Start Up No.1869: higher temperatures mean angrier tweets, apocalypse Watch, TikTok’s unfair billions?, how Keffals won, and more


New iPhones sold in the US won’t have a SIM card tray; they’ll use eSIMs. Which is fine, but what if you travel abroad and want local service and there’s no eSIM offering? CC-licensed photo by MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Edged in black. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Hateful tweets multiply in extreme temperatures, US analysis finds • The Guardian

Arthur Neslen:

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Hateful tweets multiply dramatically as temperatures become more extreme, an analysis of 4bn geo-located tweets in the US has found.

Scientists logged rises of up to 22% in racist, misogynist and homophobic tweets when temperatures rose above 42ºC, and increases of up to 12% when the mercury fell below -3ºC, according to a study by The Lancet Planetary Health.

Annika Stechemesser, its lead author and a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), said: “We found that both the absolute number and the share of hate tweets rise outside a climate comfort zone. People tend to show a more aggressive online behaviour when it’s either too cold or too hot outside.”

The research used machine-learning algorithms to identify around 75 million English-phrased hate tweets – around 2% of the sample – in 773 US cities between 2014 and 2020.

These volumes of hate speech were then logged and statistically evaluated against variations in local temperatures by the PIK team.

They found that the lowest number of abusive messages occurred when temperatures were between 15-18ºC but when thermometers fell below 12ºC or rose above 21ºC, hate tweets began to rise – most dramatically at climatic extremes.

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Hang on, this isn’t how social warming is meant to work. Surprising if people are able to do anything useful with temperatures above 42ºC – though maybe it’s fuming at the electricity company failing to supply power. (Thanks Adrian M for the link.)
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The new Apple Watch and iPhone 14 are perfectly designed for the apocalypse • Buzzfeed News

Katie Notopoulos:

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Usually, Apple product launches paint a rosy portrait of what the life of an aspirational Apple Man looks like: taking photos of your beautiful friends, biking along a trail with a view of the Pacific Ocean, sharing photos of your beautiful children.

But something was very different this time, something sort of, uh, unsettling. Instead of suggesting a gleaming world where everything is only getting better, instead, today we saw Apple’s vision of a future where everything is literally trying to murder us, and death lurks around every ring-closing outdoor jog. And frankly, it’s turning me into an iPrepper.

The event opened with a video montage of people describing moments where the Apple Watch’s ability to call 911 without a phone nearby had saved their lives: a small airplane crash, someone falling through ice, and — horrifically — a sanitation worker who accidentally fell into the back of a trash compactor truck (congrats on a new nightmare you had never thought about!).

…Although the [Ultra] watch seems like it’s a fun device for a weekend hobbyist, it’s just as practical for survival in a post-climate-apocalypse. Droughts, tsunamis, avalanches, blackouts, outrunning roving gangs of cannibalistic bandits…this is the Apple Watch Ultra’s time to shine.

…there’s something eerie about the most exciting feature of the latest iPhone being “it might help if you’re about to die of exposure while lost in the woods.” We’re used to new tech products hinting at dystopia in more sci-fi ways: surveillance in our homes, algorithms running our lives, companies dry-humping our personal data. This hints at Old Testament dystopia: floods and plagues and wandering alone through the desert for 40 days.

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Tim Cook should have just signed off with “let’s be careful out there“. (I guess it fits with the narrative that Apple Is Doomed. Because We’re ALL Doomed.)
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TikTok’s secret to explosive growth? ‘Billions and billions of dollars’ says Snap CEO Evan Spiegel • Forbes

Alexandra Levine:

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“The reason why this has been so challenging for companies to respond to in the United States, but also around the world, is the scale of TikTok’s investment,” said Spiegel of Snap, which recently laid off some 20% of its own workforce [speaking at Code Conference in Los Angeles].

“What nobody had anticipated in the United States was the level of investment that ByteDance made into the US market, and of course in Europe, because it was just something that was unimaginable — no startup could afford to invest billions and billions and billions of dollars in user acquisition like that around the world,” Spiegel said Wednesday night. “It was a totally different strategy than any technology company had expected before because it wasn’t an innovation-led strategy; it was really about subsidizing large-scale user acquisition.”

