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The Download

The Download: China is sticking to its zero-covid plan, and how Ukraine is rebuilding its destroyed cities

Plus: Pro-choice fundraisers are turning to Web 3

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

China is sticking to its zero-covid lockdown policy

Shanghai and Beijing, China’s two largest cities, are tightening covid restrictions on residents as part of the country’s continued commitment to its zero-covid strategy, despite growing public anger. 

Despite no formal announcement in Shanghai, some residents in at least four of the city’s 16 districts were issued notices forbidding them from leaving their homes or receiving deliveries over the weekend, while shops including grocers closed their doors to customers, Reuters reports.

The measures form part of China’s strict adherence to zero-covid, despite case numbers falling in Shanghai for the tenth consecutive day. Authorities are anxious to avoid a new spike after weeks of grueling lockdowns that left many housebound residents struggling to secure food delivery slots. Growing frustrations with the brutal quarantine rules caused people to stage nightly protests, clash with police and to circumvent government censors to share WeChat videos depicting the lockdown’s human toll in the city.

Now cases are dropping in Shanghai, the Chinese government appears to be taking no chances in Beijing, closing gyms, bus routes and preventing dining inside restaurants. Cases are rising, albeit modestly compared with the same point in Shanghai’s outbreak, with 49 new locally transmitted cases reported on Sunday. This brings the total number of infections in the city to more than 760 since April 22, Reuters reports. Daily testing for the virus, another measure adopted from Shanghai, has been touted as the city’s best line of defense in preventing a mass outbreak.

China’s rigid zero-covid strategy is increasingly a global outlier, as many other countries ease or abandon restriction policies. It is also damaging China's economy, with export growth slowing sharply during April as the lockdowns bite, the FT reports.

—Rhiannon Williams

The must-reads

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

1 Ukraine is swiftly rebuilding the cities Russia destroyed
An army of volunteers is clearing rubble and repairing damaged buildings in Bucha, Kharkiv and other cities in eastern Ukraine as an act of defiance. (WP $)
+ How Putin hijacked Russia’s Victory Day for his own means. (NYT $)
+ Putin claims Russian troops in the east of Ukraine are “defending the motherland.” (BBC)
 
2 Abortion rights activism has found a new home in Web 3
Organizers are raising money for pro-choice causes by selling NFTs of cowgirls. (WP $)
+ Here’s what the future for restoring national abortion rights protections could look like. (Vox)

3 The world can’t ignore India’s heat wave
Developing countries are suffering the brunt of global warming, despite playing little part in its escalation. (The Atlantic $)
+ How climate change is worsening India’s already brutal heat waves. (TR)
+ “Energy independence” theories are overtaking climate denial on Facebook. (Protocol)
 
4 For some Twitter users, anonymity is crucial for survival
Plans to authenticate real human users will erode the anonymity activists in oppressive regimes rely upon. (Rest of World)
+ Elon Musk has benefited from the Twitter spam bots he wants to ban. (WP $)
+ His grand plans for the company include quintupling its revenue. (NYT $) 
 
5 How covid incapacitated algorithms
It wasn’t all down to human error, either. (Slate $)
+ Our pandemic behavior broke AI models. (TR)

6 Bali is becoming a magnet for crypto bros
Its tropical lifestyle is proving irresistible to “digital nomads” bored of corporate cities. (FT $)
+ Crypto prices took a pummeling over the weekend. (WSJ $)
+ Inevitably, Instagram could be getting into NFTs. (Coindesk)
 
7 Motherhood is riven with gender-biased assumptions
And it’s society’s stigma, rather than science, that’s the obstacle to supporting non-normative mothers. (Wired $)
+ Instagram’s infertility influencers can isolate the very users they claim to help. (Wired $)
 
8 TikTok’s relentless work culture left former employees feeling burnt out
The company’s reported insistence on absolute secrecy is extreme, even in tech. (WSJ $)
 
9 Black holes’ pressure waves sound pretty scary
Astronomers have converted the waves into an eerie, echoing sound. (NYT $)

10 Feminist zine-style media is dwindling in the digital age
What will take its place? (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“I told him to get lost. I didn’t even consider it.”

— Oleksandr Vilkul, a Ukrainian politician, tells the New York Times why he refused an offer to cooperate with the Russians from a pro-Russian former colleague.

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.)

+ I enjoyed watching this marker pen drawing of New York come to life.
+ There’s a hidden sarcophagus in a house in London, which is… completely normal.
+ I may never get over this story about a plastic bag masquerading as a lion.
+ A mini pick-me-up: a puppy waving at itself in a mirror (thanks Mike!)
+ Why is the internet obsessed with labeling trends?
+ Enjoy this account of the making of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St’s 50th anniversary.
+ Ncuti Gatwa’s casting as the new Doctor Who promises to be a breath of fresh air.

Deep Dive

Humans and technology

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

The 1,000 Chinese SpaceX engineers who never existed

LinkedIn users are being scammed of millions of dollars by fake connections posing as graduates of prestigious universities and employees at top tech companies.

Social media is polluting society. Moderation alone won’t fix the problem

Companies already have the systems in place that are needed to evaluate their deeper impacts on the social fabric.

The fight for “Instagram face”

Meta banned filters that “encourage plastic surgery,” but a massive demand for beauty augmentation on social media is complicating matters.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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