Upload: WeChat censorship and effective altruism

This is today’s issue of the magazine. The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

WeChat users ask Tencent to return their censored accounts

Last week on Weibo, a popular Chinese social network, hundreds of desperate users wrote “confession letters”.

These are urgent requests from people who have been banned from Tencent’s WeChat super app, pleading with representatives to restore their accounts on the service that has become almost an integral part of life in China.

Those affected believe it was because they were discussing a rare political protest in Beijing ahead of the historic 20th Communist Party Congress, which began on Sunday.

Being blocked on WeChat is not a trivial matter. From health QR codes to online subscriptions, people are banned from using a myriad of digital services tied to their accounts, demonstrating how quickly and effectively China’s censorship machine works to silence dissent. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yan

If you are interested in learning more about the latest news from China, subscribe to receive China reportZeyi’s brilliant newsletter lands in your inbox every Tuesday.

Inside effective altruism, where the distant future is more important than the present

Since its inception in the late 2000s, effective altruism has focused on answering the question, “How can those with the means have the most quantitative impact on the world?” — and provided clear methodologies for calculating the answer.

Channeling money into organizations using evidence-based approaches is one of the methods for which this approach is best known. But as it evolved from a philosophy into a movement, so did its ideas about the “best” way to change the world, including unlikely but existential threats to humanity, including AI rebellion and biological warfare.

Not surprisingly, the ideas of effective altruism have long been criticized for reflecting white Western spasiorism and also avoiding structural issues in favor of abstract mathematics. But as believers pour ever larger sums of money into the movement’s increasingly sci-fi ideals, such accusations only intensify. Read the full story.

— Rebecca Ackermann

Required Reading

I scoured the internet to find the most hilarious/important/scary/exciting tech stories to date.

1 How Xi Jinping Became Irresistible
The President of China demands unwavering loyalty. (BBC)
+ His speech at the Congress of the Communist Party did not help to strengthen ties with the West. (FT $)
+ Xi is known as “the chairman of everything”. (New statesman $)
+ Here’s what Xi’s third term will mean for the rest of the world. (Voice)
+ US anti-China restrictions are already biting. (bloomberg)

2 Peter Thiel Pours Millions Of Dollars In The US Midterm Elections
He is obsessed with overthrowing the current political system through right-wing nationalism. (The keeper $)
+ Thiel is reportedly trying to acquire Maltese citizenship. (New York Times $)

3 The Metaverse is already floundering
Meta’s Horizon Worlds just isn’t attractive enough to attract repeat visitors. (WSJ $)
+ Investors are scared too. (Economist $)

4 Should social media platforms do more to help those in crisis?
Platforms are both a potential aggravator of mental disorders and a lifeline, which turns them into a minefield for navigation. (Information $)
+ Establishing a causal relationship between social media and mental illness is extremely difficult. (Wired $)

5 Russians follow an online tutorial to escape Putin’s war
Telegram management wants to help them integrate into new societies. (VP $)
+ Elon Musk has decided that he will continue funding StarLink in Ukraine. (The keeper)
+ Russia resumed strikes in Kyiv. (FT $)
+ Ukraine charms allies for additional donations with humorous videos. (BBC)
+ Russia’s battle to convince people to join its war is fought on Telegram. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Mexico Investigates Whether Buying Spyware Was Legal
The previous Mexican administration bought the Pegasus spyware from the NSO group. (Reuters)
+ The hacker industry is on the threshold of an era. (MIT Technology Review)

7. Gas appliances are still a major problem in the US.
Not only are they mini pollutants, they are also dangerous. (Voice)
+ Climate change has ruined the snow crab season in Alaska. (Motherboard)

8 caregivers track people with dementia using Apple AirTags
Experts are concerned that tracking technologies create a false sense of security. (WSJ $)
+Content about dementia is gaining billions of views on TikTok. Whose story is he telling? (MIT Technology Review)

9. This robot dog is a great goalkeeper
He remains cool even in the face of penalties. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ This robot has just learned to walk. (MIT Technology Review)

10. Internet furious with Dunkin’ Donuts
This will teach them not to interfere with their loyalty program. (Wired $)

Quote of the Day

“He will need to sue anyone doing Pilates online.”

says Christina Gadar, Pilates instructor. The newspaper “New York Times about an ongoing spat with physical therapist Sean Gallagher, who she and others allege unfairly filed copyright infringement complaints regarding their use of Pilates-related material online.

big story

Australia’s plan to bail out larger, more intense wildfires

April 2019

Australia’s colonial history is littered with fires so huge they have their own names. The worst of them, Black Saturday, hit the state of Victoria on February 7, 2009. In just two days, there were fifteen separate fires across the state, resulting in 173 deaths.

While Australia is infamous for spectacular fires, it actually ranks behind the US, Indonesia, Canada, Portugal and Spain when it comes to the economic damage caused by wildfires over the past century.

This is because, while other countries are arguing about how best to solve the problem, the horrors of Black Saturday forced Australia to drastically change its response, one of the most important of which was also one of the most basic: to take a fresh look at what how fire risk is assessed. Read the full story.

— Bianca Nogradi

We can still have good things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction during these strange times. (Any ideas?Write meorwrite me.)

+ Pandas are masters stripping bamboo effectively.
+ Paddy Considine sounds like a pretty good guy.
+ Nothing sacred? Currently Irish dances got into a fraud scandal.
+ Many new movies look forward to? Yes please.
+ i love Mel Skell and his seasonal outfits!

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