Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Download: Russia is spreading misinformation about chemical weapons in Ukraine

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Tensions between Russia and NATO escalated over the weekend after Russia launched a barrage of attacks against a military base in Ukraine that’s located just 11 miles from the Polish border, killing at least 35 people. Poland is a member of NATO, raising fears the conflict could spread beyond Ukraine. 

The war on the ground is inevitably mirrored and accompanied by a fierce battle over the information people see online. The White House briefed TikTok stars about the war last week, in a nod to the significant role the platform has been playing throughout the war so far.

The information getting through to Russians is increasingly tightly controlled and filtered amid a broad crackdown on dissent inside the country. A block on Instagram comes into force today, and Facebook and Twitter have been cut off in Russia too. 

In the West, many tech platforms are giving up on the illusion of neutrality. Facebook has lifted its ban on calls for violence in the case of Russian soldiers, and even DuckDuckGo, which has previously promoted itself as apolitical and neutral, has announced it will start downranking sites associated with Russian disinformation (a decision that provoked a swift backlash from the far-right.)

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Parts of China have gone back into lockdown
A surge of cases in Shenzhen is likely to be linked to the crisis in neighboring Hong Kong. (Bloomberg $)
  + Foxconn has had to shut its plants. (FT $)
  + South Korea reported over 380,000 new cases in just one day. (NYT $)
  + Covid is not over yet. In fact, some countries still haven’t even got through the worst of it. (NY Mag)
  + It’s been two years since covid-19 became a pandemic. (TR)
  + A better pandemic response would have saved millions of lives. (NYT $)
  + Vaccinating kids has never been easy for any disease. (The Atlantic $) 

2 Tech companies are racing to hire Ukrainians
The country has a well-respected tech sector with a deep pool of talented people. (CNBC)
  + Meanwhile, tech workers are fleeing Russia, along with much of its middle class. (Rest of World

3 Can you inherit cryptocurrency?
In theory, yes. In practice it’s often impossible. (Vox)
  + How people make (and lose!) money from crypto. (Wired $)
  + It’s a year since Beeple’s $69 million NFT sale. (NBC)
  + Some NFT myths, busted. (Wired $) 

4 Facebook office workers are going to have to start doing their own laundry
My heart bleeds, it really does. (NYT $)
  + Facebook has a major child safety problem. (Wired $)  

5 What Google Search doesn’t show you 🔍
It’s getting worse, yet it’s so deeply embedded now that we struggle to imagine using anything else. (New Yorker $)

6 Your Uber journeys are going to get even more expensive
It’s implementing a fuel surcharge to offset rising gas costs. (WP $)
  + To weather the Putin price hike, Americans could try driving a bit slower. (The Atlantic $) 

7 Where does captured CO2 go?
Shipping companies are rushing to join in the nascent carbon capture boom. (IEEE Spectrum)
  + The plant that captures carbon from the air. (TR

8 Your bosses start spying on you before you even start 👀
Delete those embarrassing social media posts. (The Economist $)

9 The psychology that explains why conspiracy theories take off
They can be a collective response to threats. (Wired $)
  + Gen Z isn’t immune to misinformation. TikTokers are trying to set them straight. (NBC)
  + How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind. (TR

10 How Chico the cow went from social media star to therapist 🐮
And helped to heal a regretful game designer in the process. (The Atlantic $)

“It is an epidemic in the making.” 

—Felicia Grondin, the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, tells Recode that Americans should be more worried about the explosive growth of gambling apps.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

  • An amazing photo of the International Space Station crossing the moon.
  • How BBC 6 Music became the UK’s coolest radio station.
  • Read the story of the one-legged Paralympic snowboarder who built an ingenious prosthetic for himself—and his opponents.
  • Another Batman-related ranked list! This one’s of the villains
  • If you haven’t read Vanity Fair’s bonkers interview with Grimes (in which she reveals she has a second, secret baby with Elon Musk), now’s your chance.
  • RIP Mary Coombs, the first woman to program a commercial computer. 
  • If you’re also a sucker for red carpet snaps, check out the ones taken at the BAFTAs last night.

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