Facebook to restore news sharing in Australia after government amends proposed law

Facebook said it will begin restoring news sharing to Australian users’ feeds in “the coming days” after reaching an agreement with the country’s government. The social media giant made the drastic move of restricting news content in Australia last Wednesday after a dispute over a proposed media bargaining code that is expected to be voted into law soon. The code would have forced Facebook, and other major tech companies like Google, to make revenue-sharing agreements with publishers for content posted to their social media platforms.

Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg said changes have been made to the code to “provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,” reported Seven News.

The amendments mean the code now includes a two-month mediation period to allow digital platforms like Facebook and publishers to agree on deals before they are forced to enter into arbitration. The Australian government will also consider commercial agreements tech platforms have already made with local publishers before deciding if the code applies to them, and give them one month’s notice before reaching a final decision.

William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement that the company was “satisfied” with the changes, adding that they addressed Facebook’s “core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”

Facebook’s restrictions last week meant Australian publishers were restricted from sharing or posting content from Facebook Pages, and users in Australia were unable to view or share Australian or international news content.

The Australian government announced in April 2020 it would adopt a mandatory code ordering Google, Facebook and other tech giants to pay local media for reusing their content, after an earlier attempt to create a voluntary code with the companies stalled.

As it lobbied against the proposed law, Facebook first threatened to restrict the public sharing of news content in Australia last September. Google also claimed that user experience in Australia would suffer and suggested it may no longer be able to offer free services in the country.

Facebook to test downranking political content in News Feed

After years of optimizing its products for engagement, no matter the costs, Facebook announced today it will “test” changes to its News Feed focused on reducing the distribution of political content. The company qualified these tests will be temporary, impact a small percentage of people, and will only run in select markets, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Indonesia.

The point of the experiments, Facebook says, is to explore a variety of ways it can rank political content in the News Feed using different signals, in order to decide on what approach it may take in the future.

It also notes that COVID-19 information from authoritative health organizations like the CDC and WHO, as well as national and regional health agencies and services, will be exempt from being downranked in the News Feed during these tests. Similarly, content from official government agencies will not be impacted.

The tests may also include a survey component, where Facebook asks impacted users about their experience.

Facebook’s announcement of the tests is meant to sound underwhelming because any large-scale changes would be an admission of guilt, of sorts. Facebook has the capacity to make far greater changes — when it wanted to downrank publisher content, it did so, decimating a number of media businesses along the way. In previous years, it also took harder action against low-quality sites, scrapers, clickbait, spam, and more.

The news of Facebook’s tests comes at a time when people are questioning social media’s influence and direction. A growing number of social media users now believe tech platforms have been playing a role in radicalizing people, as their algorithms promote unbalanced views of the world, isolate people into social media bubbles, and allow dangerous speech and misinformation to go viral.

In a poll this week, reported by Axios, a majority of Americans said they now believe social media radicalizes, with 74% also saying misinformation is an an extremely or very serious problem. Another 76% believe social media was at least partially responsible for the Capitol riot, which 7 in 10 think is the result of unchecked extreme behavior online, the report noted.

Meanwhile, a third of Americans regularly get their news from Facebook, according to a study from Pew Research Center, which means they’re often now reading more extreme viewpoints from fringe publishers, a related Pew study had found.

Elsewhere in the world, Facebook has been accused of exacerbating political unrest, including the deadly riots in Indonesia, genocide in Myanmar, the spread of misinformation in Brazil during elections, and more.

Facebook, however, today argues that political content is a small amount of the News Feed (e.g. 6% of what people in the U.S. see) — an attempt to deflect any blame for the state of the world, while positioning the downranking change as just something user feedback demands that Facebook explore.

Google threatens to close its search engine in Australia as it lobbies against digital news code

Google has threatened to close its search engine in Australia — as it dials up its lobbying against draft legislation that is intended to force it to pay news publishers for reuse of their content.

Facebook would also be subject to the law. And has previously said it would ban news from being shared on its products owing if the law was brought in, as well as claiming it’s reduced its investment in the country as a result of the legislative threat.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Google warned today.

Last August the tech giant took another pot-shot at the proposal, warning that the quality of its products in the country could suffer and might stop being free if the government proceeded with a push to make the tech giants share ad revenue with media businesses.