That large user base is what has enabled TikTok’s recommendation algorithm to become so strong, Spiegel added. “TikTok got this great lead early on by really aggressively expanding, spending a huge amount of money to do that, so that people can train the algorithm and ultimately end up with a much more personalized feed that’s harder to get on a new service,” he explained.

Spiegel said Snap will compete with TikTok by continuing to focus on connections with family and friends, rather than strangers — an approach that he said has been core to Snap’s success. (TikTok opens to the “For You” page, which shows videos from users you may not follow that have been recommended by the app’s algorithm.)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai also pointed to TikTok as one of his company’s newest, biggest rivals — particularly with regards to YouTube. He said in a Code interview Tuesday that “competition in tech is hyper-intense,” and that some of that heat, like from TikTok, has come seemingly out of nowhere.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is leading tech antitrust legislation targeting the power of Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta, warned that TikTok, too, could soon be part of that mix. “There could well be legislation on TikTok,” the Minnesota senator told Swisher on Tuesday. She said that while that could be legislation related to national security, her antitrust bill would also crack down on TikTok if the company’s U.S. arm were to reach the size of the American tech giants. “If TikTok reached the gatekeeper status… then they would also be included.”

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A startup able to spend billions and billions of dollars on user acquisition? Unimaginable.
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Apple removes SIM card tray on all iPhone 14 models in US • MacRumors

Joe Rossignol:

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Apple today announced that all iPhone 14 models sold in the U.S. do not have a built-in SIM card tray and instead rely entirely on eSIM technology.

Tech specs on Apple’s website confirm the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max are not compatible with physical SIM cards and instead have dual eSIM support, allowing for multiple cellular plans to be activated on a single device.

An eSIM is a digital SIM that allows users to activate a cellular plan without having to use a physical nano-SIM card. eSIM availability is rapidly expanding, but the technology is still not available in all countries, which explains why iPhone 14 models will remain available with a SIM card tray outside of the US for now.

Apple’s website has a list of carriers that support eSIM technology around the world. In the U.S., this includes AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, Xfinity Mobile, Boost Mobile, H2O Wireless, Straight Talk, C Spire, and some others.

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Only one in the UK (EE, owned by BT), though others are expected to follow. In theory, more secure because it can’t just be lifted out, plus you can have multiple eSIMs in a single phone – so you might have one for different countries that you’re travelling to.

Raises the question: what will American iPhone 14 users who go to a different country and want to use a local network that doesn’t offer an eSIM do?
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Apple to appeal Brazil sales ban of iPhone without charger • Reuters

Peter Frontini:

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Apple Inc (AAPL.O)said on Tuesday it will appeal a Brazilian order banning it from selling iPhones without a battery charger, pushing back on claims that the company provides an incomplete product to consumers.

The Justice Ministry fined Apple 12.275 million reais ($2.38m) and ordered the company to cancel sales of the iPhone 12 and newer models, in addition to suspending the sale of any iPhone model that does not come with a charger.

In the order, published on Tuesday in the country’s official gazette, the ministry argued that the iPhone was lacking a essential component in a “deliberate discriminatory practice against consumers.”

The authorities rejected Apple’s argument that the practice had the purpose of reducing carbon emissions, saying there is no evidence that selling the smartphone without a charger offers environmental protections.

Apple said it would continue to work with Brazilian consumer protection agency Senacon in order to “resolve their concerns,” while saying it would appeal the decision.

“We have already won several court rulings in Brazil on this matter and we are confident that our customers are aware of the various options for charging and connecting their devices,” Apple said.

«

Apple charged with not charging COME ON HEADLINE WRITERS
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Hands-on with the Apple Watch Ultra and AirPods Pro • Ars Technica

Samuel Axon:

»

We had an opportunity to hold and photograph all three Watch models briefly at the Steve Jobs Theater. While there wasn’t an opportunity to try out the major new features, even an eyes-on experience with the Ultra reveals it’s a new kind of Apple Watch.

