From Russian election interference to the rise of misinformation – Here's your November 9 news briefing

To start off, we're looking into: Putin’s ally admits to interfering in US elections – Russia has been accused of meddling in US elections since at least 2016.

From Russian election interference to the rise of misinformation – Here's your November 9 news briefing
Russian billionaire and businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin attends a meeting with foreign investors at Konstantin Palace June 16, 2016 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

To start off, we're looking into:

Putin’s ally admits to interfering in US elections

Russia has been accused of meddling in US elections since at least 2016. Enter Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and close ally of President Vladimir Putin – also known as "Putin's chef." Prigozhin was charged with conspiracy to defraud the US in 2018 for election interference. The US has also sanctioned him for funding the Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll farm" that spread misinformation with fake accounts on social media to influence millions of US voters.

In a Telegram post on Monday (the day before the US midterm elections), Prigozhin seemed to admit that he had interfered with US elections and would continue to do so. He had previously denied his involvement in US elections, and this is the first admission from someone accused by Washington of meddling in the US election process.

Taiwan’s exports fall slightly

Trucks wait to be loaded on with containers at a port in Keelung, Taiwan, June 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

China is Taiwan's biggest trade partner – China and Hong Kong buy about 40% of Taiwan's total exports. But, weakened demand from China has been affecting the island's exports growth. Even though Taiwan's Q3 GDP grew 4.1%, which was faster than expected, its export outlook has been weighed down by global inflation, tighter monetary policy, the Russia-Ukraine war and US-China tensions. With all this, forecasts have predicted Taiwan's October exports to contract by around 6%.

But, on Tuesday, Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs released data showing that Taiwan's exports dropped only 0.5% in October, which was way better than expected and an improvement from September's 5.3% decrease. While its exports to Hong Kong and China did drop by 9.2%, exports to other countries jumped, with the US, Japan and Singapore helping to offset a slump.

Bitcoin hacker is busted

Souvenir tokens representing cryptocurrency Bitcoin and the Ethereum network, with its native token ether, plunge into water in this illustration taken May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Websites that rely on cryptocurrency for in-site purchases can be pretty vulnerable to criminal activity. There’s a lot of hacking going on. Because crypto is decentralized and relies entirely on its own platform, hackers have lots of opportunities to exploit the system.

On Monday, the US Department of Justice announced it seized about US$3.36 billion in stolen bitcoin back in 2021 during a previously unannounced raid of James Zhong’s home in Gainesville, Georgia. That’s about 50,676 bitcoin. This is the DOJ’s second-largest financial seizure to date. Last Friday, Zhong pleaded guilty to wire fraud, which carries a max sentence of 20 years in prison. He stole the bitcoin by hacking the illegal Silk Road marketplace, a forum on the dark web for crypto transactions of drugs and other shady products and services.

To end, we'll look into:

We’re facing a growing misinformation problem

A man uses a mobile device in a coffee shop in Hanoi, Vietnam May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo

The internet has enabled a crisis of public misinformation. Anyone can say anything, and fake news is just a part of our everyday lives now. It shouldn't be like this. So why is it?

According to a new global report from Elsevier conducted with Economist Impact, scientists and researchers are concerned about the rise of misinformation throughout the pandemic. They've observed a growing responsibility they have in fighting false info spread on social media. In fact, they believe the data shows that the public's understanding of scientific research actually deteriorated during COVID – despite people being more curious and seeking out information.

"Something very apparent in our study with Economist Impact was that in addition to their regular research activities, researchers now also work increasingly to combat false and misleading information as well as online abuse, and they want support to do so," said Ann Gabriel, an executive at Elsevier.

Researchers and scientists aren't the only ones who are worried. Pew Research Center published a study this past summer on the experiences of American journalists when it comes to misinformation online. Based on that survey, "More than nine-in-ten journalists surveyed (94%) say made-up news and information is a significant problem in America today, with 71% identifying it as a very big problem and 23% seeing it as a moderately big problem; 6% say it is a small problem or not a problem at all."

Because social media plays such a huge role in spreading news and info, the changes going on with Twitter have caused new issues already. Since the takeover, scandals have cropped up on the platform (including a major increase in hate speech, Musk himself posting a since-deleted conspiracy theory, banning parody accounts en masse…). With this mess, experts in disinformation fear a flood of lies coming through Twitter. Some argue that Musk's promise to cut down on content moderation but then enforce cherry-picked profile censorship looks … well, bad.

"Musk claims he wants an open debate, but he bullies activists and politicians who disagree with him," said Erika Seiber, a spokesperson from the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth. "Governments and advertisers must hold him accountable and prevent him from creating an explosion of hate speech, extremist conspiracies and climate disinformation."

So, don't believe everything you read on the internet, folks.

In other news ...