Since last summer Google appears to have changed lobbying tack — apparently giving up its attempt to derail the law entirely in favor of trying to reshape it to minimize the financial impact.

Its latest bit of lobbying is focused on trying to eject the most harmful elements (as it sees it) of the draft legislation — while also pushing its News Showcase program, which it hastily spun up last year, as an alternative model for payments to publishers that it would prefer becomes the vehicle for remittances under the Code.

The draft legislation for Australia’s digital news Code which is currently before the parliament includes a controversial requirement that tech giants, Google and Facebook, pay publishers for linking to their content — not merely for displaying snippets of text.

Yet Google has warned Australia that making it pay for “links and snippets” would break how the Internet works.

In a statement to the Senate Economics Committee today, its VP for Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva, said: “This provision in the Code would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy. It’s not compatible with how search engines work, or how the internet works, and this is not just Google’s view — it has been cited in many of the submissions received by this Inquiry.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”

Google is certainly not alone in crying foul over a proposal to require payments for links.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, has warned that the draft legislation “risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online”, among other alarmed submissions to the committee.

In written testimony he goes on:

“Before search engines were effective on the web, following links from one page to another was the only way of finding material. Search engines make that process far more effective, but they can only do so by using the link structure of the web as their principal input. So links are fundamental to the web.

“As I understand it, the proposed code seeks to require selected digital platforms to have to negotiate and possibly pay to make links to news content from a particular group of news providers.

“Requiring a charge for a link on the web blocks an important aspect of the value of web content. To my knowledge, there is no current example of legally requiring payments for links to other content. The ability to link freely — meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees — is fundamental to how the web operates, how it has flourished till present, and how it will continue to grow in decades to come.”

However it’s notable that Berners-Lee’s submission does not mention snippets. Not once. It’s all about links.

Meanwhile Google has just reached an agreement with publishers in France — which they say covers payment for snippets of content.

In the EU, the tech giant is subject to an already reformed copyright directive that extended a neighbouring right for news content to cover reuse of snippets of text. Although the directive does not cover links or “very short extracts”.

In France, Google says it’s only paying for content “beyond links and very short extracts”. But it hasn’t said anything about snippets in that context.

French publishers argue the EU law clearly does cover the not-so-short text snippets that Google typically shows in its News aggregator — pointing out that the directive states the exception should not be interpreted in a way that impacts the effectiveness of neighboring rights. So Google looks like it would have a big French fight on its hands if it tried to deny payments for snippets.

But there’s still everything to play for in Australia. Hence, down under, Google is trying to conflate what are really two separate and distinct issues (payment for links vs payment for snippets) — in the hopes of reducing the financial impact vs what’s already baked into EU law. (Although it’s only been actively enforced in France so far, which is ahead of other EU countries in transposing the directive into national law).

In Australia, Google is also heavily pushing for the Code to “designate News Showcase” (aka the program it launched once the legal writing was on the wall about paying publishers) — lobbying for that to be the vehicle whereby it can reach “commercial agreements to pay Australian news publishers for value”.

Of course a commercial negotiation process is preferable (and familiar) to the tech giant vs being bound by the Code’s proposed “final offer arbitration model” — which Google attacks as having “biased criteria”, and claims subjects it to “unmanageable financial and operational risk”.

“If this is replaced with standard commercial arbitration based on comparable deals, this would incentivise good faith negotiations and ensure we’re held accountable by robust dispute resolution,” Silva also argues.

A third provision the tech giant is really keen gets removed from the current draft requires it to give publishers notification ahead of changes to its algorithms which could affect how their content is discovered.

“The algorithm notification provision could be adjusted to require only reasonable notice about significant actionable changes to Google’s algorithm, to make sure publishers are able to respond to changes that affect them,” it suggests on that.

It’s certainly interesting to consider how, over a few years, Google’s position has moved from ‘we’ll never pay for news’ — pre- any relevant legislation — to ‘please let us pay for licensing news through our proprietary licensing program’ once the EU had passed a directive now being very actively enforced in France (with the help of competition law) and also with Australia moving toward inking a similar law.

Turns out legislation can be a real tech giant mind-changer.

Of course the idea of making anyone pay to link to content online is obviously a terrible idea — and should be dropped.

