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The Download: Trolling text scammers, and China’s social media censorship

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The Download: Trolling text scammers, and China’s social media censorship

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.

The people using humor to troll their spam texts

The other night, I received a mysterious WhatsApp message. “Dr. Kevin?” it began, the question mark suggesting the sender felt bad for interrupting my evening. “My puppy is very slow and won’t eat dog food. Can you make an appointment for me?”

I was mystified. My name is not Kevin, I am not a veterinarian, and I was in no position to help this person and their puppy. I nearly typed out a response saying “Sorry, wrong number” when I realized this was probably a scam to get me to confirm my number.

I didn’t respond, but many others who received similar texts have. Some are even throwing it back at their spammers by spinning wild tales and sending hilarious messages to frustrate whoever is on the other side. They’re fighting back with snark, and in some cases posting screenshots of their conversations online.

Experts don’t recommend responding like this. But it is cathartic and funny. Read the full story.

—Tanya Basu

China wants all social media comments to be pre-reviewed before publishing

The news: On June 17, China’s internet regulator Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published a draft update on how platforms and creators should handle online comments. One line stands out: all online comments would have to be pre-reviewed before being published.

How would it work? The provisions cover many types of comments, including anything from forum posts, replies, messages left on public message boards, and “bullet chats” (an innovative way that video platforms in China use to display real-time comments on top of a video). All formats, including texts, symbols, GIFs, pictures, audio, and videos, fall under this regulation.

What does it mean? Users and observers are worried that the move could be used to further tighten freedom of expression in China. While Beijing is constantly refining its controls over social media, the vagueness of the latest revisions makes people worry that the government may ignore practical challenges, forcing platforms to hire a vast army of censors. 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  Crypto’s value is still plummeting 📉

It’s fallen by more than two-thirds since November, but purists are unfazed. (WSJ $)

+ Bitcoin fell below $20,000 for the first time since last November over the weekend. (FT $)

+ Investors are nervously watching stablecoin Tether to see what happens next. (NYT $)

+ Crypto insurance sounds like a good idea right about now. (Vox)

2 The timeless virality of Juneteenth

Because freedom from slavery is something we can all agree on, regardless of political and religious afiliations. (Wired $)

+ It’s been an awful year for the politics of race in America. (NY Mag)

3 Ambushing a comet is risky business ☄️

But it’ll be worth it if it gives us our first real glimpse of a primordial body. (Nature)

+ Astronomers wrongly thought comet Borisov was pretty boring. (MIT Technology Review)

+ The Pentagon is exploring using SpaceX rockets to thwart future threats. (The Intercept)

+ When is a black hole not a black hole? (Inverse)

4 How thousands of seabound robots are combating climate change

By spending 90% of their time 1,000 meters below the ocean’s surface. (Spectrum IEEE)

+ Why heat pumps are emerging as a key decarbonizing tool. (Protocol)

+ UN climate report: Carbon removal is now “essential.” (MIT Technology Review)

+ A Peruvian fishing community is still suffering, five months after an oil spill. (Hakai Magazine)

5 AI can do so much more than convince us it’s sentient 

And yet, we keep falling into the trap of missing the bigger picture. (The Atlantic $)

+ We’re missing the point of the Turing test, too. (WP $)

+ What the history of AI tells us about its future. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Anti-vaxx conspiracies are a global problem

Spreading far wider than their American roots. (Slate $)

7 Can a steak made from recycled carbon dioxide ever taste good?

It takes just a few days to make an ‘air steak,’ compared to the years it takes to raise and nurture a cow. (Neo.Life)

+ Why oat milk companies may have to stop marketing their goods as ‘milk.’ (Slate $)

+ Your first lab-grown burger will be “blended”. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Why Peter Thiel unfriended Facebook

And what’s next for the billionaire with a penchant for crypto. (WP $)

+ Facebook is going to be a very different place without Sheryl Sandberg, too. (The Atlantic $)

9 How Dril’s influence spread beyond Weird Twitter

The platform’s court jester has infiltrated the mainstream. (New Yorker $)

10 What it’s like to become the worst person on the internet

And another case of why putting images in the public domain can backfire. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“Are we going to bow our heads for Jeff Bezos just to give him his pleasure boat?”

— Paul van de Laar, a professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, is infuriated by the Amazon founder’s request to dismantle part of the city’s bridge to facilitate his superyacht, he tells the Financial Times.

The big story

This company delivers packages faster than Amazon, but workers pay the price

June 2021

Early one morning in October 2020, 27-year-old Jang Deok-joon came home after working his overnight shift at South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang and jumped into the shower. He had worked at the company’s warehouse in the southern city of Daegu for a little over a year, hauling crates full of items ready to be shipped to delivery hubs. When he didn’t come out of the bathroom for over an hour and a half, his father opened the door to find him unconscious and curled in a ball in the bathtub, his arms tucked tightly into his chest. He was rushed to the hospital, but with no pulse and failing to breathe on his own, doctors pronounced him dead at 9: 09 a.m. The coroner ruled that he had died from a heart attack.

Jang was the third Coupang worker to die that year, adding to growing concern about the nature of the company’s success. And it has been astoundingly successful: rising to become South Korea’s third-largest employer in just a few years, harnessing a vast network of warehouses, 37,000 workers, a fleet of drivers, and a suite of AI-driven tools to take a commanding position in South Korea’s crowded ecommerce market.

