May 26, 2020

Facebook reportedly found that its algorithms can make online polarization worse — but the company apparently didn't do much with that information.

That's according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal, which quotes a 2018 presentation from a Facebook team warning executives that "our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness" and that "if left unchecked," Facebook would give users "more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform."

But Facebook executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg "largely shelved the basic research" into polarization on the site and "weakened or blocked efforts to apply its conclusions to Facebook products," the report says.

Among the ideas reportedly discussed was to adjust the recommendation algorithms to show users a "wider range" of suggested groups, although a Facebook team reportedly said their suggestions to combat polarization might decrease engagement and be "antigrowth," so Facebook would have to "take a moral stance." There was reportedly internal concern about changes disproportionately affecting conservatives, as well.

The Journal report also cites a 2016 presentation from a Facebook researcher stating that "64 percent of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools" and that "our recommendation systems grow the problem."

"Facebook is under fire for making the world more divided," the Journal writes. "Many of its own experts appeared to agree and to believe Facebook could mitigate many of the problems. The company chose not to."

A Facebook spokesperson told the Journal that the company has "built a robust integrity team, strengthened our policies and practices to limit harmful content, and used research to understand our platform's impact on society so we continue to improve." Read the full report at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

3:22 p.m.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday, during an appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation, addressed reports about how he demanded the Food and Drug Administration justify, in detail, its reasoning for preparing to unveil new standards for a coronavirus vaccine.

Meadows told host Margaret Brennan that he wants to know "why would that new guidance come out after we've already spent $30 billion" on vaccine development. "And my challenge to the FDA is just to make sure it's based on science," rather than politics, he said.

But former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who appeared on Face the Nation after Meadows, suggested the whole debate has been misinterpreted on all sides. Gottlieb said the agency's guidance as discussed in the press isn't technically new, but "an articulation of the principles and standards the FDA has been using for a long time." As Gottlieb put it, the companies involved with clinical trials weren't surprised by the standards, which are in line with what the FDA has communicated to them since the vaccine development process began earlier this year. Tim O'Donnell

2:31 p.m.

With former Vice President Joe Biden maintaining a steady lead in the polls, most of the pressure for the first presidential debate on Tuesday seems to be shifting to President Trump.

During Sunday's edition of This Week on ABC, panelists Rahm Emanuel and Sarah Isgur agreed that Trump has to do more on the debate stage Tuesday since he has to "change people's minds," which is a lot harder than Biden's job of reassuring voters. Isgur did note that the Trump campaign will likely be waiting to take advantage of any potential slip up from Biden, but, generally, the former vice president has a little more breathing room than Trump.

Plus, Trump may have a built-in disadvantage. The New York Times' Peter Baker told NBC's Chuck Todd that incumbents have historically struggled in the opening debate because of over-confidence, noting that Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, were among the former presidents who fell into the trap. The good news for Trump is that both Reagan and Obama went on to win re-election rather easily. While it seems unlikely Trump will cruise to a victory, it does suggest that the first debate is not make or break. Tim O'Donnell

1:57 p.m.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who sits on the upper chamber's judiciary committee, told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday that he does intend to meet with President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, in the lead up to her confirmation hearing even as some of his Democratic colleagues consider skipping out on the standard courtesy visits. Booker added that he primarily plans to ask Barrett if, should she be confirmed, she will recuse herself from any election-related cases.

Booker's reasoning is that President Trump has suggested he may not accept the results of the election, which could push it to the high court. Since Trump just nominated Barrett, Booker believes she could tilt the court toward an illegitimate decision.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also said he wishes Barrett will recuse herself under such a scenario. On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said that judges have a "well-defined set of rules that helps guide their determination in making recusal decisions." Lee said that if Barrett is confirmed, she'll be no less of a justice than any of her colleagues on the bench, so the decision will be "up to her." Tim O'Donnell

1:05 p.m.

It wasn't that long ago that it seemed like the 2020 Major League Baseball season might get cut short because of coronavirus outbreaks within the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals clubhouses. But now, about two months later, baseball is at the regular season finish line. Things are still a bit chaotic as teams prepare to play game 60, but in a much more positive way.

