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The Download: fixing social media, and US monkeypox vaccines

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The Download: fixing social media, and US monkeypox vaccines

We all want to be able to speak our minds online—to be heard by our friends and talk (back) to our opponents. At the same time, we don’t want to be exposed to speech that is inappropriate or crosses a line. Technology companies address this conundrum by setting standards for free speech, a practice protected under federal law, hiring in-house moderators to examine individual pieces of content and removing them if posts violate predefined rules.

The approach clearly has problems: harassment, misinformation about topics like public health, and false descriptions of legitimate elections run rampant. But even if content moderation were implemented perfectly, it would still miss a whole host of issues that are often portrayed as moderation problems but really are not. To address those issues, we need a new strategy: treat social media companies as potential polluters of the social fabric, and directly measure and mitigate the effects their choices have on human populations. Read the full story.

By Nathaniel Lubin, a fellow at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech and former director of the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House under President Barack Obama, and Thomas Krendl Gilbert, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell Tech.

The must-reads

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

1 The US is trying to make its limited monkeypox vaccines last

By injecting just one-fifth of a normal dose. (NYT $)

+ The Danish firm that makes monkeypox vaccines isn’t producing more until 2023. (Wired $) 

+ Intellectual property rights are a major obstacle to wider access. (Slate)

Everything you need to know about the monkeypox vaccines. (MIT Technology Review)

2 We need better ways to report major cyberattacks

Private security firms are in favor of a new initiative from a US federal agency. (Protocol)

+ China-backed spies have hacked European militaries and government agencies. (The Register)

3 Silicon Valley is getting into the weapons business

Rising geopolitical tensions mean more opportunities for sales. (Economist $)

+ Why business is booming for military AI startups. (MIT Technology Review

4 A crypto mixing service has been sanctioned by the US

Over its role in enabling billions of dollars worth of crypto to be laundered. (TechCrunch)

+ The US’s fight to regulate crypto is intensifying. (Wired $)

+ A load of celebrities have been rapped for not disclosing their cyrpto connections. (BuzzFeed News)

5Game-loving children in China are being targeted by scammers

Fraudsters promise extra gaming time in exchange for money. (The Register

6 YouTube is too big for Russia to block

But its nearest rival, RuTube, is working furiously to catch up. (WSJ $)

+ How Russia seized control of Ukraine’s internet. (NYT $)

7 Skin cancer is going undiagnosed among Black patients

A catalog exploring how diseases appear on different skin colors could aid diagnoses. (Undark)

+ Doctors using AI catch breast cancer more often than either does alone. (MIT Technology Review)

8 A bitter lawsuit is tearing apart the flying car industry 

One of its best-funded firms has accused another of stealing trade secrets. (Fast Company $)

+ Meanwhile, a jet-train hybrid is in development in Canada. (Inverse)

9 Facebook’s chatbot isn’t a fan of its own makers

Which is more than a little awkward. (Motherboard)

+ Meta-owned WhatsApp will now allow you to slip out of groups unnoticed. (The Guardian

10 Who is the money content industry really for? 💸

For people with no money, a lot of its advice is pointless. (New Statesman $)

+ The risks and rewards of paying off student debt on the blockchain. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“When we were turning out big profits, I became somewhat delirious, and looking back at myself now, I am quite embarrassed and remorseful.”

—Masayoshi Son, CEO of tech investment company SoftBank, explains his regret at getting carried away in an investment spree that cost that company more than $23 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports.

How Pfizer made an effective anti-covid pill

February 2022

In the early days of the pandemic, all eyes were on potential vaccines. But mostly out of sight of the media, quieter efforts to custom-design a covid-19 pill were moving forward with similar urgency and hope.

Chemists at Pfizer’s research facility in Connecticut dusted off some ideas the company had developed during the SARS outbreak in 2003, and found that they could hit the virus hard and not expect any major side effects.

In fact, laboratory tests run by Pfizer suggest Paxlovid will work against all coronaviruses, meaning the company may have hit on a potential defense against the next outbreak, too. But while experts have praised the speed of its development and hailed it as the next big step, the pill remains in short supply. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

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.)

+ These notes and drawings that librarians have uncovered in returned books are so heartwarming (Thanks Charlotte!)

+ Oh, to be a spectator at Chicago’s annual Ducky Derby. 🦆

+ I need to try a café de olla immediately.

+ A never-before-seen picture of a star was, in fact, a slice of chorizo.

+ A newly-discovered group of spiders has been named after the late, great, David Bowie.

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign

, Senior Editor

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon

, 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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NASA Says Hurricane Didn’t Hurt Artemis I Hardware, Sets New Launch Window

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NASA Says Hurricane Didn’t Hurt Artemis I Hardware, Sets New Launch Window

NASA’s Artemis I moon mission launch, stalled by Hurricane Ian, has a new target for takeoff. The launch window for step one of NASA’s bold plan to return humans to the lunar surface now opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27, the space agency said Friday. 

The news comes after the pending storm caused NASA to scrub the latest Artemis I Iaunch, which had been scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 2. As Hurricane Ian threatened to travel north across Cuba and into Florida, bringing rain and extreme winds to the launch pad’s vicinity, NASA on Monday rolled its monster Space Launch System rocket, and the Orion spacecraft it’ll propel, back indoors to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. 

The hurricane made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, bringing with it a catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding that left dozens of people dead, caused widespread power outages and ripped buildings from their foundations. Hurricane Ian is “likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history,” US President Joe Biden said on Friday, adding that it will take “months, years, to rebuild.”

Initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts of the devastating storm to Artemis I flight hardware showed no damage, NASA said. “Facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations,” the agency said in a statement. 

Next up, teams will complete post-storm recovery operations, which will include further inspections and retests of the flight termination system before a more specific launch date can be set. The new November launch window, NASA said, will also give Kennedy employees time to address what their families and homes need post-storm. 

Artemis I is set to send instruments to lunar orbit to gather vital information for Artemis II, a crewed mission targeted for 2024 that will carry astronauts around the moon and hopefully pave the way for Artemis III in 2025. Astronauts on that high-stakes mission will, if all goes according to plan, put boots on the lunar ground, collect samples and study the water ice that’s been confirmed at the moon’s South Pole. 

The hurricane-related Artemis I rollback follows two other launch delays, the first due to an engine problem and the second because of a hydrogen leak.

Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone but is still bringing heavy rains and gusty winds to the Mid-Atlantic region and the New England coast.

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