Fake news, real market drop
For a few minutes on Monday, an ominous image of black smoke billowing from what appeared to be a government building near the Pentagon set off investor fears, sending stocks tumbling.
Experts quickly dismissed the picture as a fake, most likely cobbled together with artificial intelligence, and markets swiftly recovered. But it illustrated one of the big fears behind the government’s zeal to regulate A.I.: that the technology could be used to stoke panic and sow disinformation, with potentially disastrous consequences.
It may have been the first time an A.I.-generated image moved markets, according to Bloomberg. The picture — which claimed that an explosion was reported near the Pentagon — first appeared on Facebook. It then quickly spread to Twitter via accounts with large followings, including the financial news site ZeroHedge (which sports a blue check mark via the Twitter Blue subscription service) and the Kremlin-controlled RT.
Within minutes, internet sleuths began to debunk the image, and soon after ZeroHedge and RT deleted it from their accounts, while Facebook blocked access to the original post. Still, the incident underscores how even unsophisticated spoofs can spread misinformation quickly, especially via trusted social-media channels.
Regulators have warned about exactly this kind of problem:
Gary Gensler, the S.E.C.’s chairman, said last week that bad actors could use A.I. to exploit the “fragility” of financial systems.
And the F.T.C. has raised the alarm about how A.I.-generated deepfaked images and cloned voice systems could be used to trick people in new kinds of fraud schemes.
More potent threats may be in the offing. In a blog post on Monday, Sam Altman — the C.E.O. of OpenAI whose Senate testimony about A.I. gripped Washington last week — and two top lieutenants warned that within a decade, these systems could achieve “superintelligence.”
In response, they said, global governments should consider creating a regulator, akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency, that can inspect, audit and when necessary restrict systems that go beyond a certain level of capability. “Governance of the most powerful systems, as well as decisions regarding their deployment, must have strong public oversight,” Altman and his colleagues write.
A.I. isn’t always terrible for stocks, it’s worth noting. Investors have driven up the market caps of companies tied to the technology, including Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft and the chipmaker Nvidia.
As of last week, seven stocks have accounted for 85 percent of the gains in the S&P 500 this year, according to Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. All but one member of that group is invested heavily in A.I.
Even so, many of those stocks are vulnerable to A.I.-driven disruption. At a conference in San Francisco on Monday, Bill Gates suggested why that could be: “You will never go to a search site again,” he said. “You will never go to a productivity site. You’ll never go to Amazon again.”
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
TikTok sues Montana over its banning of the video app. The Chinese-owned company argued in federal court that the effort to block it from operating within the state’s borders was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, The Information reports that Oracle, TikTok’s cloud provider, has only limited access to the app’s source code, undercutting claims that the company’s plan to satisfy U.S. data privacy concerns was moving forward.
Western states strike a deal to preserve the Colorado River. Arizona, California and Nevada agreed to temporarily take less water from the drought-stricken river, in exchange for $1.2 billion in federal payouts to irrigation districts, cities and Native American tribes in the three states. But the pact runs through only 2026, and future droughts could further deplete the river’s supplies.
Glenn Youngkin reportedly reconsiders running for president. The Republican governor of Virginia has had second thoughts after previously ruling out a 2024 run, according to Axios. He’s been encouraged by G.O.P. donors eager to see a more moderate alternative to Donald Trump, who’s leading in Republican polls.
E. Jean Carroll seeks new damages from Donald Trump. The writer, who this month won $5 million from the former president after a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation, now wants a “very substantial” additional amount after he insulted her in a May 10 town hall on CNN. Lawyers for Ms. Carroll accused Mr. Trump of continuing to defame their client.
Investors continue to flee crypto. Assets in cryptocurrency saw a fifth consecutive week of investor outflows last week, totaling $232 million, according to the digital asset investment firm CoinShares. Waning enthusiasm for crypto was palpable at the industry event Bitcoin Miami, where attendance this year has halved from 2022.
How new energy rules might figure in a debt deal
As the White House and House Republicans continue to negotiate a deal to on raising the debt ceiling, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterating that the country could run out of cash by next week, an unlikely issue has become a key point in the talks.
Changes to how energy projects are approved — known in Washington parlance as permitting — has become a growing focus of lawmakers from both parties over the past year. Even so, the two sides disagree over how to overhaul the process, and it’s unclear whether that can be resolved in time to find its way into a deal to avoid a U.S. default.
