President Obama ‘made the best decisions he could’ about Russia, former advisor Valerie Jarrett says

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On Recode Decode, Jarrett says tech companies should work with the government to safeguard democracy.

As a senior White House advisor for all eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Valerie Jarrett says Obama used to ask his staff, “When are you going to bring me the easy decisions?”

“And we’d go, ‘Oh no, we took care of those,’” Jarrett said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “‘You get the tough ones.’”

One of those tough decisions that has fallen under retroactive scrutiny was how Obama reacted to early emerging evidence that Russian-backed actors were attempting to sway the 2016 U.S. elections. Was there more he should have done?

“You make judgment calls every single day,” Jarrett said. “With the benefit of hindsight, we would all maybe do things differently, but I feel confident that based on what he knew, when he knew it, he made the best decisions he could.”

She expressed sympathy for the tech companies that she said weren’t aware that their platforms were “being used as a force for evil.” But she said there’s a more important role they can play in future elections, rather than merely looking back on what could have happened differently in 2016.

“It should be a united front of the private sector and government saying, ‘What could be more key to our democracy than preserving the integrity of our voting?’” Jarrett said. “We should all be really dedicated to that.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, recorded in front of a live audience at South by Southwest 2018, Jarrett reflected on how quickly technology has changed — in politics and everywhere else — in just a decade.

The technology revolution is like no other revolution we’ve seen before in our country,” she said. “I remember, President Obama was in office when he asked me what I knew about Twitter, and I said, ‘You mean, like, all a-twitter?’ That was in 2008, and I had no idea what he was talking about.”

Today, Jarrett is something of a techie herself, serving on the boards of Lyft and 2U, and advising the Los Angeles-based media company ATTN. She said she disagreed with the idea that, since 2016, her fellow Democrats have become more “anti-tech.”

“I think tech is an incredible tool for good,” she said. “I’m not anti-tech at all. I want to figure out how to make tech stay as good of a tool as it can, and do no harm — or, do as little harm as possible.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • On Too Embarrassed to Ask, also hosted by Kara Swisher, we answer the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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Logan Paul, Barack Obama, Conan O’Brian and Other Celebrities We Want to See in the ‘Fortnite’ Party Royale Exhibition Game at E3

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There are very few things that really escape the insular box of E3 news. New games, new developers, even new consoles seem to float just on the surface rather than make a big enough splash to warrant coverage outside of the gaming blogosphere these days. Epic games is cashing in on the amazing uptick it has seen in its popularity with their Party Royale Celebrity Pro-AM at E3. 50 Celebrities and 50 Pro Gamers will be duking it out in a team event teams have not even been finalized yet so there is a ton of speculation on who is involved and what sort of crazy hijinks will ensue.

If you are sitting there reading this article and understandably wondering, well…. this is absurd. I agree. It is. But probably for a different reason. If you think the names in the title are too outlandish or far fetched, maybe you didn’t realize that just a few days ago, Fortnite player Ninja actually invited and played with Drake on stream. There is really no name that is off limits here with how popular Fortnite is right now. Maybe Wolf Blitzer or Alfonso Ribeiro will end up being on a team with Video Game Dunkey. I’d personally love a Trump x2 team(that would be Hearthstone player Trump, and Eric Trump, obviously). Or perhaps let’s get a certain ex-president involved?

This thing is shaping up to be one of the greatest instances of cross-cultural mixups since the Harlem Globetrotters showed up to help Scooby and the gang solve a mystery. The only thing that is for sure is that this is going to be big. The sheer amount of moments this has the potential for making is amazing. Can Epic pull this off by June and who is going to be involved? Toss your votes in the comments and let’s see who ends up randomly guessing the most unexpected guest!


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How to watch former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett live from SXSW today

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Kara Swisher will interview Jarrett about diversity and inclusion in the tech industry and much more.

We’re live from SXSW! Join us all weekend at The Belmont for live interviews. Can’t make it? You can still tune in live.

This Sunday, March 11, at 5 pm CT / 6 pm ET, Kara Swisher will be interviewing attorney, businesswoman and civic leader Valerie Jarrett. She’s also the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Swisher and Jarrett will discuss diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, how to lead in the #MeToo era and what tech leaders should keep in mind in today’s political landscape.