But if that bit of the draft is a negotiating tactic by Australians lawmakers to get Google to accept that it will have to pay publishers something then it appears to be winning one.

And while Google’s threat to close down its search engine might sound ‘full on’, as Silva suggests, when you consider how many alternative search engines exist it’s hardly the threat it once was.

Especially as plenty of alternative search engines are a lot less abusive toward users’ privacy.

NBC News launches an iOS 14 widget that puts election results on your home screen

NBC News has updated its iOS app with a new feature that brings election news, data and results directly to your iPhone or iPad home screen. With the app’s new “Decision 2020” iOS 14 widget, you can customize a series of widgets with information related to early voting stats, polls, as well as the current election results, among other things.

Before today, the NBC News app had offered a variety of widgets including small-, medium- and large-sized widgets bringing the latest headlines, a set of widgets showing COVID-19 trends, and even a photo journalism gallery, with its “Week in Pictures” widget set.

But the Decision 2020 widget itself was just made available today.

The added widget is only available as a medium-sized banner, but arrives with a range of customization options. That means you could place several versions of the widget on your home screen, each showing a different set of results.

By default, the widget will auto-rotate through its various modules. But you can also opt to show only one module per widget if you choose by long-pressing on the widget then choosing “Edit Widget” from the menu that appears.

At launch, the available options include Plan Your Vote, National Polling Average, Latest Polls, Early Voting, Election News and Election Results. The latter, of course, is the option most people will be interested in today.

Image Credits: NBC News

You can also add your location to the widget by selecting your state from a list from the widget configuration screen. This will allow you to keep an eye on your local results, if you choose. Otherwise, you can leave it defaulted to national results.

To access the new widget, install the NBC News app then long-press on your home screen, choose “Edit Home Screen,” and tap the plus (+) button at the top-left and scroll to NBC News in the list.

The NBC News app can also send out push notifications, including geo-targeted alerts for state races for users on any mobile phone or device.

 

A quarter of US adults now get news from YouTube, Pew Research study finds

Around a quarter of U.S. adults, or roughly 26%, say they get news by watching YouTube videos, according to a new study from Pew Research Center, which examined the Google-owned video platform’s growing influence over news distribution in the U.S., as well as its consumption. The study, not surprisingly, found that established news organizations no longer have full control over the news Americans watch, as only one-in-five YouTube consumers (23%) said they “often” get their news from channels affiliated with established news organizations. The exact same percentage said they “often” get their news from independent channels instead.

Independent channels in this study were defined as those that do not have a clear external affiliation. A news organization channel, meanwhile, would be a channel associated with an external news organization — like CNN or Fox News, for instance.

These two different types of news channels are common, Pew found, as 49% of popular news channels are affiliated with a news organization, while 42% are not.

A small percentage (9%) were those from “other” organizations publishing news, including government agencies, research organizations and advocacy organizations.

Image Credits: Pew Research

To determine its findings, Pew Research ran a representative panel survey of 12,638 U.S. adults from January 6-January 20, 2020.

This study found that a majority, or 72%, of Americans said YouTube was either an important (59%) or the most important (13%) way they get their news. Most also said they didn’t see any big issues with getting their news from the site, but they did express some moderate concern about misinformation, political bias, YouTube’s demonetization practices and censorship.

Image Credits: Pew Research

Republicans and independents who lean Republican were more likely to say censorship, demonetization and political bias were YouTube’s biggest problems, while Democrats and independents who lean Democrat were more likely to say the biggest problems were misinformation and harassment.

A second part of the research involved content analysis of the 377 most popular YouTube news channels in November 2019 and the content of YouTube videos published by the 100 channels with the highest median of views in December 2019. This was performed by a combination of humans and computational methods, says Pew.

The analysis discovered that more than four-in-ten (44%) popular YouTube channels can be characterized as “personality-driven,” meaning the channel is oriented around an individual. This could be a journalist employed by an established news organization or it could be an independent host.

However, it’s more often true of the latter, as 70% of independent channels are centered around an individual, often a “YouTuber” who has gained a following. Indeed, 57% of independent channels are YouTuber-driven versus the 13% centered around people who were public figures before gaining attention on YouTube.

Image Credits:

The study also looked into other aspects of the YouTube news environment and the topics being presented.

