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The Download

The Download: The grim spread of the Buffalo shooting video, and crypto’s tough test

Plus: Shanghai has announced its lockdown-easing plan

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.

Social media platforms are still struggling to stop the spread of the Buffalo shooting video

Social media platforms are still struggling to stop the spread of the video of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday that left 10 people dead, most of them Black. It’s symptomatic of their failure to curb the online sharing of the sorts of racist ideologies that inspired the attack, experts say.

The 18-year-old gunman broadcast the shooting in a grocery store in a predominately Black suburban area to the streaming platform Twitch on Saturday morning. Although Twitch took down the livestream within two minutes from the start of the attack, a recording of the video was swiftly posted on a site called Streamable. That video was viewed more than 3 million times before it was taken down, according to the New York Times. Links to the recording were shared across Facebook and Twitter, and another clip that purported to show the gunman firing at people in the supermarket was visible on Twitter more than four hours after being uploaded. Additionally, TikTok users shared search terms that would take viewers to the full video on Twitter, according to Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz.

Although Twitch removed the livestream in less time than the 17 minutes it took Facebook to take down the live broadcast of the 2019 mosque shooting. in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 51 people died, the rate at which the recordings were able to spread across the internet shows little has changed. A 180-page manifesto uploaded by the suspect to Google Docs last Thursday credited the 4chan community for his radicalization in white supremacy and repeatedly cited the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory—which many social media companies pledged to eliminate from their platforms in the wake of the Christchurch attack.

The prevalence of terrorist content on social media demonstrates the platforms’ failure to prioritize user safety, says Imran Ahmed, CEO at the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “We have been victims of the greedy, desiccated indifference of social media companies for too long, the burden having been borne by societies rather than companies themselves,” he says. “It’s about time governments stepped in to ensure platforms put people before profits and ensure their platforms are not so easily weaponized by white supremacists and preachers of terrorism.”

Rhiannon Williams

Crypto is weathering a bitter storm. Some still hold on for dear life.

One shiny premise of DeFi ,or decentralized finance—a catch-all term for cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects related to the exchange of value—is that by spreading out and automating operations, and removing power from middlemen like banks, it can offer a system more resilient to global forces.

But with the traditional market slipping dramatically and Big Tech stocks plummeting, that theory of resilience is getting a real-life road test—and the results are not great. Read the full story.

—Rebecca Ackermann

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

As self-driving cars become more common, and we grow used to the sight of vehicles driving around without a human behind the wheel, the question of how we know who’s driving will become increasingly serious. The rooftop lidar sensors that currently mark many of them out are likely to become smaller, making it easier for the vehicles to hide in plain sight. But if they ever hit our roads for real, other (human) drivers need to know exactly where they are and what they’re dealing with. Read the full story.

By Jack Stilgoe, a professor of science and technology policy at University College London.

The must-reads

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

1 Shanghai wants to end its covid lockdown on 1 June 
Exhausted residents must be hoping that reality complies with official aspirations. (The Guardian)
+ Daily cases in the city have dropped to their lowest level in 52 days. (SCMP)
+ China’s economy has paid the price for the nation’s zero-covid policy. (Bloomberg $)

2 Abortion rights activists are starting to accept crypto donations
But paying for abortions using crypto could expose both the people getting the abortions and the donors. (NYT $)+ After a wild week, no one seems to know what’s in store for crypto. (WP $)
+ One of crypto’s most influential chief executives says he has no confidence in Bitcoin as a payments network. (FT $)
+ The crypto crash could be just the tip of the recession iceberg. (The Atlantic $)

3 Chinese TikTok users are hero-worshiping Putin 
The reality of Russia’s brutality in Ukraine has been heavily censored in China as well as Russia. (Foreign Policy)
+ But even pro-Russia bloggers reported its military failure in the Donets last week. (NYT $)

4 Elon Musk’s free-speech vision for Twitter could spell trouble in India
The country has a huge hate speech problem, aided and abetted by powerful politicians. (WP $)+ Texas’ social media law will allow extremist content to flourish, tech groups say. (Bloomberg $)
+ Musk claims he’s been told off by Twitter’s legal team for violating an NDA. (The Hill)

5 Photo sharing apps are a welcome respite for social-media-fatigued teens
But share some of the same old risks. (WP $)

6 Advertisers are still able to target ethnic groups on Facebook 
Despite a policy change that was supposed to prevent it from happening. (The Markup)

7 NFTs are a new way to make money for dead artists’ estates
But some are more like a frame than a work of art. (New Yorker $)

8 The hardest part of flying a car is knowing where to land it
Which means the new industry may have to rely on aerospace companies. (WSJ $)+ Private plane usage surged during the pandemic. (BBC)+ Tesla’s success has inspired a whole host of new electric vehicles and boats. (NYT $)

9 This math formula tells you the perfect time to turn up at a party
It all hinges on how punctual your friends are. (The Atlantic $) 

10 Spreadsheets are now cool
You can thank/blame TikTok. (FT $)

Quote of the day

“Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”

—An open letter from more than 1,400 current and former Apple employees resisting the company’s new rule requiring workers to return to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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.)

+ Nothing but respect for whoever records concerts on their Nintendo 3DS.
+ The cello made entirely out of chocolate looks both functional and delicious.
+ In a scene worthy of Hitchcock, a circus in London has been divebombed by crows.
+ A heartwarming (and tearjerking) reminder of what makes cats such special companions.
+ This couples’ costume is simply outstanding.
+ I wouldn’t like to bump into these wildlife sculptures in a dark alleyway.
+ Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson if ya nasty) is 56 today! Take a look back at her iconic career.

Deep Dive

Humans and technology

windows desktop with anime image from Wallpaper Engine
windows desktop with anime image from Wallpaper Engine

Chinese gamers are using a Steam wallpaper app to get porn past the censors

Wallpaper Engine has become a haven for ingenious Chinese users who use it to smuggle adult content as desktop wallpaper. But how long can it last?

image of library due date card on fire over black background
image of library due date card on fire over black background

The book ban movement has a chilling new tactic: harassing teachers on social media

Educators who stand up to conservative activists are being harassed and called “groomers” online, turning them into potential targets for real-world violence.

psychedlic experience via VR headset concept
psychedlic experience via VR headset concept

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.

Chinese livestreamer and beauty influencer Li Jiaqi, also known as "king of lipstick," is seen in a subway station in Shanghai
Chinese livestreamer and beauty influencer Li Jiaqi, also known as "king of lipstick," is seen in a subway station in Shanghai

How China’s biggest online influencers fell from their thrones

Three top livestreaming personalities on the platform Taobao commanded legions of fans who bought billions of dollars’ worth of goods—until they suddenly went dark.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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