Permitting has bipartisan support. Lawmakers argue that under the current system, winning approval for critical new energy projects can take as long as a decade, while Canada and the European Union have regulations designed to get projects underway within three years.
But what each party wants to accomplish with permitting is different:
For Republicans (and Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who was key to passing the Inflation Reduction Act last year), an overhaul would mean speeding up fossil-fuel projects like coal-fired power plants.
For Democrats, it would lead to faster approval of clean energy projects and the building of high-voltage transmission lines from those facilities.
A key area of contention is federal pre-emption. Currently, states can reject electrical transmission projects that run through their territory, hampering the country’s energy transition plans. Giving the federal government pre-emption rights, supporters argue, would speed up the adoption of renewable energy, particularly in places where it isn’t generated.
New legislation from Mr. Manchin, backed by the White House, would set time limits for states to approve or deny interstate transmission projects before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would assume centralized federal authority on permitting, could step in.
But in recent negotiations, Republicans have proposed resolving the question of federal pre-emption authority down the road, leaving Democrats worried about fulfilling the I.R.A.’s clean-energy goals.
In any case, time is ticking. Ms. Yellen on Monday ratcheted up the language of her warnings about the debt ceiling, saying that it was “highly likely” the U.S. would run out of cash by early June instead of “likely.” And the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, said that a deal needed to happen this week to avoid default.
In other debt ceiling news: how extreme weather in California brought forward the date of a potential default, and why Republican demands to cut I.R.S. funding could deepen federal budget shortfalls by some $120 billion.
“My intensity is the same. I think when I don’t have that intensity, I should leave.”
— Jamie Dimon, the C.E.O. of JPMorgan Chase, addressing questions about who will succeed him at the bank’s investor day on Monday.
Tallying the mountain of evidence against Bankman-Fried
As the FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried awaits trial, federal prosecutors are assembling one of the largest troves of evidence ever amassed in a white-collar securities fraud case.
The authorities have already gathered more than six million pages of evidence, The Times reports. (By comparison, the 2004 case against Martha Stewart involved 525,000 pages.) Here is some of what’s in that evidence list:
The contents of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s Google accounts, which alone account for 2.5 million pages.
A notebook belonging to Caroline Ellison, a longtime lieutenant and sometime girlfriend of Mr. Bankman-Fried who ran FTX’s sister company, the trading firm Alameda Research. (She has pleaded guilty to fraud and is cooperating with prosecutors.)
A cellphone belonging to Ryan Salame, a top FTX executive whose $4 million Maryland home was raided by F.B.I. agents last month.
Four laptops, including one belonging to the former FTX executive Gary Wang (who is also cooperating with prosecutors) that was so stuffed with data that F.B.I. experts were having trouble deciphering it.
Many FTX corporate records were held by the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, which took control of the company after it filed for bankruptcy — and which so far has billed $55 million, including for the document detective work, according to The Times.
THE SPEED READ
Chevron agreed to buy PDC Energy, a shale oil producer, for $6.3 billion to focus on U.S. energy production. (WSJ)
Mizuho of Japan agreed to buy Greenhill, the embattled American boutique investment bank, for $550 million. (Bloomberg)
The activist investor TCS Capital, which has a 4 percent stake in Yelp, called on the recommendation site to sell itself. (WSJ)
“Shareholder Activists Drag Companies Into U.S. Culture Wars” (WSJ)
Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, is officially running for president — and has a major backer in Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of Oracle. (NYT, CNBC)
President Biden nominated Anna Gomez, a veteran government telecom lawyer, to serve as the third Democratic commissioner on the deadlocked F.C.C. (The Verge)
“China fears Japan’s chipmaking curbs go further than U.S. restrictions” (FT)
Best of the rest
Amatriciana fans, look away: Pasta prices are soaring in Italy, leading to an emergency government meeting and calls for a consumer “pasta strike.” (CNBC)
“Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Take Ozempic for Weight Loss. Here’s Why.” (WSJ)
The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reportedly proposed to Lauren Sanchez, his girlfriend, aboard his mega-yacht. (The Mail Online)
Recycling plastic has an unintended consequence: emissions of microplastics in the air and water supplies. (WaPo)
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