This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter providing a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
The 1,000 Chinese SpaceX Engineers That Never Existed
If you just looked at his LinkedIn page, you would definitely think that Mai Linzheng was a top engineer. With a bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua, China’s top university, and a master’s degree in semiconductor manufacturing from UCLA, Mai began his career at Intel and KBR, a space technology company, before landing at SpaceX in 2013. Except all is not as it seems. .
The profile of “Mai Linzheng” is actually one of the millions of fraudulent pages set up on LinkedIn to lure users into scams. Scammers like Mai claim affiliation with prestigious schools and companies to boost their credibility before connecting with other users, building a relationship, and laying a financial trap.
Victims have now lost millions of dollars to scams originating on the platform, and the problem is only growing. Read the full story.
— Zeyi Yang
Podcast: How Retail Uses AI to Prevent Fraud
We’ve all experienced the frustration of a blocked credit card, caused by a transaction deemed suspicious that was in fact completely normal. This is the most visible way in which the complex web of systems designed to root out fraud is failing, but far from the only one.
In the latest episode of our podcast, In Machines We Trust, we explain how it’s a technological arms race between companies and scammers, with us caught in the middle. And AI is playing an increasingly important role in the fight. Listen to it on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you usually listen.
The must read
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s funniest/most important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 The US is planning an annual Covid vaccine
Like the annual flu shot, a Covid booster should provide a high degree of protection for a full year, according to the White House. (WP$)
2 The Merge is crypto’s biggest test to date
If successful, it could solve many of the industry’s problems. (Economist $)
+ The Ethereum upgrade will greatly improve its security. (Protocol)
3 Doomscrolling is bad for your health
The partial avoidance of the news made the study participants feel less distracted. (The Guardian)
+ How to repair your broken pandemic brain. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Apple’s relationship with China is long and complicated
The company’s plans to shift some iPhone production to India may not go as smoothly as hoped. (NYT $)
+ Apple plans to appeal Brazil’s decision to ban iPhones sold without chargers. (Bloomberg$)
5 Twitter and Elon Musk’s lawyers met during a pretrial hearing
Whistleblower Peiter Zatko’s claims loomed large over the meeting. (WSJ $)
+ Musk cited the war in Ukraine as a reason to delay the takeover. (FT$)
+ Twitter’s new edit button will be able to change tweets up to five times. (TechCrunch)
6 No, the shift to clean energy does not increase the risk of grid outages
This is a general argument that is fundamentally flawed. (vox)
+ India’s answer to Silicon Valley is largely underwater thanks to intense flooding. (FT$)
+ These plastic batteries can help store renewable energy on the grid. (MIT Technology Review)
7 Mobile gambling is spawning a new generation of addicts
Increased by the constant accessibility of the devices. (motherboard)
8 How Minecraft Turned Its Back on the Blockchain
This causes its players to lose thousands of dollars worth of crypto in the process. (Rest of the World)
9 How the Internet Solved a Six-Year Mystery
With a mysterious, pointy-eared man. (New Yorker $)
10 TikTok’s teachers tread a fine line
Between shining a light on their profession and respecting students’ privacy. (Thread $)
Quote of the day
“One of the claims is: ‘This is digital blackface.'”
—James O. Young, a professor of philosophy at the University of Victoria, explains the backlash surrounding virtual rapper FN Meka, which critics claim perpetuates black stereotypes, to the New York Times.
The big story
Technology has exposed Syrian war crimes time and time again. Was it for nothing?
Syria was one of the first major conflicts of the social media era, with many Syrians having cell phones with cameras and access to high-speed Internet.
The material collected by Syrians allowed people far away from the actual fighting to participate in the investigative efforts as well. In 2012, Eliot Higgins, then an unemployed British blogger, began sifting through videos and photos posted from Syria, trying to identify the weapons being used; later he started a website, Bellingcat, and assembled a team of volunteer analysts.
Fueled by the optimism that social media and digital connectivity can be a force for good, and the encouragement of Western politicians, such efforts have made the Syrian conflict the most thoroughly documented in human history. Someone just had to act on the detailed information gathered from the ground. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line ortweet them to me.)
+ There’s an entire website dedicated to bread labels, because of course there is.
+ São Paulo’s hairdressers are certainly a creative bunch.
+ Balloon rides will only end in tears.
+ Apparently the only good tattoo is a bad tattoo.
+ For the science-minded among you, here’s an intriguing fall reading list.