Pando founder Sarah Lacy unpacks Facebook’s ‘crisis of confidence’

Facebook is grappling with a public relations nightmare as the company’s stocks plummet and users and Silicon Valley giants alike publicly abandon the platform after the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted a week ago.

“I have never seen a public company that is as on top as Facebook is have this much of a crisis of confidence and have this many senior people inside the Valley, this many people the company made rich, publicly taking stances saying to delete the app,” said veteran tech journalist and Pando founder Sarah Lacy. “That’s unprecedented.”

News broke last weekend that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, reportedly accessed data from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge and might have kept their information even after Facebook told the company to delete it.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since apologized in a series of interviews, albeit after a few days of radio silence, and has said he is willing to testify in front of Congress. Good thing, too, because he was asked on Friday by bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to testify in a “hearing in the near future.”

But the company’s problems are far from over.

“I think the bigger fear, internally, more than the stock, more than any of that, is, ‘Are we the bad guys?'” Lacy said. “Because people at Uber knew they were the bad guys and they were happy to revel in being the bad guys. People at Facebook thought they were the good guys.”

Uber has weathered its own share of PR crises. The ride hailing company was under investigation last year after a former female employee went public with accusations of sexism in a blog post. Uber fired 20 employees as a result of the probe, and CEO Travis Kalanick resigned after months of the crisis.

Lacy spoke with CNN’s Brian Stelter about Facebook’s data debacle, as well as its history of controversy, for this week’s Reliable Sources podcast.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

In Lacy’s view, three groups will be able to “hold Facebook’s feet to the fire” — the press, regulators, and users.

The press, she said, includes Silicon Valley tech reporters and the European media, which was among the first to break the story last weekend.

Regulators, especially in Europe, where Facebook has felt “vulnerable for years,” could come down hard on the company.

Some users are promoting a hashtag campaign to leave the platform, but Lacy said she doesn’t think they will leave in droves. Still, she says, users are “pissed off.”

“I think the user picture is a little bit mixed but it’s more of a threat than tech journalists, frankly,” Lacy said.

Within tech, too, she said, there are big risks, and a “soft power game” of sorts. Facebook acquired Instagram and WhatsApp, “but if they had not done acquisitions like that… Facebook would be described as Yahoo now, because young people have already been defecting from the core desktop platform.” With all of Facebook’s recent troubles, companies could be increasingly deterred from selling to the platform.

It also doesn’t help that some of Silicon Valley’s most influential figures are publicly shaming Facebook. WhatsApp founder Brian Acton joined the call to #deleteFacebook and early Facebook investor Sean Parker said the platform was designed to be “addictive.” “I mean, people who built these things are describing it like smoking,” Lacy said.

But this isn’t the first time Facebook’s dealt with controversy. When the News Feed rolled out years ago, users were “furious” that their updates were automatically broadcast to everyone, Lacy said. “I think that was the only period of time I have seen people at Facebook be scared, because this was a point where they were much more vulnerable.”

But Zuckerberg apologized, and the company was able to bounce back.

“It is literally the same thing [as now],” Lacy said. “So why are they still doing this like 15 years later? Because they can, because at their most vulnerable moment it has not ever cost them their business.”

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Cambridge Analytica claims audit will confirm it deleted Facebook data

Cambridge Analytica says it’s commissioning a third-party audit to prove that it deleted the trove of data about Facebook users that has embroiled the data analytics firm in controversy.

The scandal erupted last weekend when The New York Times and UK’s The Observer newspaper reported that Cambridge Analytica harvested data about more than 50 million Facebook users.

The data “allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016,” the Times reported.

Facebook says the data in question was properly gathered a few years ago by psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, who said he was using the data for academic purposes.

But in 2014, it wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, which was working to develop techniques that could be used to influence voters and was later hired by Donald Trump’s campaign.

In a statement Friday, the company reiterated its previous claims that it did not use any of the data during its work for Trump.

