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The Download

The Download: Open source censorship in China, and US kids are more anxious than ever

Plus: Immigrants are being made to feel like prisoners by digital surveillance programs

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.

How censoring China’s open-source coders might backfire

Earlier this month, thousands of software developers in China woke up to find that their open-source code hosted on Gitee, a state-backed Chinese competitor to the international code repository platform GitHub, had been locked and hidden from public view.

Gitee released a statement later that day explaining that the locked code was being manually reviewed, as all open-source code would need to be before being published from then on. The company “didn’t have a choice,” it wrote. Gitee didn’t respond to MIT Technology Review, but it is widely assumed that the Chinese government had imposed yet another bit of heavy-handed censorship.

For the open-source software community in China, which celebrates transparency and global collaboration, the move has come as a shock. Code was supposed to be apolitical. Ultimately, these developers fear it could discourage people from contributing to open-source projects, and China’s software industry will suffer as a result. 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 America’s children are more anxious than ever
And it runs deeper than the pandemic. (NYT $)
+ The relentless stream of bad news is making us all feel bad. (Wired $)
+ How to mend your broken pandemic brain. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Digital surveillance programs make immigrants feel like prisoners
They’re touted as a more humane alternative to detention, but ankle tags carry stigma and stoke anxiety. (Coda Story)
+ The CIA and US military are spending huge amounts of money on metaverse projects. (The Intercept)

3 The Wikipedia editor exposing the predatory world of cryptomania
That doesn’t mean she’s reveling in its current implosion. (WP $)+ Six months into the crypto crash, investors are making the same mistakes. (Motherboard
+ Fraudsters are using a deepfake of Elon Musk to steal crypto. (Motherboard)
+ This crypto reality dating show sounds like a parody of itself.
(Input Mag

4 A new ancestry-predicting DNA tool is solving missing-people mysteries 🧬
But experts are wary that DNA phenotyping could further fuel racial discrimination in policing. (NYT $) 
+ Our museums are a treasure trove of genomic data. (Ars Technica)

5 Peter Thiel is bankrolling Trumpian Republicans in the midterm elections
The vast fortune he’s amassed in tech is proving highly influential in crowning the party’s next leader. (The Guardian)

6 Logistics companies are using tracking tech to stop thieves stealing baby formula
The nationwide shortage has made infant formula a highly-prized target. (WSJ $)+ The scarcity isn’t showing any signs of letting up. (New Yorker $)
+ The baby formula shortage has birthed a shady online marketplace. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Decarbonizing climate change projects are gathering steam
Pulling carbon from the sky and locking it in mountains might be one way to do it. (Spectrum IEEE)
+ Carbon removal hype is becoming a dangerous distraction. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Virtual reality is enchanting Nigeria’s care home residents

Dance, music and therapy sessions are providing them with a portal into other worlds. (The Guardian)

9 How a mathematical formula can make you a better Wordle player
Hint: you may have to guess words you know aren’t the answer. (Quanta)

10 The internet is a love language ❤️
Sharing articles, posts and memes is a foundation of many modern relationships. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“I have nothing left, not even a penny.”

—Mudasir, a crypto investor from Pakistan, tells Rest of World how they lost everything after buying TerraUSD, a stablecoin which has plummeted in the past fortnight.

The big story

Uyghurs outside China are traumatized. Now they’re starting to talk about it

June 2021

The Uyghur diaspora have been forced to watch from afar as their loved ones disappear and a way of life is erased. The trauma has sparked a mental health crisis that leaders in the diaspora say is all too apparent. 

Many are reticent to seek help, leaving the community’s needs both underassessed and unmet. But a small group of outspoken Uyghurs is trying to change that. Using social media, they’re starting conversations about grief and mental health and, through telehealth, connecting people across the country with volunteer therapists. Its creators hope that it will help foster resilience in the diaspora—and provide a lifeline to a community during its darkest hour. Read the full story.

—Andrew McCormick

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 cat version of Seven Nation Army is exactly what we need on a Monday.
+ Improve the speed and accuracy of your typing by practicing on your favorite classic literature with this website—how many words per minute can you reach?
+ The Fifth Element did a surprisingly good job of predicting the future (kinda.)
+ Here’s some of the fun ways in which TikTok has wholeheartedly embraced Harry Styles’ new album. + Artist Kelsey Oseid created a tiny museum-like diorama in her wall, and it’s wonderful. (Thanks Danny!)

Deep Dive

Computing

Erik Prince wants to sell you a “secure” smartphone that’s too good to be true

MIT Technology Review obtained Prince’s investor presentation for the “RedPill Phone,” which promises more than it could possibly deliver.

Corruption is sending shock waves through China’s chipmaking industry

The arrests of several top semiconductor fund executives could force the government to rethink how it invests in the sector.

Inside the software that will become the next battle front in US-China chip war

The US has moved to restrict export of EDA software. What is it, and how will the move affect China?

Hackers linked to China have been targeting human rights groups for years

In a new report shared exclusively with MIT Technology Review, researchers expose a cyber-espionage campaign on “a tight budget” that proves simple can still be effective.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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