Tag Archives: Room
In response to mounting criticism from consumers, citizens, and lawmakers, Facebook is pursuing a public relations blitz. The media giant wants to change people’s perceptions about how it is handling the scourge of misinformation and concomitant threat to elections presented by its websites and apps.
Enter the “war room.” Facebook invited journalists from a number of publications—Fortune included—to visit a cramped conference room on the company’s Menlo Park campus inside which a squad of 20-or-so employees is tasked with valiantly defending democracy around the globe—from the U.S., to Brazil, and beyond. The walls and desks are cluttered with video screens and computer monitors. Around them, Facebook’s freedom fighters huddle, clattering away on their keyboards, stemming a tide of malicious, politically-motivated influence campaigns.
One moment in Fortune reporter Jonathan Vanian’s account of the war room made me grin widely. A Facebook executive, Samidh Chakrabarti, director of elections and civic engagement for the company, tells Vanian that having everyone in the same room allows for “face-to-face” communication and quick decision-making. A few paragraphs later, we learn why Facebook does not plan to invite collaborators from other misinformation-besieged Silicon Valley companies, like Twitter and Reddit, to take seats in the room. It is easier for these groups to collaborate “virtually” rather than physically, says Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy. Hmm…
Facebook’s war room seems, to this columnist, like a PR stunt. It is reminiscent of the cybersecurity fusion centers that banks and other companies set up to dazzle visitors. Such displays are “mostly for show,” as Jason Witty, chief information security officer at U.S. Bank, told the New York Times for an unrelated story about such flashy workspaces. They, you know, look cool.
I do not mean to denigrate Facebook’s efforts entirely. To be fair, the company is trying to address the many problems that plague its platforms. And the war room does serve an important purpose: making the company’s behind-the-scenes battles more tangible for its own employees, for regulators, and for the public. Hopefully it does help quench disinformation.
Still, the tidy image of the war room comes across as a bit of marketing misdirection. After all, the walls of this room extend far, far beyond Menlo Park. Ask any journalist. As the Times’ editorial board notes in a recent op-ed, Facebook effectively relies on news reporters as an army of unofficial, unpaid, outsourced content moderators, helping to root out spammers, trolls, and propagandists. Companies like Facebook “have all the tools at their disposal and a profound responsibility to find exactly what journalists find—and yet, clearly, they don’t,” the Times writes.
Indeed, the real war room has no walls.
Last week I warned readers about the many ways Bloomberg Businessweek’s recent report about Chinese spy chips smells foul. Just yesterday Apple CEO Tim Cook took the unprecedented move of personally calling for Bloomberg to retract the story. So far Bloomberg has not backed down. We’ll continue to track this story and its fallout.
Have a great weekend.
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.
I’ve been watching a lot of HGTV since coming to LA. My favorite shows are House Hunters and House Hunters International. There’s also another show I like to watch called For Rent, but only because it makes me angry.
When it comes to apartments/homes, I think living in New York for the past eleven years has made me bitter because there was this whiny broad on For Rent a few nights ago who was looking at a huge place—A HUGE PLACE—and was like, “There’s no place for a dining room table…”
B*TCH, YOU’RE LUCKY TO GET A KITCHEN IN NEW YORK.
I hated her.
Now there’s some stupid lady on House Hunters who wants a townhouse with a fireplace that she can turn on with a light switch. IT HAS TO BE A LIGHT SWITCH because she doesn’t want to bend down and flip a switch on the floor.
WHO DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE?
Anyway, I know my LA update is WAY overdue (and truth be told I wrote a long one last week but for some reason it didn’t save so I lost the whole thing and I was so angry that I just said, “Ah, f*ck it,” and closed the computer instead of rewriting) but to give you a quick update, I AM SO HAPPY HERE. I MEAN, I’M REALLY, REALLY HAPPY. And I think living here and watching HGTV—both of these things combined—has made me realize that New York was just beating me down. I mean, the fireplace lady—yes, she’s an idiot. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting a dining room table. Why did I get so mad at that lady?
Since being here, at least once a day I ask myself why I have lived in New York for so long. (It’s like I had Stockholm Syndrome or something.) CALIFORNIA IS AWESOME. It’s like the promised land. It’s sunny all the time and there are birds and flowers everywhere. I have space out here. I have a sofa on the patio out here. I HAVE A SOFA OUTSIDE. I haven’t seen one rat since I’ve been here. But hummingbirds? THEY ZIP BY MY HEAD EVERY DAY. I am so happy.
I’m supposed to go back to New York in November, but truth be told, I’m not sure I will.
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