According to YouTube news consumers themselves, a clear majority (66%) said watching YouTube news videos helped them to better understand current events; 73% said they believe the videos to be largely accurate, and they tend to watch them closely (68% do) instead of playing them in the background.

Around half (48%) said they’re looking for “straight reporting” on YouTube — meaning, information and facts only. Meanwhile, 51% said they are primarily looking for opinions and commentary.

In response to an open-ended question about why YouTube was a unique place to get the news, the most common responses involved those related to the content of the videos — for instance, that they included news outside the mainstream or that they featured many different opinions and views.

Image Credits: Pew Research

Pew also examined how often news channels mentioned conspiracy theories, like those related to QAnon, Jeffrey Epstein and the anti-vax movement.

An analysis of nearly 3,000 videos by the 100 most viewed YouTube channels in December 2019 found that 21% of videos by independent channels mentioned a conspiracy theory, compared with just 2% of those from established news organizations. QAnon was the most commonly referenced conspiracy theory, as 14% of videos from independent channels had discussed it, compared with 2% of established news organizations.

Independent channels were also about twice as likely as established news organizations to present the news with a negative tone.

Overall, the videos from the top 100 most viewed YouTube news channels assessed in December 2019, were neither too negative or positive (69%). But broken down by type, 37% of videos on the independent channels were negative, compared with 17% for established news organizations. Negative videos were more popular, too. Across all channels, negative videos averaged 184,000 views compared with 172,000 for neutral or mixed tone videos and 117,000 views for positive videos.

Image Credits: Pew Research

Meanwhile, videos about the Trump administration made up the largest share of views in December 2019, as roughly a third (36%) were about the impeachment and 31% were about other domestic issues, like gun control, abortion or immigration. Another 9% were about international affairs. Videos about the Trump administration saw around 250,000 average views compared with videos on other topics, which averaged 122,000 views. Trump was the most common video focus in about a quarter of the videos studied, or 24%.

Videos about the 2020 elections, which at the time were centered around the Democratic primary, were the topic of just 12% of news videos, by comparison.

Image Credits: Pew Research

The study also examined how YouTube news channels presented themselves. It found that the vast majority don’t clearly state a political ideology even when the content of their videos makes it clear they have an ideological slant.

Only around 12% of YouTube news channels presented their political ideology in their description. Of those, 8% were right-leaning and 4% were left-leaning. Independent news channels were more likely to present themselves using partisan terms and more likely to say they leaned right.

The demographics of the typical YouTube news consumer was a part of the study, too. Pew Research found the news video viewers were more likely to be young and male, and less likely to be White, compared with U.S. adults overall. About a third (34%) are under the age of 30, compared with 21% of all U.S. adults; 71% are under 50, compared with 55% of U.S. adults overall.

And 58% of YouTube news consumers are more likely to be male, compared with 48% of U.S. adults overall. Half (50%) are White, 14% are Black and 25% are Hispanic. In the U.S., 63% of adults are White, 12% are Black and 16% are Hispanic.

The full study is available via the Pew Research Center website.

Google adds local COVID-19 news coverage to its Google News app in pilot test

Google is piloting a new way to bring local news about the COVID-19 pandemic to its Google News application. In partnership with regional news publications in select cities across the U.S., the Google News app will now offer a dedicated section in select markets detailing critical information like community reopening timelines, business updates, school openings, as well as information on the local healthcare infrastructure, public transportation, events and ways to help families in need.

At launch, the new feature is available for readers in Raleigh, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Columbus, Portland, Cleveland, Myrtle Beach, Albany, Sarasota, Cap Girardeau, Richmond, Memphis, Cincinnati, Boston, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

To access the newly added local information, app users will click on the COVID-19 banner, which directs them to the existing section focused on coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. They will then scroll down to find the new “Local news” section directly underneath the “Top news” section.

This new section won’t be shown if the user’s city or town isn’t yet covered. However, you can force the section to display by selecting one of the supported cities and making that your city in the Google News app.

Image Credits: Google

To deliver this local information, Google is working in partnership with 21 news organizations for the supported markets, including Raleigh’s The News & Observer, NOLA.com, CBS Chicago, Oregon Live and Gothamist, among others. The news organizations must already provide this COVID-19 information in the form of short-form content. For example, this page from The News & Observer offers a brief list of updates as bullet points that Google can easily republish to the Local news section of the Google News app.