📈Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is up 0.84% to 2554.87 at the time of writing.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones is up 1.02% to 33,160.83.
  • Nasdaq Composite is up 0.49% to 10,616.20.
  • S&P 500 is up 0.56% to 3,828.11.
  • Hang Seng Index is down 0.23% to 16,557.31.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • In the US, stocks rose for a third day ahead of the US 2022 midterm election results as investors bet on a power shift in Congress. A grid-locked Congress tends to mean less government spending and taxes, so investors see that as a positive shift for markets. Either way, election results give investors insight into future policy.
  • Bitcoin is having a meltdown today, falling more than 10% and hitting its lowest since November 2020 as giant crypto exchange Binance signed a deal to buy its rival after it ran into liquidity trouble.
  • Disney released its quarterly earnings after the market closed, falling 10% in after-hours trading. The company gained more subscribers than Wall Street expected, but its investment costs dragged down the earnings.
  • The surging COVID cases in China dragged the China and Hong Kong stock markets on Tuesday. Investors are searching for signs that China may reopen, but increasing cases and official comments on sticking to zero-COVID are slowing gains.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “The financial market reaction to a Republican win should be muted, as the House outcome is already widely expected, and the Senate outcome makes less of a difference to policy outcomes if Republicans control the House,” wrote Goldman Sachs’ Jan Hatzius.
  • “The mini crash in Bitcoin/crypto did destabilize the stock market and cause a sharp drop. Investors don’t like to see any disruptions or mini crashes in any risk asset,” said Jay Hatfield of Infrastructure Capital.
  • "Once we've fully priced in peak Fed tightening, then you'll see a major reversal. A lot of people are trying to get ahead of that and they've been trying to do that all year and they've been getting burned," said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

🛢Oil: Oil prices slipped more than US$2 on Tuesday as the worsening COVID outbreaks in China heightened fears of lower fuel demand. US crude fell 3.14% to US$88.91, and Brent dropped 2.6% to US$95.36 per barrel.

👛Bitcoin: Bitcoin was down 10.67% to US$18,395.70 at the time of writing.

☮Ukraine peace talks stance: Ukraine is open to negotiations with Russia on ending the war, but only under certain conditions. It wants all captured Ukrainian land back, compensation for attacks and consequences for war crimes. To guarantee peace, Ukraine also needs modern air defenses, aircraft, tanks and long-range missiles.

📢"No leniency" in Iran: Iranian lawmakers want the judiciary to "show no leniency" to protesters as thousands are still demonstrating against the government. They created an open letter signed by 227 of Iran's 290 members of Parliament.

👩‍⚖️Philippines prison chief accused of killing journalist: Police in the Philippines have accused prison chief Gerald Bantag of ordering the killing of radio journalist Percival Mabasa, who was fatally shot last month driving to his radio studio in Manila. He was outwardly critical of Bantag and accused him of corruption.

❄Antarctic COVID outbreak: Antarctica is experiencing its largest-ever outbreak of COVID, with 10% of those in its largest station, US-run McMurdo, infected. The US has paused all incoming travel. There have been 98 positive tests among a population of 993.

🏝Sinking Tuvalu: The South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is joining a few small countries in urging leaders at COP27 to create a global treaty to phase out the use of fossil fuels. Tuvalu faces the threat of literally sinking into the ocean as sea levels rise.

📩Trudeau accuses China: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau accused China of trying to interfere in its elections. This accusation comes after reports of a "clandestine network" of 11 China-backed candidates at recent elections. China's foreign ministry says the country has "no interest" in Canada's internal politics.

😒China on Taiwan's chip plan: China opposes Taiwan's cooperation with external forces, which it reiterated on Tuesday. The mainland has become concerned as Taiwan considers a plan to invest in chip production in Lithuania. Meanwhile, US chip maker Nvidia is offering a new advanced chip in China that meets the new US export control rules.

🚤Migrants jump ship in Italy: Three people jumped off a migrant rescue boat they were pretty much detained on after being barred from entering Italy. They were among around 250 migrants who weren't allowed off the boat onto land. They were rescued from the water by police, but no one knows what will happen to them next.

🤑Binance to buy rival FTX: Crypto giant Binance announced Tuesday that it had signed a non-binding agreement to purchase rival FTX to help it out of it’s liquidity trouble. Several crypto tokens took a nosedive after.

🌎Macron backs climate financing: At the COP27 on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron supported a push to transform how climate finance works for the countries that need it. He called for a "huge shock of concessional financing," holding off debt for disaster-struck countries and making changes to the IMF.

🚂Thailand's floating train: Thailand now has a special "floating train" where passengers can feel like they're traveling on water because of a post-monsoon rise in water levels. Tickets are selling out fast, with officials saying the water has risen unusually high this year. Guess that's one way to see a silver lining in the climate crisis.


Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz, and Christine Dulion