It’s not the first rugged smartwatch on the market, of course, and depending on your needs, it may not even be the best. But it’s the first foray into that world from a company that has otherwise dominated the smartwatch market for years.

The Ultra is noticeably bulkier than its siblings—we’d even go so far as to say it has a whole new aesthetic. The screen rises loudly out of the titanium case rather than folding smoothly into the sides like in other models. And the large, new action button is hard to miss.

The SE looks slightly different from its predecessor, but it’s subtle. The Series 8, on the other hand, is indistinguishable from the Series 7 at a glance.

AirPods Pro: We also enjoyed a quick demo of the new AirPods Pro. Apple promised improved noise canceling, and we happened to have the previous generation with us for comparison. The show floor was loud, and though we can’t exactly claim it felt like it was twice as good, as Apple claimed during the event, it was a noticeable difference.

On the other hand, we didn’t test one of the other big new features: the ability to scan your head and ear with the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera to improve spatial audio. That will have to wait for a later review.

«

Sounds as though the Ultra will be favoured by people who want to announce to the world that they do Rugged Activities In A Gritty Way. (Look, I’m not saying I won’t buy one at some point. Though it does look pretty gigantic.) The AirPods Pro had a couple of neat additions – in particular the fact they’ll charge from an Apple Watch magnetic charger. That’s neat.
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Inside Keffals’ battle to bring down Kiwi Farms • Vice

David Gilbert:

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[Clara] Sorrenti found out that someone inspired by the thread on Kiwi Farms had posted a picture of themselves standing outside [Sorrenti’s friend in Belfast, fellow Twitch streamer Ellen] Murray’s apartment while holding a threatening message. Moments later the police arrived, and told her that someone had reported a shooting at the apartment. No one had been shot, but it was another “swatting” attempt employed to harass and unnerve harassment targets, or even provoke a dangerous encounter with armed police.

The incidents last week were the culmination of a six-month long campaign by users of Kiwi Farms, a transphobic far-right forum that has long been home to some of the more vile hate speech on the internet. Users of the forum have engaged in doxing campaigns, death threats, harassment, and against people around the world like members of the LGBTQ community, women, and other groups.

Sorrenti has led a vocal campaign to deplatform the forum, and the threats have only intensified. Sitting in a hotel in Belfast two days later after the most recent swatting event, Sorrenti is still shaken. She’s worried about the target on her back, and worried that her campaign to bring down Kiwi Farms might fail.

“If I don’t win this campaign, the rest of my life is going to be hell,” Sorrenti said. “I’ve made myself a significantly larger target for them now, and if the groundswell of support goes away, there’s not a lot I can do about it.”

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The incredible levels of harassment – far worse than any MP has suffered, for example – show that Cloudflare’s insistence that it’s just neutral has to be judged in context. When you’re enabling a site which extremism researchers have warned journalists against covering, because it would make the site more popular and thus more dangerous for those targeted, you’re defending the wrong people.

And note what sort of people the Kiwifarms denizens targeted. If you wanted a definition of “toxic masculinity”, its users would fit perfectly.

Plus: Sorrenti has shown astonishing levels of bravery. Though for her, what was the alternative?
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Liz Truss set to dilute online safety bill over free-speech concerns • Financial Times

Daniel Thomas, Jim Pickard and Cristina Criddle:

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The groundbreaking draft legislation is being watched closely by regulators around the world and has been vigorously opposed by tech companies that could end up facing huge fines if they breach the new law.

Truss confirmed on Wednesday that she would dilute the plans when the delayed bill returns to the House of Commons in the current parliamentary session.

“What I want to make sure is we protect the under-18s from harm, but we also make sure free speech is allowed, so there may be some tweaks required,” she said.

Officials have been working to change the definition of what is deemed “legal but harmful” under the proposed legislation, the Financial Times has learnt, in order to give greater scope to say online what would be acceptable in person even if someone deems it offensive.