The app will still allow users to click through to the local publication to read more.

Google tells us that all publishers will have to offer news a similar format to be included for the time being. In other words, Google isn’t automatically creating short-form summaries from news articles to fill this section.

The local COVID-19 news feature is currently in pilot testing, but Google plans to expand coverage across the U.S. and Canada in the future. It also plans to offer the feature outside of the Google News mobile app itself.

To some extent, the addition is a way for Google to offer its own version of Facebook’s “Community Help” feature, which the social network expanded in March due to the COVID-19 crisis. Facebook’s hub today offers a way for users to get information about how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting their own local region and what they can do to help. Google’s feature also arrives at a time when Flipboard has splashed back onto the scene with its new focus on local coverage, including coronavirus updates.

And of course there’s Google News app’s direct rival, the Apple News app. Apple News has also added its own take on local coverage with a “City Guides” section in its own COVID-19 special coverage area. These city guides focus on providing essential knowledge about testing, resources, jobs and more for larger U.S. metros.

In addition to the update to the Google News app, Google says it’s recently expanded access to local news on Search and Google Assistant, as well.

Now when people search for coronavirus information on Google Search, they’ll see both a top stories carousel as well as a new dedicated local news carousel. Google also expanded its new carousel highlighting top tweets from local and health authorities in more than 30 countries.

Meanwhile, users can ask Google Assistant for local coronavirus news by saying something like “Hey Google, play news about coronavirus in Boston,” in select markets.

Google has also financially contributed to local news organizations itself in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, having recently provided emerging funding for over 5,300 local news organizations around the world, ranging from $5,000-$30,000. The company said it expects to spend “tens of millions” through this Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. Plus, Google recently launched a Support Local News campaign to encourage people and businesses to subscribe, donate and advertise across local news outlets in the U.S. and Canada.

 

 

Google ditched tipping feature for donating money to sites

Leaked images obtained by TechCrunch reveal that Google considered and designed a feature that would let people donate money to websites to help support news publishers, bloggers, and musicians. But Google scrapped the idea and chose not to build out the product, despite these kinds of businesses and creators often struggling to earn revenue.

Google’s design for tipping money to The New York Times

Last year, Google explored tipping as a new wing of Google Contributor, a service that lets people pay around 1 cent per page view to remove ads from partnered websites. Screenshots of the tipping feature showed the ability to make one-time donations of $0.20 to $5 to help support sites. “Want to see more content like this on our site? Support with a contribution” one version explained. It’s unclear if Google would have taken the same 10% cut of tips as it does from Contributor ad removal fees. Google mocked up designs for tipping on the sites of the New York Times, Wired, “Tech Crunch” [sic], and more.

If Google had launched the tipping feature, it could have provided a valuable tool to sites battered by the declining display ad market. And now amidst coronavirus lockdowns that have cancelled events and reduced podcast listenership that media publishers rely on for revenue, the ability to accept donations could have helped sites avoid laying off staff. Perhaps Google should consider resurrecting tipping as a more sustainable form of assistance alongside its new Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

Google’s designs for tipping money to news sites

TechCrunch obtained these screenshots from a source that provided evidence that they came directly from Google. When asked, Google confirmed that the designs were of internal idea it explored last year but decided not to pursue as part of Contributor and Google Funding Choices, which lets sites ask visitors to disable ad blockers, or instead buy a subscription or pay a per page fee to remove ads. Google shared the idea with under a handful of publishers in a request for feedback. The company decided to prioritize other products, including a way for sites to request consent to personalize ads using their data amidst strengthened regulations like GDPR.

A Google spokesperson provided TechCrunch with a statement that “We recognize that there isn’t a single business model that works for all publishers today and think it’s critical to explore new technologies that can help publishers make more money. Funding Choices is a great example of a product we have invested in significantly and will continue to evolve to support publishers and their monetization strategies.”

A design for the floating button to be overlaid on websites for making a contribution

In fact, few business models work for publishers at all. With layoffs common across local news, national papers, and digital outlets, publishers could use have used all the help they could get, even if long-term subscriptions would be more lucrative than one-off tips.

