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The Download

The Download: Malaysia’s LGBTQ activists, and 4Chan’s toxic AI

Plus: A new EU deal will force Apple to change how iPhones charge from 2024

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.

Meet the LGBTQ activists fighting to be themselves online in Malaysia

Nur Sajat Kamaruzzaman has been a public figure in Malaysia for well over a decade. Classically beautiful, she has built a following of hundreds of thousands on Instagram. But as a trans woman living in conservative Islamic Malaysia, her online popularity—and the opportunities it afforded her—only grew in parallel with the risks.

Vile online abuse escalated into accusations she was to blame for the outbreak of covid-19 in Malaysia, death threats, and eventually being arrested and charged with “insulting Islam.” Earlier this year, she fled to Australia to escape a court hearing.

Although Nur Sajat’s story is by far the most high-profile, it is just one of many that illustrate how online platforms have evolved into a double-edged sword for Malaysia’s LGBTQ communities. 

Despite creating invaluable opportunities for LGBTQ people to connect, communicate, and advocate for their rights, online participation also leaves them exposed to censorship, surveillance, and attack. Read the full story.

—Megan Tatum

The must-reads

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

1 An AI trained on 4Chan spews out toxic hate speech
Considering the material it was trained on, this outcome was depressingly inevitable. (Motherboard)
+ AI still sucks at moderating hate speech. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Apple is going to have to change how it charges iPhones
A new deal requires all phones sold in the European Union to use USB-C ports by 2024. (The Verge)
+ iPhones sold in the UK won’t have to comply with the demand. (BBC)
+ It’s good news for reducing electronic waste. (Protocol)

3 There’s a fight brewing over crypto mining in New York 🗽
And crypto enthusiasts are worrying other states may follow suit. (NYT $)
+ How Bitcoin mining devastated this New York town. (MIT Technology Review)
+ The crypto industry is happy about its newly-proposed regulator. (WP $)

4 How the Amazon’s rivers made it a biodiversity haven
Creating lush microenvironments for wildlife to thrive in. (Quanta)
+ We aren’t terrified enough about losing the Amazon. (MIT Technology Review)

5 These YouTubers are exposing the video games industry’s failings
And they’re facing plenty of backlash along the way. (WP $)

6 Disinformation is running rampant in Kenya ahead of its elections
Including attempts to stoke ethnic tensions. (Rest of World)

7 Neptune is a mystery
And it’s possible it may stay that way until into the 2050s. (The Atlantic $)
+ On the other hand, we’ll get an indepth look at Venus in 2030. (Inverse)
+ Space debris is a growing problem. (FT $)

8 How a fake juror in the Depp v Heard trial went viral
And contributed to the slew of cruel anti-Heard content circulating online. (CNN)

9 What the lived experiences of people with schizophrenia can teach us
First-person accounts of delusions help experts understand how they actually work. (Wired $)

10 How TikTok turned Gen Z into bookworms 📖
And gave the publishing industry a vital shot in the arm. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“We can do this without the technology, but why would we? We’re using technology in a way that doesn’t conflict with our morals.”

—Ben, an office manager who is Amish, discusses how his company makes millions of dollars selling products online, reports Wired.

The big story

A nonprofit promised to preserve wildlife. Then it made millions claiming it could cut down trees

May 2021

The Massachusetts Audubon Society has long managed its land as a crucial wildlife habitat. But in 2015, the conservation nonprofit presented California’s top climate regulator with a startling proposal: to heavily log 9,700 acres of its preserved forests over the next few years.

The nonprofit received more than 600,000 carbon credits, which allow polluters to emit more CO2 than they’d otherwise be allowed to under state law, in exchange for its promise. The vast majority were sold through intermediaries to oil and gas companies, and the group earned about $6 million from the sales. On paper, the deal was a success. The fossil fuel companies were able to emit more CO2 while abiding by California’s emissions laws. But it didn’t work out as well for the climate. Read the full story.

—Lisa Song and James Temple

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.)

+ There’s no reading this player’s poker face.
+ The children’s authors of times gone by often lived incredibly dark and unusual lives.
+ A rare albino Galapagos giant tortoise has been born in Switzerland—the first to ever hatch in captivity.
+ Women writers list the life-changing books they read in their twenties—shout out to The Bloody Chamber.
+ Here’s a fascinating insight into what it’s like to excavate a dinosaur skeleton in Wyoming.

Deep Dive

Humans and technology

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

How Twitter’s “Teacher Li” became the central hub of China protest information

In his own words, the Chinese painter shares how he became a one-person newsroom during a week of intense protests against China's zero-covid policy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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