ESPN's Jeff Passan broke down how Sunday's results could affect the expanded postseason picture, and he discovered there are 44 different scenarios in play for the National League alone.

Ultimately, baseball fans will be better served simply by watching Sunday's slate of games, all of which — save for one meaningless game between the eliminated Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers — will start during the 3 p.m. ET hour to increase competitiveness and intrigue, rather than trying to decipher the math. But Passan did the dirty work for his readers, so anyone really curious about how things can shake out can check out his column at ESPN.

The easiest way to understand things, though, is that there are four teams fighting for two spots in the National League: the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers, who will play each other, as well as the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, who are facing the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. The American League, on the other hand, is set in terms of qualified teams, but seeding can still vary wildly. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

11:27 a.m.

While Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly do not intend to boycott the confirmation hearing for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, the party's senators will likely do whatever they can to slow the process, Politico reports.

Some of the tactics available for Democrats, who believe Republicans set a precedent for blocking Supreme Court nominations in the lead up to a presidential election in 2016, that Politico lists include: invoking the "two-hour" rule — which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already done — slowing down legislative business, objecting to recess, denying a quorum, raising points of order, enlisting the aid of the Democratic-controlled House, and delaying the final committee vote. Politico goes into more detail about each tactic here.

Politico also reports that there is broad, overwhelming support for pulling out all the stops among Democrats, including those, like Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who face tough re-elections and may get pulled off the campaign trail during a potentially lengthy process, as well as typically more conservative lawmakers like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

Jones accused Republicans of a "power grab," so even though Democrats don't have the votes to block the confirmation, "you do what you can to call attention to it." As Manchin put it, "we don't do anything around here anyway, we've got plenty of time to do meetings." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

10:56 a.m.

Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation process may be motivating Democrats more than Republicans, at least in North Carolina and Georgia, both of which are in play for the upcoming presidential election.

In both states, a new CBS News/YouGov poll shows, 60 percent of Democrats say the polarizing Supreme Court debate has made them more motivated to vote compared to 46 and 47 percent of Republicans in Georgia and North Carolina, respectively. As CBS News points out, the court battle probably won't change many votes, since polls are suggesting that the majority of voters have their minds set, but it could increase turnout.

That said, it hasn't made a huge difference in North Carolina and Georgia so far, as both states remain quite competitive and relatively unchanged. Biden leads Trump by two points in North Carolina, which is down slightly from his four point edge this summer. Georgia is closer still, more or less a straight toss up at this point. Trump leads by a point, a statistically insignificant change from Biden's previous one point advantage.

The CBS News/YouGov polls were conducted in North Carolina and Georgia between Sept. 22-25 online. In Georgia, 1,164 registered voters were surveyed and the margin of error was 3.3 percentage points. In North Carolina, 1,213 registered voters were surveyed and the margin of error was 3.6 percentage points. Read the full results at CBS News. Tim O'Donnell

8:08 a.m.

Fighting has broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Armenian government has declared martial law and total military mobilization.

The neighboring nations, both former Soviet republics, have been mired in a decades-long standoff over the contested Nagorno—Karabakh region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has a majority ethnic Armenian population that has been running its own affairs since Azerbaijani forces were pushed out during a war in the 1990s. A ceasefire was brokered in 1994, but there have been flare-ups since, and Sunday's escalation appears to be the worst since 2016, Al Jazeera reports.

Both sides have reported civilian deaths and blamed the other for instigating the fighting, while providing conflicting reports on how the clash has played out. The Armenian Defense Ministry said Azerbaijan launched an attack on civilian settlements Sunday morning, and in response Armenia said it shot down two helicopters and three drones and destroyed three tanks. Azerbaijan only acknowledged that one helicopter had been lost while the crew survived, and a defense ministry spokesperson said several villages in Nagorno-Karabkh "which were under enemy occupation for many years have been liberated."

Russia, France, and the European Union were among the governments that have called for an end to the violence and an immediate return to the ceasefire and negotiations. Read more at BBC and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

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