The Download: befriending crows, and Twitter under Musk

The Download: befriending crows, and Twitter under Musk
After her older children go to school, the crows play hide and seek with Nicole Steinke. She feeds her family of birds twice daily from her apartment balcony in Alexandria. They’ll search for her when there isn’t any food left and follow her around her neighborhood. If one crow spots her, it will call out to the others and surround her. The CrowTok social video app has made crows minor celebrities. CrowTok is a niche that has seen a lot of activity over the past two year and has seen a huge increase in popularity. CrowTok isn’t just about birds. It often explores the relationships corvids (a family of birds that includes crows and magpies as well as ravens) have with humans.

Corvids are intelligent, and they communicate well with humans. How easy is it to get along with them? What can it teach us about patience and attention in a world that seems to lack both? Read full story .

–Abby Ohlheiser

Elon Musk doesn’t know what it takes to make a digital town square

It was in 2009 when the power of Twitter really became evident. The site became a crucial tool for global activists when some Iranians used Twitter to tweet through the country’s election. It was the foundation for later movements that relied on Twitter to communicate information and gain support.

Now, if Elon Musk, the new platform’s official “Chief Twit”, sticks to his stated plans for overhauling a series platform policies, those very users, who are arguably the ones who made Twitter what it has become, could be at greatest risk. He has indicated that he wants the platform to adhere to the local laws of all governments, including authoritarian ones, to reduce efforts to combat disinformation and to weaken the anonymity protections that protect activists around the globe. Read full story .

By Jillian C. York, Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I made it big on Twitter. Now, I don’t believe I can stay. For a long time, Mikki Kendall decided to stay on Twitter. Twitter could change your life. She broke big on Twitter more than 10 years ago with a hashtag, #solidarityisforwhitewomen. It was a great opportunity for her career. She had unprecedented access to the editors that made her a published author and a global audience.

But she has been tweeting less frequently since Elon Musk bought it. While she used to socialize on the platform regularly, TikTok and Instagram are becoming more popular ways to spend time online. Harassment and lack of time are both partly to blame. However, those who used Twitter to build a professional, sustain their careers, or just to connect with others, the real question is: What’s next? Read the complete story .

The must-reads

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

1 Big Tech is becoming boring
As stocks drop, so does Wall Street’s appetite for zanier, riskier ventures. (Vox)
The tech boom the pandemic triggered is well and truly over. (Bloomberg $)
The tech stock decline is bad news for US pensions. (The Guardian)
Advertisers are spending less money on social media, too. (FT $)
Tech’s richest have lost close to half a trillion dollars this year. (WSJ $)

2 Several new covid variants vying for dominance
Their ability to skirt our existing immunity is a real problem. (The Atlantic $)
Variants tend to spread across Europe before the US. (Slate $)
Vaccines that prolong the immune response could give better protection. (New Scientist $)
Is a covid and flu “twindemic” on the horizon? (MIT Technology Review)

3 Twitter is planning to start charging for verification
Elon Musk reckons people will cough up $20 a month for the privilege. (The Verge)
Musk is reportedly planning to lay off 25% of Twitter’s staff. (WP $)

4 Stop the Steal’s organizer is whipping up dissent in Brazil
Ali Alexander is mobilizing Brazilians after Lula beat Bolsonaro to the presidency. (Insider $)
Social media chatter in El Salvador is leading to mass arrests. (Rest of World)
How claims of voter fraud in 2020 were supercharged by bad science. (MIT Technology Review)

6 How cryptography can help sexual assault survivors to get justice
Systems that share data securely are being used to build cases against repeat offenders. (The Guardian)

7 We’re still in the dark over how TikTok affects our mental health
But it seems important to find out. (The Guardian)
For many teens, the app is a gateway to self-diagnosis. (NYT $)
Dementia content gets billions of views on TikTok. It tells a story. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Eric Schmidt is worried by China’s rapid AI advances
He wants the US government to spend a lot more money on AI research in response. (Protocol)
Do AI systems need to come with safety warnings? (MIT Technology Review)

9 This artist has been creating memes since the 1970s
But Jenny Holzer isn’t done sharing her artistic visions yet. (WSJ $)

10 Why a little bit of fear is good for us
Denmark’s Recreational Fear Lab is digging into the science of it. (Slate $)
Silicon Valley’s elite are rich pickings for trick-or-treaters. (Economist $)

“The market has changed. Everything has changed completely.”–Vieje Piauwasdy, a director at equity planning provider Secfi, explains the challenges facing startups as funding withers in the harsh economic climate to the New York Times.

Quote for the day

” The market has changed. Everything has changed

–Vieje Piauwasdy, a director at equity planning provider Secfi, explains the challenges facing startups as funding withers in the harsh economic climate to the New York Times.

The big story

Alina Chan tweeted life into the idea that the virus came from a lab.


June 2021

Alina Chan started asking questions in March 2020. She was talking to friends on Facebook about the virus spreading from China. It was odd that people claimed it came from a food market, she thought. If this were true, then why hasn’t anyone found infected animals? She wondered why no one was allowing another possibility. To her, it seemed obvious that the outbreak could have been caused by a lab accident.

Chan works as a postdoc at the Broad Institute’s gene therapy lab. This prestigious institute is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is affiliated with both Harvard University and MIT. Throughout 2020, Chan relentlessly stoked scientific argument and doubts, and wasn’t afraid to pit her brain against the best virologists in the world. Her persistence was a major factor in changing the minds of some researchers, and her views are now widely accepted. She’s unlikely to live a normal, happy life again anytime soon. Read the full story.

–Antonio Regalado

Read More