Former Tory leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch, who is now international trade secretary, over the summer attacked the bill as “legislating for hurt feelings”, while senior backbencher David Davis has said that there was the risk of the “biggest accidental curtailment of free speech in modern history”, given rules on social media companies to restrict such “legal but harmful” content.

One official said the outcome of these changes would be to make it a simpler bill aimed more at keeping children safe on the internet, rather than limiting what adults can legally say and do online.

Truss told a Tory leadership campaign event this summer that “where it’s about adults being able to speak freely, they absolutely should be, and it should be the same online as offline”.

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Nadine Dorries, the outgoing culture secretary, insisted in her resignation letter that “when I arrived in the department, the Online Safety Bill had been kicked into the long grass”. Despite her best efforts, it looks like it’s going to get kicked about some more yet.
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Spreading the disease and selling the cure • Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs, writing back in January 2015:

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Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science at George Mason University, said the number of these DDoS-for-hire services has skyrocketed over the past two years. Nearly all of these services allow customers to pay for attacks using PayPal or Google Wallet, even though doing so violates the terms of service spelled out by those payment networks.

“The main reason they are becoming an increasing problem is that they are profitable,” McCoy said. “They are also easy to setup using leaked code for other booters, increasing demand from gamers and other customers, decreasing cost of attack infrastructure that can be amplified using common DDoS attacks. Also, it is relatively low-risk to operate a booter service when using rented attack servers instead of botnets.”

The booter services are proliferating thanks mainly to free services offered by CloudFlare, a content distribution network that offers gratis DDoS protection for virtually all of the booter services currently online. That includes the Lizardstresser, the attack service launched by the same Lizard Squad (a.k.a. Loser Squad) criminals whose assaults knocked the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation networks offline on Christmas Day 2014.

The sad truth is that most booter services probably would not be able to remain in business without CloudFlare’s free service. That’s because outside of CloudFlare, real DDoS protection services are expensive, and just about the only thing booter service customers enjoy attacking more than Minecraft and online gaming sites are, well, other booter services.

The Web site crimeflare•com [now defunct – CA], which tracks abusive sites that hide behind CloudFlare, has cataloged more than 200 DDoS-for-hire sites using CloudFlare. For its part, CloudFlare’s owners have rather vehemently resisted the notion of blocking booter services from using the company’s services, saying that doing so would lead CloudFlare down a “slippery slope of censorship.”

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I’m starting to get the feeling that Cloudflare’s free tier is not actually helping the situation, though its debating tactics haven’t changed in the past seven years. (Thanks Tony F for the link.)
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No, I am not a pole dancer • The Guardian

Gina Davies:

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I know we’ve only just met, but I feel it’s important to get through to you before I see that knowing glint in your eye as I introduce myself – I AM NOT A POLE DANCER.

Some people would dream about being mistaken for a famous person – think Chanelle from Big Brother pinning her future on emulating Posh Spice.

But what if you shared the name with a fictional character and were stereotyped by whatever the author saw fit to write about said character?

If you Googled me, chances are you would come across pages of book reviews: “Gina Davies, 26-year-old pole dancer who becomes a prime suspect in a murderous plot after spending the night with an attractive stranger.” It’s not exactly what I’d like my mother to come across, never mind my boss.

But thanks to Richard Flanagan – best selling author of The Unknown Terrorist, in which my name so strongly features – visitors to my web page prefer to believe this information rather than trawl through to find the real me.

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This was back in August 2007, which only goes to show that the problem of “what the internet casually thinks it knows about me” hasn’t really changed between then and now; only the messenger. Then it was Google, now it is (or can be) GPT-3, as we saw yesterday.

(She’s now Gina Clarke. Let’s hope that generates better hits.)
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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.1869: higher temperatures mean angrier tweets, apocalypse Watch, TikTok’s unfair billions?, how Keffals won, and more

  1. Not just EE. Several UK carriers support eSIMs using other activation methods – scroll down the list. Vodafone, for example, had some awkward QR code method when I did mine early last year.

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