Start Up No.1800: platforms struggle to remove Buffalo video, will USB-C replace Lightning?, China phone market stalls, and more


Official figures say only 7% of UK car crashes are caused by breaking the speed limit – so what does that mean for built-in electronic limiters? CC-licensed photo by Lee Haywood on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Off again, on again. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Buffalo gunman clips proliferate on social media following Twitch removal • Engadget

Igor Bonifacic:

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Following Saturday’s horrific mass shooting in Buffalo, online platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Twitter are seemingly struggling to prevent various versions of the gunman’s livestream from proliferating on their platforms. The shooter, an 18-year-old white male, attempted to broadcast the entire attack on Twitch using a GoPro Hero 7 Black. The company told Engadget it took his channel down within two minutes of the violence starting.

“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents,” a Twitch spokesperson said. “The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”

Despite Twitch’s response, that hasn’t stopped the video from proliferating online. According to New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, one link to a version of the livestream that someone used a screen recorder to preserve saw 43,000 interactions. Another Twitter user said they found a Facebook post linking to the video that had been viewed more than 1.8 million times, with an accompanying screenshot suggesting the post did not trigger Facebook’s automated safeguards. A Meta spokesperson told Mac the video violates Facebook’s Community Standards.

Responding to Mac’s Twitter thread, Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz said she found TikTok videos that share accounts and terms Twitter users can search for to view the full video. “Clear the vid is all over Twitter,” she said. We’ve reached out to the company for comment.

Preventing terrorists and violent extremists from disseminating their content online is one of the things Facebook, Twitter and a handful of other tech companies said they would do following the 2019 shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the first 24 hours after that attack, Meta said it removed 1.5 million videos, but clips of the shooting continued to circulate on the platform for more than a month after the event.

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This is the challenge that the social media sites are up against: people with motivation to spread bad stuff. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people; a handful with enough motivation can create these problems. Elon Musk really doesn’t have the first idea.
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Leading causes of car accidents UK 2022 • NimbleFins

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The #1 most common cause of car accidents in Great Britain is the driver (or motorcycle rider) failing to look properly—this factor contributes to 37.8% of car accidents. The next most common causes of car accidents is the diver or rider failing to judge another person’s path or speed (a factor in 19.7% of accidents) and the driver or rider being careless, reckless or in a hurry (18% of accidents). You’ll notice that the percentages add up to more than 100%—this is because many car accidents have more than one contributory factor.

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Following on from the discussion about speed limiters, “exceeding speed limit” is No.7, and cited in 7.4% of accidents. About a third are “driver/rider failed to look properly”. That’s a bit more difficult to legislate for.
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What kind of financial asset is bitcoin? • Noahpinion

Noah Smith has a longish treatise about what bitcoin might be – money, gold, a sort-of tech stock:

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As I see it, the useful purpose of this appeal isn’t to make bitcoin the future of money. That will not happen. Instead, the purpose of all the massive apparatus of bitcoin-related guff and mythology and gobbledegook is to onboard people into the crypto world. Once they’re onboarded, they can then take the next step of learning about cryptocurrencies that are cooler and more advanced than bitcoin. (Perhaps it’s no wonder Vitalik [Buterin] is sanguine about the maximalists; in a way, they’re part of his customer acquisition team!)

This theory of bitcoin as the “gateway drug” of the crypto-verse sort of ties all of the previous theories together. The ideas of bitcoin as the future of money and bitcoin as digital gold get people interested. Those people then get introduced to crypto applications like ICOs and DeFi and whatever web3 ends up being. And because the newbies just joining the party come in owning a bunch of bitcoin, that ends up being one of the main currencies that gets used in the new applications — which slows bitcoin’s slide into technological obsolescence.

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This would be believable, except I think other cryptocurrencies are now newbies’ introduction to crypto, because bitcoin is seen as a bit big and even risky; they know it can go down, whereas the “new” crypto will, they’re promised, only go upppppp. Which isn’t true, but it sounds good.
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India and Pakistan’s brutal heat wave poised to resurge • Yale Climate Connections

Jeff Masters:

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Because of the heat wave, India’s wheat crop is expected to be 4% lower than the 2021 harvest, breaking a string of five consecutive record harvests. Even with the heat wave, India’s wheat exports could beat last year’s shipments, helping replace the lack of wheat exports from Ukraine and Russia this year. However, some traders project that export restrictions may occur in India because of the heat wave.

While the heat index – which measures heat stress due to high temperatures combined with high humidity – is often used to quantify dangerous heat, a more precise measure of heat stress is the wet-bulb temperature, which can be measured by putting a wet cloth around the bulb of a thermometer and then blowing air across the cloth. The wet-bulb temperature increases with increasing temperature and humidity and is a measure of “mugginess.”

