The Download, Mar 7, 2017: Facebook’s Offensive Oversights, Friendly Ride-Hailing, and Poachers Who Hack

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Mar 7, 2017

Three Things You Need to Know Today

Mark Zuckerberg’s Inappropriate Content Headache
Facebook still struggles to tame offensive material. An investigation by the BBC reveals that the social network failed to take down sexualized images of children when their presence was reported. Critics have argued that a lack of resources to police such issues may be to blame, and they may have a point: new reports suggest that Facebook’s Live video feature, for instance, was rushed out in two months, leaving employees little time to plan how to deal with inappropriate content. Mark Zuckerberg hopes AI will help, but for now more human intervention may not hurt.

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The Friendly Face of Ride-Hailing
In Austin, Texas, you can’t hail an Uber or Lyft. Almost a year ago, the city insisted that ride-hailers must comply with security laws imposed on regular taxi drivers—regulations that the two companies said would be unsustainable to operate under given their lean business models. The upshot: a new kind of small, home-grown ride-hailer has begun to emerge, perhaps the most innovative of which is RideAustin—a nonprofit that pays riders well, hands profits to charities, and is growing fast. Uber could learn a lot from it.

Increasing Crop Yields When Sunshine Fades
Feeding 9 billion people is daunting—so what's the best way to continue raising crop yields? A new study shows that over a quarter of the increase in yields in the U.S. corn belt since the 1930s was down to solar brightening, a potentially pollution-driven phenomenon in which increased solar radiation reaches the ground. Researchers warn that the effect could disappear with little notice, though, and a new UN report also argues that negative repercussions of widespread pesticide use aren't outweighed by benefits to food production. GM plants may have to take up the baton.

Ten Fascinating Things 

Nobody likes a backseat driver. Unless, that is, it’s a robotic guardian angel designed to save the unobservant from disaster.

Grow more trees and they’ll soak up plenty of excess CO2, so the theory goes. But the effect may not be quite as pronounced as climate scientists had hoped.

Here’s why Trump’s new travel ban still stands to damage science and technology.

Hyperloop One has built its first super-fast tubular test track in Nevada. Now it just needs to work out how to use it.

Need a place to stay? A San Francisco startup can 3-D print an entire house in a day.

Joshua Browder made his name with a law app called DoNotPay, designed to help people avoid paying parking fines. Now he’s helping refugees to claim asylum.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is the world’s richest doctor and a keen philanthropist. But, Stat reports, donated millions flow straight back into his own business.

Pumped hydro energy storage is an old idea: trap water, then use it to drive turbines later on. Now, tests show that underwater storage spheres could take the idea to sea.

Electronic tracking can help ecologists keep tabs on animals. But poachers are taking up hacking to turn the technology to their own gain.

Is Silicon Valley sexism a feature, not a bug?

Quote of the Day 

"There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens."

— Social psychologist Adam Alter suggests a new tactic for overcoming our addiction to screen time.