The firm also said it is “now undertaking an independent third-party audit” to verify to the public it complied with a Facebook request in 2015 to delete the data.

Cambridge Analytica’s announcement came as 18 law enforcement officers in the UK searched the firm’s offices in London.

The news comes three days after Cambridge Analytica suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, “pending a full, independent investigation.”

That decision was made public moments before Channel 4 News in the UK was due to air another report in a series of exposes about the work of the company.

The company on Friday also called the media coverage “distressing.”

“As anyone who is familiar with our staff and work can testify, we in no way resemble the politically-motivated and unethical company that some have sought to portray,” a statement reads. “Our staff are a talented, diverse and vibrant group of people.”

–CNN’s Eli Watkins and Carol Jordan contributed to this report.

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Texas Tech reaches new heights beating Pudue 78-65

The Texas Tech Red Raiders reached a new level for its program Friday night, defeating No. 2 seed Purdue 78-65.

The No. 3 seed Red Raiders’ pressure defense took its toll on the Boilermakers turning a tight contest  into a 13-point victory.

Tech’s senior point guard Keenan Evans had an off shooting night, but still scored 16 points, hitting 9 of 10 free throws. He also hit one of the biggest field goals of the night, a 3-pointer with 4:24 to play to put the Red Raiders up 63-55.

Carsen Edwards led Purdue with 27 points, and kept the Boilermakers close for most of the game.

Purdue (30-7) was playing in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row and 11th overall in program history, but has not reached the Elite Eight since 2000.

And it’s been 38 years since the Boilermakers last reached the Final Four, doing so in 1980. Purdue’s only other Final Four appearance came in 1969, when it lost the national title game to UCLA in its first ever NCAA Tournament.

The Boilermakers were also without their second-leading scorer and rebounder in senior center Isaac Haas, who broke his elbow in the team’s first-round 74-48 victory over Cal State Fullerton.

Purdue, which finished second in the Big Ten Conference standings behind Michigan State, reached the conference tournament final, but fell to Michigan.

Texas Tech (27-9) has now reached the Sweet 16 six times in school history, and will advance to its first Elite Eight.

The Red Raiders opened their tournament play with a 70-60 victory over No. 14 Stephen F. Austin and then beat No. 6 Florida 69-66 in the second round.

Senior Keenan Evans was also the leading scorer for Texas Tech in both those wins, with the All-Big 12 guard scoring 23 points in the first round followed by 22 in the second.

Texas Tech finished the regular season tied for second behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings. The Red Raiders fell to West Virginia 66-63 in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.

Texas Tech will meet No. 1 seed Villanova in the Elite Eight on Sunday. The Wildcats defeated West Virginia 90-78 in the other evening Sweet 16 matchup.

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Cuban fashion brand Clandestina defies embargo, communist restrictions

Idania del Rio partnered with Leire Fernandez to create Clandestina, a clothing brand that became the first on the island to launch an ecommerce site last year. The private sector entrepreneurs started with a staff of four and now hire 30 employees. 

The 37-year-old Cuban designer and Fernandez, a 43-year-old Spaniard, first opened a boutique in Old Havana, and despite the U.S. embargo they have been able to work with a company in the United States to make their designs on site available to Americans.

The U.S. apparel company manufactures and produces her designs to be sold in America. Del Rio not only battles with the U.S. embargo, she also struggles with the lack of textiles and supplies available at whole sale prices. The majority of her customers are tourists and online shoppers from the U.S. 

“It’s a huge challenge to try to make our products affordable,” Del Rio said. 

Del Rio was among the many young Cubans who benefited from Cuban President Raul Castro’s implementation of market reforms. The flagship store in Old Havana is full of T-shirts with quirky messages and bright tropical prints. She is also known for “upcycling” second-hand fabrics.

Del Rio also designs canvas bags, hats, key chains, stickers, pillow covers and posters at her 403, Villegas store. She has dreams of developing a fashion brand that is recognized as Cuban around the world. 