Watch live below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Recode – All

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Apple Reportedly Interested in Obama Series if Netflix Fails to Clinch Content Deal With Former President

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Netflix is said to be in advanced negotiations with former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to produce a series of high-profile shows for the streaming service, with Apple said to be waiting in line if a deal between the two parties falls through.

The New York Times reports that Netflix is offering to pay the Obamas to produce the exclusive content, according to people familiar with the discussions, although it’s unclear how much is on the table given the couple’s lack of experience in the media business.

Image via Getty Images

However, rather than use the shows to respond to President Trump or conservative critics, Obama is reportedly interested in treating them as a platform for topics that dominated his presidency, such as health care, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy, and climate change.

Another program could feature Mrs. Obama on topics, like nutrition, that she championed in the White House. The former president and first lady could also lend their brand — and their endorsement — to documentaries or fictional programming on Netflix that align with their beliefs and values.

Several people familiar with the Netflix discussions said that executives from Apple and Amazon, which have their own streaming services, have also expressed interest in talking with Mr. Obama about content deals.

The New York Times notes that Obama retains close ties to Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. Sarandos is married to Nicole A. Avant, an activist who served as Obama’s ambassador to the Bahamas. Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, was also close to Obama while he was president and an attendee at state dinners, according to the report.

Apple has been comparatively slow at securing original content for its television offering, but the company now has at least 10 television shows in the early stages of development, including an untitled morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and an “Amazing Stories” reboot from Steven Spielberg.

Other shows on the tech giant’s books include an untitled space drama from Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald D. Moore, a series written by “La La Land” creator Damien Chazelle, a Kristen Wiig comedy series, See, an epic world-building drama, Home, a docuseries focusing on incredible homes, and “Little America,” an anthology series from “The Big Sick” creators Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Apple reportedly interested in streaming shows produced by Barack Obama

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Netflix is reportedly in advanced talks to secure a slate of shows produced by former President Barack Obama, but if negotiations fall through, Apple and a handful of other streaming service providers are supposedly waiting in the wings.
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Barack Obama is reportedly planning Netflix shows

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Barack Obama is discussing terms to produce a series of shows with Netflix, according to The New York Times and CNN. Details of the shows are yet to be finalized, but they would provide the former president and his wife, Michelle, with a platform to communicate with Netflix’s 117 million global subscribers.

The Times suggests that one show idea could see President Obama moderating conversations on key matters from his presidency, while another might involve Michelle focusing on issues that she targeted during her time as First Lady. The shows are unlikely to target President Trump directly, according to the Times’ sources; rather, the Obamas would prefer to “highlight inspirational stories.”

President Obama is no stranger to Netflix. He…

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NYT: President Obama could be Netflix’s next big signing

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Given Netflix's recent list of talent deals, it's hard to imagine who they could reach an arrangement with next. According to a report by the New York Times, the streaming service is in "advanced negotiations" with former President Barack Obama and f…
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Report: President Obama nearing content deal with Netflix, but Apple is also interested

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Thus far, Apple has inked deals with some major entertainment names for its original video platform. A new report form The New York Times today highlights another potential effort, this time involving former president Barack Obama…



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Obama: Social Media Is “Shaping Our Culture in Powerful Ways”

Not Invisible

In a new online video, former U.S. President Barack Obama criticized social media companies like Facebook for doing too little to protect the “public good.”

In an intended off-the-record speech at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, later released by the libertarian publication Reason, Obama expressed concerns that Americans are living in “entirely different realities.” Obama cited Fox News and the New York Times specifically when noting that major news stations report entirely different facts to fit the “Balkanization of our public conversation.” Social media platforms, he said, exacerbate that trend.

Facebook has specifically stated its platform is a neutral tool and not a media company. In the past, when confronting the spread of questionable content on the site, the platform placed blame on algorithms that decide what content is promoted. Obama argued that with social media becoming a breeding ground for not only divisive conversation but also terrorist activity, platforms claiming they’re neutral and offloading blame onto computers just won’t cut it. “ISIS can use that tool,” Obama said. “Neo-Nazis can use that tool.”

