected and what happens to it."


• "Google also did not properly obtain users’ consent for the purpose of showing them personalized ads, the watchdog agency said."


• "The lack of transparency is even more jarring to users, the watchdog said, because of the sheer volume of services Google operates — including its Maps service, YouTube and its app store."


Google says it is "studying the decision":


• "People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We’re deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR."


What's next, via NYT's Adam Satariano: "Europe’s experience is being closely watched by policymakers in the United States, who are considering a new federal privacy law."


Flashback: Tim Cook reiterated his call for regulation last week.

🏀 Rally the Market 🏀


Last night in DTLA: Klay Thompson sank ten straight 3-pointers in the Warriors' 130-111 rout of the Lakers. Spotted courtside: Peter Guber and Jack Nicholson, talking shop.


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Cindy Holland eyes Broadway


What's Next: Netflix Originals chief Cindy Holland is turning her attention to Broadway in a move that could drastically expand the audience for stage productions and increase the value proposition of Netflix for subscribers.


The Latest: Netflix will record a private performance of "American Son," the Broadway play written by Christopher Demos-Brown and starring Kerry Washington, and release it later this year.


• This follows Netflix's recording of Bruce Springsteen's Tony Award-winning "Springsteen on Broadway."


The Big Picture: If Netflix projects like "American Son" are successful, it could open up an entire new avenue of programming for Netflix and its competitors. Netflix's big spending could also change the calculus for Broadway, opening up a new revenue stream for the American theater.


Bonus: NYT's John Koblin looks at how Netflix turned Lifetime's little-watched drama "You" into a viral success — an event Variety's Daniel D’Addario says will be remembered as "a major turning point" for the television industry.

Market Links


Kamala Harris kicks off her presidential campaign (ABC)


Michael Cohen reportedly threatened CNBC (WSJ)


Julie Chen Moonves is still standing by Les (Daily Mail)


Sundance boasts a wealth of documentaries (AP)


The Oscars will almost certainly be host-less (People)


Thos Robinson/Getty

Ben Smith vs. Robert Mueller


BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith is standing by his decision to publish a report alleging that President Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie before Congress — despite the claim from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office that the various details of the report were "not accurate.”


“BuzzFeed's credibility is now at stake," per Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo:


• "The dichotomy between Mueller’s denial and BuzzFeed’s resolve has left many within the journalism world scratching their heads, including those who cover law enforcement and the Mueller probe."


• BuzzFeed "has spent the past five years building up its reputation as a serious global news outlet with the chops to match its legacy media competitors. ... [and] Smith is well-regarded among his peers as fearless and innovative.”


Top quote, via Jill Abramson:


• "I admire Ben Smith’s transparency. He gets out there, and he’s standing by his reporters, standing by this story. He seems confident they’re gonna come out clean, and I am hoping that he has really great reasons to be saying that.”


Scott Gries/Getty

Maer Roshan takes 'L.A.'


Maer Roshan, the founder of Radar and the man once described by Tina Brown as "the most natural male editor of his generation," has just been named editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Magazine.


The Big Picture: Roshan's appointment at Los Angeles has the potential to bolster the media scene in a city that is as desperate for it as it is deserving of it.


Roshan talks to Vanity Fair's Pompeo:


• "For the first time, I think L.A. could say it’s the new cultural capital of America, and it needs a magazine to wear that mantle and have that swagger and own that."


• "There are just so many interesting things happening here and so much creativity and momentum. Whenever I’m in New York, it doesn’t feel that way."


• "The pendulum has swung west, and we need media here that acknowledges that, so I have the same excitement about this as I did about Radar in many ways."


Symphony to my ears.

What's Next: Oscar nominations are out at 5:20 a.m. Pacific, 8:20 a.m. Eastern. My colleague Daniel Arkin has the top five storylines, from Roma to Wakanda.


See you tomorrow.


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