Notable & Quotable: Oct. 31, 2017

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In The New York Times, Maureen Dowd writes, "Mark Cuban's Not Done Trolling Donald Trump."

If you want to know just how surreal things have gotten, consider this: In 2015, Donald Trump had to decide between playing the president in "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" and running to be the actual president.

And it wasn't an easy choice.

A "Sharknado" producer got tired of waiting for Trump - he was the second choice, after Sarah Palin turned down the gig - to sign his contract. So the role was offered to Mark Cuban and Trump's lawyer threatened to sue, the producer told The Hollywood Reporter.

Cuban ended up in the cinematic White House with the sharks circling, and Ann Coulter as his veep, and Trump ended up in the real White House with the sharks circling, and Ann Coulter as his frenemy.

"I think it's funny as hell, yeah," Cuban says with a grin.

Maybe deploying a shotgun and grenades to save the White House from a shower of sharks - while simultaneously starring on "Shark Tank" - gave Cuban the scent of chum in the Potomac. He puts the odds that he will challenge his fellow loud billionaire, master salesman and reality TV star in 2020 at 10 percent - "maybe 11."

"I'm considering it, yes," he tells me. "I would put the odds against it right now for family reasons, but there is still plenty of time."

When I ask if he would run as an independent, he replies: "Probably, or a Republican. I'm registered as an independent. I mean, I'd rather do it as an independent." But running as an independent has not proved successful in modern times. You just become a spoiler like Ross Perot. (Who is Cuban's neighbor in Dallas, along with W.)

In The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Mims asks, "Who will rein in Facebook?"

We're treated to fresh reports nearly every day about how Facebook Inc.'s efforts to keep bad actors from abusing its platform fall short. The latest include U.K. legislators' inquiry into whether Russians used Facebook to influence recent British elections and reports that atrocities in Myanmar may be incited in part by fake news on Facebook.

Even before this wave, Facebook's role in the spread of divisive messages and outright falsehoods had inspired soul-searching at the company and a newfound humility at the top. In a string of blog posts, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg promised to do more, including hiring 1,000 additional people to review political ads purchased on Facebook. Meanwhile, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was recently dispatched to Washington, D.C., on a charm offensive.

Yet many outside Facebook refuse to wait for the company to solve these problems - and others yet to be uncovered - on its own. Pressure is mounting, at home and abroad, from legislators, regulators and activists, all looking for various ways to nudge and, in some cases, shove Facebook to acknowledge and act on its responsibility as the most powerful distributor of news and information on Earth.

Dr. Yochai Benkler at Harvard hopes Facebook will feel enough heat that it starts offering details of its inner workings. He'd like the company to share data (in a careful, anonymized way) about how information spreads on the network and how advertising is targeted. Independent researchers could then identify the extent of malicious or harmful activity on the site.

"Maybe it turns out that fake news isn't a real concern, but at the moment there is no way for us to know," Dr. Benkler says. "You need an independent understanding of whether the garden has occasional weeds or whether the garden is overrun."

Notable & Quotable is compiled by Graham Osteen. Contact him at graham@theitem.com.