As CNET reported, Obama thinks platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are part of a much larger ecosystem. These platforms “have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise,” Obama said. “They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.”

Guide, Not Control

The former head of state isn’t the only person calling out social media’s dangers lately. A former Facebook executive suggested the platforms have become “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” The ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election has drawn significant attention to the role Facebook and other platforms played.

Fixing the problem, especially before the 2018 election, won’t be easy. A U.S. senator recently suggested that Congress might have to get involved, even going so far as to levy fines against platforms that don’t do enough to crack down on bots.

That’s a plan Obama himself could potentially be in support of. In his talk at MIT, he said that government should create “rules of the road” to help guide platforms — though, he noted that doesn’t equate to government control of media. “That’s not who we are,” he said. “And that’s not the society I want to live in.”

The post Obama: Social Media Is “Shaping Our Culture in Powerful Ways” appeared first on Futurism.


What did Barack Obama say at his secret sports speech in front of hundreds of people?

Attendees at Barack Obama’s speech at the Sloan Sports Analytics ConferenceBarack Obama spoke in front of several hundred people yesterday at a sports conference.

We don’t know what he said.

That’s because Obama’s session at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was off the record — conference organizers prevented attendees from tweeting, livestreaming or reporting on any part of Obama’s appearance during or after the event.

The penalty for breaking the rules, per Sloan: You couldn’t come back to Sloan.

Sloan is a conference dedicated to the Moneyball wing of sports business and fandom. It’s the kind of place you can go to see Nate Silver chatting with Steve Ballmer.

It makes sense that Sloan would want Obama to come and discuss “a wide range of subjects… from his most memorable moments in the White House, to his post-presidency plans,” along with Kraft Analytics CEO Jessica Gelman and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

But I can’t fathom why that talk would be off-the-record. I’ve asked a Sloan rep for comment; a rep for ESPN, which is the lead sponsor for the event, declined to comment.

It looks like Reporters For Sports Outlets You’ve Heard Of complied with Sloan’s rules, which isn’t surprising. Complying with rules of the events you attend is the kind of thing you do when you’re a Reporter For Sports Outlets You’ve Heard Of.

ESPN had a pre-write of Obama’s appearance (and obliquely referenced the off the record part in the headline, and spelled it out in the last graph), but nothing else. And if there was any coverage at all from Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report or my Vox Media colleagues at SB Nation, I missed it. Ditto for the bad boys at Deadspin and Barstool Sports. (Barstool does not like Obama’s portrait, though).

Still: It’s 2018. There’s no such thing as an off-the-record event, especially not one held in the United States, in front of hundreds of people with internet-connected phones, right?

Maaaaybe. Here’s a post from Justin McMahon, whose bio describes him as a student at UNC Chapel Hill and the CEO of Daily Insider, a fantasy sports site.

I’m not sure Justin was actually at the Sloan event, though some of his preceding tweets were about other Sloan speakers. I’ve asked him for more information.

And here are a couple from someone who controls the Twitter account for Women in Sports Tech, whose Twitter stream suggests they were also at the event:

@Simon_pouliot’s timeline has three tweets. This is one of them.

Alanna Astion’s bio says she’s getting a masters at UMass in sport management. This is one of the two Sloan tweets she published today:

And… that’s it?

All those people? Nothing else? Really?

If I’ve missed something, please let me know. And if you attended and want to share something confidentially, that would also be great. My email is on my bio page.

(UPDATE: Heard from one bold attendee who passed along this assessment of Obama’s comments: “It was the kind of stuff that you would say at a high school graduation. I don’t know why it would have to be off the record.” Thank you, bold attendee! Happy to hear from others.)

But to recap:

  • Anyone can go to one of Donald Trump’s private golf clubs and come away with photos of the The President of the United States watching TV, or discussing his North Korea strategy.
  • The last President of the United States spoke at a public forum yesterday where he may have discussed: the importance of playing team sports; his support for diversity in sports, and the need for reform in college sports.
  • But we don’t know that for sure, because there was a surprisingly effective media blackout.

Recode – All