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Duke ends Syracuse’s Cinderella run 69-65

The Duke Blue Devils ended the Cinderella run for 11th-seeded Syracuse defeating the Orange 69-65 in a Friday Sweet 16 matchup.

Syracuse started the game on fire, hitting their first 12 shots to take a 17-14 lead midway through the first half. But, Duke lead at half 34-27 by scoring 10 of their final 16 points from the free throw line.

The Orange scored 6 straight to start the second half and pulled to within 34-33, but the Blue Devils went on a 12-4 run to take a 50-41 lead, their largest of the game.

Syracuse continued to battle back, but Duke hit its free throws at the end to keep the Orange at bay.

Marvin Bagley III scored 22 points for Duke, that had four players in double digits. The Orange were led by Tyus Battle with 19 points.

This was the second time the two teams had met in the Sweet 16, with Duke winning 80-67 in 1998. Duke also won a matchup in the 1966 Elite Eight.

Syracuse (23-14), which the selection committee designated as the final at-large team to make the tournament, won their First Four game against Arizona State on Wednesday before upsetting No. 6 TCU on Friday and No. 3 Michigan State on Sunday.

The Sweet 16 berth was the 23rd in program history for the Orange, who tried to make their first Elite Eight since a 2016 run that saw them reach the Final Four. 

Syracuse won its only national championship in 2003 and lost in the title game in 1996 and 1987.

Duke (29-7) finished second in the ACC standings behind Virginia and fell to North Carolina in the ACC tournament semifinals. The Blue Devils haven’t been tested much so far in the NCAA Tournament, beating No. 15 Iona 89-67 and No. 7 Rhode Island 87-62 to reach coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 24th Sweet 16.

The win over Syracuse gives Krzyzewski his 15th spot in the Elite Eight and the 21st overall in school history.

Krzyzewski is trying to guide Duke to its sixth national title and first since 2015. The school has played in 16 Final Fours in program history, finishing as runners-up six times.

Duke will next take on No. 1 Kansas Sunday with the winner heading to the Final Four.

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Westbrook’s 17-point 4th quarter leads Thunder past Heat

Russell Westbrook scored 17 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Miami Heat 105-99 on Friday night.

Westbrook went 6 for 7 from the field and made 3 of 4 free throws in the final period. He also finished with 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Steven Adams added 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder. They have won seven of eight.

James Johnson scored 23 points and Goran Dragic added 20 for the Heat, whose win streak ended at three games.

Oklahoma City made 3 of 17 3-pointers in the first three quarters, then made 5 of 9 in the fourth.

Miami led 66-64 heading onto the fourth quarter.

Adams made a layup after a cut to the hoop and he was fouled. He missed the free throw, but the Thunder got the rebound, leading to a mid-range jumper by Westbrook that bumped Oklahoma City’s lead to 91-84.

Miami cut it to 92-91 on a 3-pointer by Johnson, but Westbrook answered at the other end with a 3-pointer. Westbrook then got a defensive rebound and bolted to the hoop at the other end for a layup. Miami was called for goaltending, and the Thunder lead was back to six.

Miami cut its deficit to two in the final minute, but Westbrook found Adams on a pick and roll for a dunk that made it 99-95 with 43 seconds to play. Oklahoma City’s Paul George then stole the ball, made a layup and was fouled. His free throw with 38.2 seconds left put the game out of reach.



Heat: G Tyler Johnson committed two fouls in the first 23 seconds. He finished with three fouls. … G Dwyane Wade entered the game in the first quarter. He finished with seven points in 20 minutes. He hadn’t played since March 10.

Thunder: Outrebounded the Heat 51-41. … Improved to 7-1 with G Corey Brewer in the starting lineup. … George made just 3 of 16 shots.


Heat: At Indiana on Sunday.

Thunder: Host the Portland on Sunday.


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