The Download: Language-preserving AI, and hackers showed it’s frighteningly easy to breach critical infrastructure

Spilling Silicon Valley’s secrets, one tweet at a time

Shortly after midnight on May 4, 2018, Jane Manchun Wong tweeted her first “finding” ever. “Twitter is working on End-to-End Encrypted Secret DM!” she wrote.

That tweet was the first of many that Wong would send out. By going into public source code for companies like Twitter and Facebook, she has been able to find out what features and projects are secretly working on before they announce it.

A young woman of color exposing the plans of a Big Tech firm without any tools apart from her own ability to reverse-engineer code was (and is) pretty radical—and it’s changed the way tech companies work. Read the full story.

—Tanya Basu

Quote of the day

“We think we are fighting fascism, but there isn’t fascism there. There isn’t.” 

—Sergei Klokov, a driver at Moscow’s police headquarters, criticized Russia’s activities in Ukraine during a phone call to a friend shortly before he was arrested, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The must-reads

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

1 We need to prepare for the war in Ukraine to last indefinitely

It’s been eight weeks since the invasion, with no sign of a conclusion to the conflict. (Foreign Affairs)
Ukraine is concerned that Chinese-made drones are sabotaging its defenses. (WSJ $)
Russia has banned Kamala Harris and other US officials from entering the country. (Reuters)
Russian troops are blockading a steel mill with 2,000 Ukrainian fighters inside. (NYT $)
The World Bank is anticipating a catastrophic global food crisis. (BBC)
Russia plans to “falsify” an independence referendum in southern Ukraine, says Zelensky. (The Guardian)

2 Elon Musk says he’s lined up $46.5 billion to buy Twitter
Which is an awful lot of money, even for someone as wealthy as him. (WSJ $)
He says he wants free speech on the platform, but he’s spent years trying to silence his own critics is pretty thin-skinned to criticism. (Bloomberg $)
Musk also appears dead-set on turning back time to when tweets had fewer consequences. (New Yorker $)

3 Zero-day hacks are the rich cybercriminal’s weapon of choice
They’re eye-wateringly expensive, but incredibly effective. (TR)
Google is fixing more zero-day flaws targeting Chrome. (ZDNet)

4 Microbial jet fuel could help cut carbon emissions from flying 🍃
If (a big if) it can be proven to work at scale. (TR)
Another way to lower greenhouse emissions? Sue the producers. (The Economist $)

5 The EU is set to announce a new law forcing Big Tech to police illegal content
If it goes through, it means they’ll no longer be allowed to mark their own homework. (FT $)
It could leave the biggest companies vulnerable to fines of billions of dollars. (Bloomberg $)
As ever, the biggest companies are less than thrilled by the prospect. (Bloomberg $)
And marketers won’t be happy either. (The Drum $)

6 Regulation alone can’t combat disinformation
Disinformation is dangerous, but flawed methods to tackle it can be terrible too. (The Atlantic $)
YouTube is more likely to reinforce extreme views than to introduce you to them. (NYT $)
Big Tech has made democracy more vulnerable, Obama says. (WP $)

7 Sheryl Sandberg reportedly persuaded journalists not to write about her then-boyfriend
Partly because it would have harmed her reputation as a champion of women. (WSJ $)

8 Someone in the UK has had covid for more than a year
Doctors say we need better treatments for people battling persistent infections. (The Guardian)
New global covid cases were down by nearly a quarter last week. (The Guardian)

9 Installing smart home tech in rental properties is a thorny privacy issue
On one hand, it’s convenient. On the other: it’s a web-enabled surveillance network. (WSJ $)
Amazon thinks home tech is a safer bet than expanding into the metaverse. (FT $)

10 What it’s like to receive an email from your past self 📧
It’s a lovely way to reflect on your achievements, and the future. (The Guardian)

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