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The Download

The Download: cybercriminals’ Pacific paradise, and the carbon offset crash

Plus: global leaders have come to an agreement on broad AI principles

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 a tiny Pacific Island became the global capital of cybercrime

Tokelau, a string of three isolated atolls strung out across the Pacific, is so remote that it was the last place on Earth to be connected to the telephone—only in 1997. Just three years later, the islands received a fax with an unlikely business proposal that would change everything.

It was from an early internet entrepreneur from Amsterdam, named Joost Zuurbier. He wanted to manage Tokelau’s country-code top-level domain, or ccTLD—the short string of characters that is tacked onto the end of a URL—in exchange for money.

In the succeeding years, tiny Tokelau became an unlikely internet giant—but not in the way it may have hoped. Until recently, its .tk domain had more users than any other country’s: a staggering 25 million—but the vast majority were spammers, phishers, and cybercriminals.

Now the territory is desperately trying to clean up .tk. Its international standing, and even its sovereignty, may depend on it. Read the full story.

—Jacob Judah

The growing signs of trouble for global carbon markets

There are growing signs of trouble for the multibillion-dollar global carbon market, as investigative stories and studies continue to erode the credibility of the business world’s go-to tool for cleaning up climate emissions.

The promise of offsets is that companies or individuals can balance out their greenhouse-gas pollution by paying other parties to prevent emissions or remove carbon dioxide from the air. But the evidence is mounting that, rather than producing much-needed climate progress, these schemes are mostly a giant waste of money. Read the full story.

—James Temple

This story is from The Spark, our weekly newsletter covering climate and energy. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

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

1 Global leaders have agreed on some broad AI principles  
But the 28 governments that signed the agreement stopped short of setting clear policy goals. (NYT $)
+ Those vague principles include supporting research and prioritizing safety. (WP $)
+ The US has committed to building an AI Safety Center. (WSJ $)

2 The Hollywood strikes aren’t over yet
Negotiators still haven’t resolved key concerns about AI. (Deadline)

3 A non-profit developed a new gonorrhea-fighting antibiotic
And more are in the pipeline. (Economist $)
+ Why tiny viruses could be our best bet against antimicrobial resistance. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Facebook wants to sell you an ad-free privacy haven
For a mere $10 a month. (Wired $)

5 We’re turning a blind eye to smaller climate disasters
Low-intensity events may be just as crucial to monitor as bigger catastrophes. (The Atlantic $)
+ Climate action is gaining momentum. So are the disasters. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Where have all the SEO experts gone?
They prided themselves on manipulating Google. But Google is still the boss. (The Verge)

7 Electronics firm Foxconn thinks it can make waves in the EV business
It wants to branch out from iPhones. (Bloomberg $)
+ The surprising leader in Europe's EVs. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Facial prosthetics are an under-appreciated art form
They help patients to navigate the world and in some cases, regain lost self-esteem. (FT $)
+ These prosthetics break the mold with third thumbs, spikes, and superhero skins. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Non-player characters are the true stars of Spider-man 2 
The newly-released video game features some seriously weird dialogue. (NY Mag $)
+ Here’s some of their best lines to date. (Wired $)

10 Future wearable devices won’t need batteries
Thanks to experimental electronic skins and flexible sensors. (IEEE Spectrum)

Quote of the day

"If you really knew me, you'd know that I will not sit here for four days and listen to everybody talk about how they're crushing it." 

—An anonymous tech founder opens up in a trust exercise designed to encourage industry leaders to become more vulnerable during an exclusive Californian retreat, Insider reports.

The big story

Inside Alphabet X’s new effort to combat climate change with seagrass

November 2022

For years, Tidal, a project within Alphabet’s “moonshot factory” X division, has been using cameras, computer vision and machine learning to get a better understanding of life beneath the oceans, including monitoring fish off the coast of Norway.

Now, Tidal hopes its system can help preserve and restore the world’s seagrass beds, accelerating efforts to harness the oceans to suck up and store away far more carbon dioxide. Read the full story.

—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.)

Pokémon cards are surprisingly tricky to make.
+ Lightweight styrofoam balls go wild for different sound frequencies.
+ The secret to perfectly creamy mac n cheese? A blender, apparently.
+ The seriously strange history of Ed and Lorraine Warren: the real-life exorcists made famous by the Conjuring horror franchise.
+ Cardboard furniture is a lot more durable—and stylish—than you’d expect.

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: the problem with plug-in hybrids, and China’s AI talent

Plus: Silicon Valley is desperate to snap up top AI talent—before anyone else does

The Download: defining open source AI, and replacing Siri

Plus: the EU has announced a raft of new Big Tech probes

The Download: the mystery of LLMs, and the EU’s Big Tech crackdown

Plus: the trade secret war between China and the US is hotting up

The Download: new AI regulations, and a running robot

Plus: Nvidia has unveiled a whole load of new AI chips

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

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