Google’s Unlaunched Patronage Feature

Designs for Google’s tipping feature show a floating “Support New York Times” button overlaid at the bottom of the screen as you scroll. Tapping it reveals instructions to “Select an amount below using Google Contributor to help fund this site” with options like $1, $3, or $5.

Google’s designs for tipping on a musician’s website

After choosing one, users log into their Google account if they aren’t already, and then “By clicking ‘Pay now’ you agree that: You will use your Google Payments account to make this one-time payment.” You’re then returned to the page you were viewing, with the button saying “Thank you for your support!” before shrinking to just the Contributor logo.

Google also designed a micropayments version of the feature where users could make smaller donations, such as $0.20. This call to action could be inserted into a static position inside a website. When a user’s contributions totaled $1 or more, they would be billed. They’d also have the option to save their contribution and make it later.

Google’s designs for micropayment tipping to blogs

To drive home the emotional satisfaction of making a donation, this design shows a profile photo of you and tip recipient with a heart in between. Afterwards, a cute cat photo illustration shows a messaging saying “Thanks for the support. Your contribution is saved and we will send a confirmation email” with a cheeky “Purrrrrfect, thanks!” before returning you to the site.

Beyond traditional news sites, Google mocked up the tipping feature for The Points Guy travel advice site, the Spiritual Boss Babe blog, the Miranda Sings musician site, and the Forest Research UK government site. TechCrunch was not aware that Google was using our site in mockups for the tipping feature. Other sites included in the mockups did not respond to inquiries about if they were asked for feedback.

Publishers In Need

Google got into the publisher funding space with Google One Pass in 2011, helping users buy subscriptions to sites before it was shut down a year later. In 2014, Google Contributor launched to let people pay a monthly fee in exchange for ad removal on partnered sites, but that program concluded around the end of 2016.

In 2017, Google relaunched the program with users paying up front to fund a per page view fee for removal, and that program remains active with some publishers. The tech giant also operates Subscribe With Google, which lets people buy and manage publisher subscriptions or fan club entry from their Google account, and then surfaces that site’s content atop related Google searches.

If Google ever chose to revive the tipping feature and taxed it 10% like Contributor, it could create a modest new revenue stream. But more importantly, it could help fuel the creation of the content that fills its News and Search results. It would also allow Google to double-dip, potentially earning money from tips and from the ads users see on those sites.

A tipping feature could be especially helpful for websites that haven’t figured out a premium subscription strategy and mostly rely on ads. The fall of display ad prices, worsened by the COVID-19 recession, could put these publishers in danger of closing. BuzzFeed and Vox have cut staff pay or furloughed team members while tons of newspaper and sites like Protocol have suffered layoffs.

Tips might not replace other revenue streams, but could extend sites’ runway. A voluntary option to accept tips without having to build all the payments infrastructure could be a lifeline for the news business, if Google would ordain it a priority.

People who mostly get news from social networks have some COVID-19 misconceptions

A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows a COVID-19 information divide between people who mostly get their news from social networks and those who rely on more traditional news sources.

Pew surveyed 8,914 adults in the U.S. during the week of March 10, dividing survey respondents by the main means they use to consume political and election news. In the group of users that reports getting most of their news from social media, only 37% of respondents said that they expected the COVID-19 vaccine to be available in a year or more — an answer aligned with the current scientific consensus. In every other sample with the exception of the local TV group, at least 50% of those surveyed answered the question correctly. A third of social media news consumers also reported that they weren’t sure about the vaccine availability.

Among people who get most of their news from social media, 57% reported that they had seen at least some COVID-19 information that “seemed completely made up.” For people who consume most of their news via print media, that number was 37%.

Most alarmingly, people who primarily get their news via social media perceived the threat of COVID-19 to be exaggerated. Of the social media news consumers surveyed, 45% answered that the media “greatly exaggerated the risks” posed by the novel coronavirus. Radio news consumers were close behind, with 44% believing the media greatly exaggerated the threat of the virus, while only 26% of print consumers — those more likely to be paying for their news — believed the same.

The full results were part of Pew’s Election News Pathways project, which explores how people in the U.S. consume election news.