Since human skin temperature averages close to 35º Celsius (95°F), wet-bulb temperatures above that critical value prevent all people from dispelling internal heat, leading to fatal consequences within six hours, even for healthy people in well-ventilated conditions. The US National Weather Service defines the “Danger” threshold for wet-bulb at 24.6º Celsius (76.3°F), and “Extreme Danger” at 29.1º Celsius (84.4°F), assuming a 45% relative humidity.

However, experiments show that a wet-bulb temperature considerably lower—near 31º Celsius (88°F)—is likely fatal for young, healthy people.

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To reiterate: this is what global heating does. Since this article appeared, India has said that it will limit wheat exports. That will have big knock-on effects: wheat is used for animal feed, paper strengthening, pharmaceutical products, and others.
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China chipmaker SMIC says phone, PC demand has dropped ‘like a rock’ • Nikkei Asia

Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li:

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CEO Zhao Haijun said the Russia-Ukraine war and China’s COVID lockdowns have massively dented demand for consumer electronics and home appliances, which in turn has led to a “serious” adjustment in chip orders for those segments.

“Many smartphone, PC and home appliance companies had exposure in Russia and Ukraine, and their revenues [from those markets] are now gone. Sales in their home market [of China] have also fallen due to the COVID situation domestically,” Zhao said.

“We cannot yet see an end to the downtrends in these segments,” Zhao added. “There are at least 200 million units of smartphones that will disappear suddenly this year and the majority of them are from our domestic Chinese phone makers.”

Demand for consumer electronics “dropped like a rock, very seriously,” the executive said. “Some of our customers are holding more than five months of that type of inventory.”

However, Zhao said SMIC’s factories are still running at 100% capacity, as the company has been allocating resources to products that are still in great shortage, such as power management chips and microcontrollers used in green energy, electric vehicles and industrial applications.

Given the market turmoil, Zhao said, only chip developers with top international clients can continue to flourish. “Those who only serve the local market [in China] will absolutely see their business seriously impacted,” he said.

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Which is going to mean a lot of cheap smartphone companies going out of business.
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Musk’s question about bots is nothing new for Twitter • The Washington Post

Joseph Menn and Elizabeth Dwoskin:

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When Elon Musk tweeted Friday that his deal to buy Twitter was “on hold” as he looked into the extent of Twitter’s bot problem, he was poking an open wound at the social media company.

…Musk was referring to a Twitter regulatory filing this month that said false or spam accounts constituted fewer than 5% of its 229 million daily active users.

Yet the number is hardly new: Twitter has been giving the same estimate for nearly a decade, even if it seemed to be telling less than the whole story and was a subject of internal conflict. Twitter declined to comment for this story.

“That 5% is a very opportune and chosen metric,” said a former employee who asked for anonymity because he did not want to alienate a former employer. “They didn’t want it to be big, but also not small, because then they could get caught in a lie.”

Twitter’s history with spam goes as far back as its 2013 public offering, when it disclosed the risk of automated accounts — a problem faced by all social media companies. For years, people wanting to manipulate public opinion could buy hundreds of fake accounts in order to pump up a celebrity or a product’s standing.

…Critics have argued that Twitter has an incentive to downplay the number of fake accounts on its platform and that the bot problem is far worse than the company admits. The company also allows some automation of accounts, such as news aggregators that pass along articles about specific topics or weather reports at set times or postings of photos every hour.

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On Sunday Musk (who deletes his tweets on a 24-hour basis now) was tweeting that “there is some chance it might be over 90% of daily active users, which is the metric that matters to advertisers. Very odd that the most popular tweets of all time were only liked by ~2% of daily active users.”

I don’t think that’s odd – liking tweets isn’t a thing many people do. I do suspect Musk is looking for an excuse to back out of the deal, and “too many bots” might be his pretend break clause. (In reality he’s signed a contract to buy it, but Twitter would never be able to make it work.)
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SIDS: Scientist who lost her young son claims to have found way of spotting babies at higher risk of cot death • MSN

Paul Gallagher:

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An Australian expert whose young son died in his sleep claims to have found a way of spotting babies at high risk of cot death.

Dr Carmel Harrington and a team of scientists at the University of Sydney found babies who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) had lower levels of an enzyme that helps humans rouse from sleep.

SIDS, commonly known as cot death, is the unexpected and unexplained death of a healthy baby while asleep. The vast majority (86%) occur before they reach six months.

The research team found that the enzyme, butyrylcholinesterase, measured in dried blood spots taken 2-3 days after birth, was significantly lower in babies who subsequently died of SIDS compared to a control group and in non-SIDS infant deaths.

Researchers behind the finding suggest the lower levels of the enzyme represent a dysfunction of the nervous system – and therefore an inherent vulnerability of the SIDS infants.

