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The Download

The Download: China’s disinfection obsession, and US anti-disinformation board woes

Plus: The war in Ukraine caught Russian state TV by surprise

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.

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

In a one-minute video that went viral in China in early May, three government workers in hazmat suits spray disinfectant all over someone’s home: inside the fridge, under the television, over the couch. On social media, Chinese people worried about whether their home would experience the same treatment if they were unlucky enough to catch the virus.

Outside China, people have mostly moved on from worrying about catching covid from surfaces, as study after study has found that the risk is relatively low. But China seems to be stuck in an early-2020 time warp.

Its policy of prioritizing disinfection is part of a wider state-controlled narrative that’s politicizing the health crisis, while also playing into the country’s favored narrative about covid’s origins: that it could have been imported into Wuhan through frozen food. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

The must-reads

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

1 The US anti-disinformation board has fallen victim to disinformation
In a way that underlines both the depth and scale of the problem. (WP $)
+ The board was criticized for failing to shed light on its goals. (Protocol)
 
2  Russian state TV wasn’t prepared for the war in Ukraine
Now it’s racing to fill schedules with Kremlin-approved propaganda. (New Yorker $)
+ Ukraine’s data servers are vital battlegrounds. (FT $)
+ Google’s Russian arm is filing for bankruptcy after local authorities seized its bank account. (FT $)
 
3 Enjoying the crypto crash? You’re not alone.
The ‘joy of missing out’ is very real right now. (The Atlantic $)
+ It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (TR)
+ The crash is unlikely to reduce its effects on climate change. (The Guardian)
+ The downfall of Luna is a cautionary tale for the crypto curious. (NYT $) 
+ Panama’s president wants tougher anti-money laundering measures. (Bloomberg $)
 
4 China’s new censorship tactic is to reveal users’ locations
This is a deeply chilling development. (NYT $)
+ Defiant posts criticizing China’s government are being immortalized on the blockchain. (FT $)
+ Beijing is imposing a lockdown on its residents by stealth. (Foreign Policy)
 
5 Texas’ chaotic social media law will have disastrous consequences 
Unmoderated social media might sound appealing in theory, but it’s horrific in practice. (Ars Technica)
+ The Buffalo shooting video demonstrates why content moderation matters. (WP $)  
 
6 We may finally have the perfect use for graphene
Adding it to concrete could make stronger, greener buildings. (Economist $)
 
7 It’s actually pretty hard to spot a Twitter bot 
But ironically, Elon Musk’s account is a giant magnet for them. (Wired $)
+ Here’s what would happen if Musk chose to walk away from buying Twitter. (WSJ $)

8 Electric cars need better batteries
Shorter charging times and fewer fire risks are high on the wishlist for carmakers. (WP $)
+ Car dealerships are getting smaller and moving online. (Wired $) 
 
9 Robots probably aren’t going to take the jobs you think they will
Despite what Hollywood has told you. (New Yorker $)
 
10 Meet the YouTube thrillseekers riding roller coasters for a living 🎢
Letting us live vicariously through them. (Input)

Quote of the day

“We need doctors. Be a doctor!”

—YouTuber Logan Paul says he doesn't think young people should aim to follow in his footsteps and become influencers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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.)

+ This list of songs that sound suspiciously similar to other songs will get you wondering which you heard first.
+ If you’ve been worrying you’re cheugy, don’t worry—cheugy is cool again!
+ Are these the most stylish coffee shops in the world?
+ Love it or hate it, the indie sleaze rebirth has been documented in a new book.
+ Seeing magic tricks from an alternative angle answers a lot of questions, even if it destroys the mystique.
+ That’s one funny looking sea chicken.
+ All hail dad rock! Send this piece to the prog rock appreciator in your life.

Deep Dive

Biotechnology

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

How do strong muscles keep your brain healthy?

There’s a robust molecular language being spoken between your muscles and your brain.

The quest to show that biological sex matters in the immune system

A handful of immunologists are pushing the field to take attributes such as sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and reproductive tissues into account.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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