In response to COVID-19, Hulu adds a free live news stream to its on-demand app

In response to the COVID-10 outbreak, Hulu is adding a free, live news stream to its app for customers who only subscribe to its on-demand service, not its live TV add-on. The news coverage is provided in partnership with ABC News Live, and brings live news 24/7 to Hulu on-demand subscribers as part of their existing subscription.

This includes those who pay for Hulu alone as well as those who pay for the newer Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ bundle subscription, the company noted. And it will be available to both tiers of Hulu’s on-demand service, including the ad-supported and Hulu’s No Ads plan.

The live stream will also be featured in the “Hulu Picks” section for easy access and will be available across living room and mobile devices, as well as popular game consoles.

Hulu Live TV customers, meanwhile, already have a number of live TV news channels they can watch as a part of their subscription. But Hulu’s on-demand service is far larger, with 27.2 million paid subscribers, compared with just 3.2 million for Live TV.

Health organizations and political leaders have urged Americans to get their news from trusted sources during the COVID-19 crisis — not from social media, where misinformation spreads more quickly than tech companies can moderate or remove. (When and if they try to do so.)

Meanwhile, the uncertainty around the coronavirus outbreak has led to a significant number of online rumors, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and snake oil cures. Earlier this week, for example, a fake news report of a national quarantine spread so quickly that the National Security Council had to post a statement to assure Americans the news was untrue.

The addition of live news for Hulu arrives at a time when a growing number of U.S. consumers have cut the cord with traditional pay TV or chose to never sign up in the first place. In Hulu’s case, the company says close to half its customers fall into one of those two buckets.

“More than 45 percent of Hulu viewers have either cut the cord or never had cable, and may not have access to live, televised news to receive critical information during times of national crisis,” the company said, in an announcement. “With this live stream, we aim to keep our viewers informed during this unprecedented time when having access to information is vital to our communities,” Hulu said.

In addition, fewer U.S. consumers today subscribe to a daily newspaper than in generations prior. Instead, much of our “TV viewing” is now taking place in on-demand apps like Netflix and Hulu, and our news is gathered in bits and pieces online.

Hulu isn’t the first streaming provider to add free live news to its service as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This week, Sling TV launched free streaming that included live news from ABC News Live, as well.

Of course, you don’t need to be a Hulu subscriber to watch ABC News Live. The news service streams online and through the ABC News app for free. But integration into major streaming apps like Hulu will make the service more accessible and more visible, as it won’t require people to seek out a separate app just to watch.

 

Siri will now answer your election questions

Apple’s built-in voice assistant won’t help you figure out who to vote for, but it will be able to update you on different races around the U.S. during election season, as well as deliver live results as votes are counted. The new feature, announced today, is part of Apple News’ 2020 election coverage, which also includes a series of curated news, resources and data from a variety of sources, with the goal of serving users on both sides of the political spectrum.

With the added Siri integration, you’ll be able to ask the assistant both informational queries, plus those requiring real-time information.

For example, you may ask Siri something like “When are the California primaries?,” which is a more straightforward question, or “Who’s winning the New Hampshire primaries?,” which requires updated information.

Siri will speak the answers to the question in addition to presenting the information visually, which makes the feature useful from an accessibility standpoint, too.

The live results are being delivered via the Associated Press, Apple says. The company is also leveraging the AP’s real-time results in its Apple News app in order to give county-by-county results and a national map tracking candidate wins by each state primary, among other things.

As it has done in previous years, Apple’s news editorial team has added special coverage of the U.S. election to its app, by working with news partners. This year, Apple’s coverage comes from news organizations inducing ABC News, CBS News, CNN, FiveThirtyEight, Fox News, NBC News, ProPublica, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, TIME, USA Today and others.

In Apple News, readers are able to learn about candidates and their positions, track major election moments — like the debates, conventions and Super Tuesday — and stay on top of election news and analysis all the way through election night in the U.S. and the subsequent presidential inauguration. A partnership with ABC News announced in December will also bring video coverage, including real-time streams, into the app.

The Siri feature draws on Apple News for its answers and offers a link to “Full Coverage” in the Apple News app, if you want to learn more.

The feature appears to still be rolling out. In tests, Siri was able to answer some questions but defaulted to web results for others, as before. A staggered rollout is standard for Apple launches, however, as new features take time to reach all users.