They concluded: “This finding represents the possibility for the identification of infants at risk for SIDS prior to death and opens new avenues for future research into specific interventions.”

All funding for the study, which is published in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine, was provided by a crowd funding campaign in memory of Dr Harrington’s son Damien, who died 29 years ago before his second birthday.

Three years after Damien’s death a friend’s baby daughter also died leaving Dr Harrington, a former biochemist who has two other children, to quit her job as a lawyer and return to medical research.

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I don’t think there’s ever been such a consequential piece of scientific research achieved through crowdfunding before. SIDS kills about 200 children in the UK per year, around 3,400 in the US. Identifying this enzyme is only the first (though big) clue; there’s plenty more detective work to find out if it’s a cause or an associated effect.
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Report: Apple is testing USB-C iPhone models for 2023 • Ars Technica

Samuel Axon:

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Apple is testing iPhones that use the industry-standard USB-C port, according to a report in Bloomberg citing people with knowledge of the situation.

Since 2012, Apple’s smartphones have used the company’s proprietary Lightning connector. But more recently, the slightly larger USB-C port has come to dominate consumer electronics, including most of Apple’s other products. Consumers, reviewers, and even government regulators have called for Apple to drop Lightning in favor of USB-C in recent years.

This has led Apple to a tough spot, with three possible paths forward, each with some significant downsides.

On one hand, the company could stick with Lightning—that would mean that customers who’ve been using the iPhone for a while wouldn’t have to buy new adapters, wires, or chargers. Apple’s ecosystem of accessory-makers wouldn’t have to go back to the drawing board to release updated products for the new connection.

On the other, Apple could switch to USB-C, making the iPhone play more nicely with other gadgets, including the Mac. But that move could trigger consumer confusion and chaos among accessory-makers. It would also loosen Apple’s control over the user experience.

The third option would be to go all-wireless, but wireless connections usually don’t transmit power or data as quickly or efficiently.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is actively testing the second option — switching to USB-C — in no small part because the European Union appears to be moving forward with a law that would require companies that make “mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video-game consoles and portable speakers” to standardise around USB-C.

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A question: what does “testing” iPhones with USB-C mean? The circuitry to handle the power would be inside – so it would look like any other iPhone except the socket would be different. These would be for next year at the earliest, and you’d expect the design to be set around now. So maybe Bloomberg means “designing” iPhones with USB-C. Ten years on, maybe Lightning is going away. Mark Gurman (who wrote the Bloomberg story) says Apple is planning on including adapters – which makes this sound entirely believable.
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The most revealing pandemic book yet • The Atlantic

Richard J. Tofel:

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[Former coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Deborah] Birx does a very good job of distilling what went wrong. She repeatedly emphasizes what she identifies as the principal fault in the Trump administration’s pandemic response: a failure to recognize the importance of asymptomatic transmission (thus the book’s title). She laments testing problems, including initial refusals to enlist the private sector, mistakes at the CDC, and later failures to ramp up diagnostics. Birx also cites the CDC’s consistent failure to develop good data about the pandemic, and places this at the center of reforms she proposes toward the book’s end.

But what sets [the book, called] Silent Invasion apart is how Birx, with the writing assistance of Gary Brozek, unhesitatingly names names (and dates and places). She does so with much more detail and nuance than we’ve had from anyone else. Birx paints a portrait of an administration in full, made up of people with a mix of talents and motivations. Where other chroniclers describe the White House as if it had just one occupant, Birx gives us the full cast. The book’s first 150 pages, on the period from January through March 2020, are especially riveting. In the early crucial weeks of the crisis, she writes, “some roaming the halls of the West Wing believed that the less we did, the less we would be held accountable for whatever was about to happen.”

Birx has her own list of bad guys. The worst is Scott Atlas, the radiologist whose epidemiology advice Trump came to take. Atlas, she writes, repeatedly responded to group emails from her by hitting “Reply All” and then removing her from the list before sending.

…Birx refuses to sum up her views of Trump personally, but she offers more than enough detail for readers, including historians, to reach their own conclusions. She describes her first meeting with Trump, on March 2, 2020, when she tried to explain to him that the virus “is not the flu.” Trump listened for a minute, briefly challenged her, then literally changed the channel on one of the TV screens he had simultaneously been watching.

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Birx came up through the military, and offers this as the reason/excuse she didn’t stand up more publicly to Trump in particular. But Antony Fauci didn’t, and he didn’t. One has to feel they all felt they could do more good inside the tent – even if they were being left off the Reply All circuit. (What a vile act.)
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

1 thought on “Start Up No.1800: platforms struggle to remove Buffalo video, will USB-C replace Lightning?, China phone market stalls, and more

  1. I found the criticism of the SIDS butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) paper to be pretty convincing. The press release overstated the paper, and the paper itself was a bit iffy.

    eg

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