Coupang’s proprietary AI algorithms calculate everything from the most efficient way to stack packages in delivery trucks, to the precise route and order of deliveries for drivers. In warehouses, AI anticipates purchases and calculates shipping deadlines for outbound packages, allowing it to promise delivery in less than a day for millions of items. Such innovations are why Coupang confidently bills itself as the “future of ecommerce,” and were the driving force behind its recent launch on Nasdaq—the biggest US IPO by an Asian company since Alibaba in 2014. But what does all this innovation and efficiency mean for the company’s workers? Read the full story.

—Max S. Kim

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.)



+ Happy birthday to the one and only Brian Wilson, who turns 80 years old today. Out of all his incredible tunes, this one may just be the best.

+ A total mystery: how did a UK trash can travel more than 1,900 kilometers to Ukraine?

+ What a relief—Denmark and Canada’s polite ‘whisky war’ has finally been resolved.

+ This Rage Against the Machine performance played on dog toys is a masterpiece.

+ Here’s a selection of dresses we wouldn’t mind Kim Kardashian ruining next.

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives
Nothing Ear (stick) held by a model on white background



(Image credit: Nothing )

True to form, Nothing has just announced the full reveal date for its upcoming audio product, Ear (stick). 

So, an announcement about an announcement. You’ve got to hand it to Carl Pei’s marketing department, they never miss a trick.

What we’re saying is that although we still have ‘nothing’ conclusive about the features, pricing or release date for the Ear (stick) except an image of another model holding them (and we’ve seen plenty of those traipsing down the catwalk recently), we do have a date – the day when we’ll be granted official access to this information. 

That day is October 26. Nothing assures us that on this day we’ll be able to find out everything, including pricing and product specifications, during the online Ear (stick) Reveal, at 3PM BST (which is 10AM ET, or 1AM on Wednesday if you’re in Sydney, Australia) on nothing.tech (opens in new tab)

Any further information? A little. Nothing calls the Ear (stick), which is now the product’s official name, “the next generation of Nothing sound technology”, and its “most advanced audio product yet”. 

But that’s not all! Apparently, Ear (stick) are “half in-ear true wireless earbuds that balance supreme comfort with exceptional sound, made not to be felt when in use. They’re feather-light with an ergonomic design that’s moulded to your ears. Delivered in a unique charging case, inspired by classic cosmetic silhouettes, and compactly formed to simply glide into pockets.” 

Opinion: I need more than a lipstick-style case

Nothing Ear (stick) – official leaked renders pic.twitter.com/FrhKmRttmiOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that I want Nothing’s earbuds to succeed in world dominated by AirPods; who doesn’t love a plucky, eccentric underdog? 

But in order to become some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, there is room for improvement over the Nothing Ear 1, the company’s inaugural earbuds. 

Aside from this official ‘news’ from Nothing, leaked images and videos of the Ear (stick) have been springing up all over the internet (thank you, developer Kuba Wojciechowski) and they depict earbuds that look largely unchanged, which is a shame. 

For me, the focus needs to shift from gimmicks such as a cylindrical case with a red section at the end which twists up like a lipstick. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of theater, but only if the sound coming from the earbuds themselves is top dog. 

As the natural companions for the Nothing Phone 1, it makes sense for the Ear (stick) to take a place similar to that of Apple’s AirPods 3, where the flagship Ear (1) sit alongside the AirPods Pro 2 as a flagship offering. 

See, that lipstick case shape likely will not support wireless charging. That and the rumored lack of ANC means the Ear (stick) is probably arriving as the more affordable option in Nothing’s ouevre. 

For now, we sit tight until October 26. 

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers
Woman watching YouTube on mobile phone screen



(Image credit: Shutterstock / Kicking Studio)

You might soon have to buy YouTube Premium to watch 4K YouTube videos, a new user test suggests.

According to a Reddit thread (opens in new tab) highlighted on Twitter by leaker Alvin (opens in new tab), several non-Premium YouTube users have reported seeing 4K resolution (and higher) video options limited to YouTube Premium subscribers on their iOS devices. For these individuals, videos are currently only available to stream in up to 1440p (QHD) resolution.

The apparent experiment only seems to be affecting a handful of YouTube users for now, but it suggests owner Google is toying with the idea of implementing a site-wide paywall for access to high-quality video in the future.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDpOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that Google has been searching for new ways to monetize its YouTube platform in recent months. In September, the company introduced five unskippable ads for some YouTube users as part of a separate test – an unexpected development that, naturally, didn’t go down well with much of the YouTube community. 

A resolution paywall seems a more palatable approach from Google. While annoying, the change isn’t likely to provoke the same level of ire from non-paying YouTube users as excessive ads, given that many smartphones still max out at QHD resolution anyway. 

Of course, if it encourages those who do care about high-resolution viewing to invest in the platform’s Premium subscription package, it may also be more lucrative for Google. After all, YouTube Premium, which offers ad-free viewing, background playback and the ability to download videos for offline use, currently costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$14.99 per month.

Suffice to say, the subscription service hasn’t taken off in quite the way Google would’ve hoped since its launch in 2014. Only around 50 million users are currently signed up to YouTube Premium, while something close to 2 billion people actively use YouTube on a monthly basis. 

Might the addition of 4K video into Premium’s perk package bump up that number? Only time will tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on our own YouTube account to see whether this resolution paywall becomes permanent in the coming months.

Axel is a London-based staff writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the newest movies to latest Apple developments as part of the site’s daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned a gold standard NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme. 

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

USB-C als Ladestandard in der EU

Mundissima / Shutterstock


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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