Start Up No.1942: the doppelganger killing, the trouble with carbon credits, Spotify’s podcast miss, enough cookies!, and more

The Biden administration is targeting Huawei for a fresh round of chip sanctions. CC-licensed photo by Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr.

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There’s another post coming this week at the Social Warming Substack on Friday at about 0845 UK time. (Have you read last week’s? Hmm?) Free signup.

A selection of 9 links for you. Double down. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

‘Doppelganger murder’: German prosecutors claim woman killed lookalike to fake death • The Guardian

Philip Oltermann:


A 23-year-old German-Iraqi woman sought out a lookalike on Instagram and murdered her with a friend in order to fake her own death, prosecutors in Bavaria believe.

When the blood-covered body of a young woman was found last August in a parked Mercedes in Ingolstadt, southern Germany, reports initially identified the victim as Sharaban K, a Munich-based 23-year-old beautician with Iraqi roots.

Even though some members of Sharaban K’s family had identified the body, an autopsy report the next day raised questions over its identity. The victim was eventually named as Khadidja O, an Algerian beauty blogger from Heilbronn in the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg, also 23.

With long black straight hair, a similar complexion and heavy makeup, the two women looked “strikingly alike”, police said, leading the German press to refer to the case as the “doppelganger murder”.

Along with a 23-year-old Kosovan, named as Sheqir K, Sharaban K was detained on remand by Bavarian police on 19 August 2022, though authorities did not publicly speculate about a motive until this week. The victims and accused have been referred to by their first names and an initial as is customary in the German legal system.

“Investigations have led us to assume that the accused wanted to go into hiding because of a family dispute and fake her own death to that effect,” Veronika Grieser of the Ingolstadt state prosecutor’s office said on Monday morning.

Police say several women bearing her resemblance had been contacted by Sharaban K, operating on social media sites under numerous aliases, in the week before the murder. “By making various promises she tried to bring about meetings, which was initially unsuccessful,” Grieser said.


Imagine what you’d think if you were one of those other women: that is a narrow escape from the most bizarre reason for murder. Social media enables someone to find their double. And, it seems, kill them.
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We are ‘greening’ ourselves to extinction • Al Jazeera

Vijay Kolinjivadi is a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp:


‘Firefighters with flamethrowers’ – that is how climate writer Keton Joshi describes the world’s biggest polluters proposing climate solutions. Indeed, what governments and corporations have pushed for in terms of climate action in the past few years are policies that only make the situation worse.

Take carbon offsets – the epitome of “greening”. Acting as real-life “Pass GO and Collect $200” tickets, they allow some of the biggest climate criminals to go on polluting by engaging in a charade of tree-planting schemes. The logic behind them is that we cannot stop our greenhouse gas emissions immediately because that would “hurt the economy”, so we can instead plant trees that will absorb them and grow the economy through carbon markets – a supposed win-win situation.

But this fallacy has been repeatedly exposed. For one, the organisations that are supposed to certify that indeed enough tree-planting has taken place do not have the tools to verify that the declared emissions will definitely be absorbed. Another problem is that many offsetting activities do not actually offset anything.

A recent investigation into the world’s largest carbon standard found that 94% of its rainforest offset credits did not actually contribute to carbon reduction. Worse still, it exaggerated the threat to forests included in its projects, while its conservation activities – which yielded some of these credits – involved serious human rights violations, including forced evictions and home demolitions of local people.

Even if some of these carbon offset schemes do make a difference in the short term through forest conservation or reforestation, given our current climate reality characterised by ever-worsening forest fires, they can easily just burn to dust and contribute to the greenhouse gas problem. One recent study, for example, found that since 2015, close to 7 million tonnes of carbon was released from wildfires in six forest projects that are part of California’s carbon trading system.


As he points out, lots of this stuff is properly effed up.
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Biden administration considers cutting off Huawei from US suppliers • WSJ

Ian Talley and Sabrina Siddiqui:


The Biden administration is considering entirely cutting off Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies from US suppliers over national-security concerns by tightening export controls targeting the firm, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move—should the administration move forward—would mark the latest salvo in the high-stakes clash between the world’s two largest economies as US policy makers seek to counter China’s industrial policy they say threatens Western interests.

The Trump administration in 2019 added Huawei to the Department of Commerce’s “Entity List,” a roster of foreign companies deemed to be national-security threats. However, the Commerce Department later agreed to grant licenses to US companies allowing them to sell technology to Huawei as long as it wouldn’t put national security at risk. 

The Biden administration is now considering no longer granting such licenses, although no decision has been made, the people familiar said. The deliberations were previously reported by Bloomberg and the Financial Times.

The US items exempted from the Huawei blacklist include less advanced chips used in the company’s lineup of smartphones and personal computers. Huawei has been unable to offer a 5G-enabled smartphone because US restrictions cut it off from the most advanced chips needed to power such devices.

…US officials have signaled to Qualcomm Inc. and Intel Corp., which continue to supply Huawei, that this is a good time to wind down their sales to the Chinese company, said one of the people familiar with the matter.


What’s odd is that Huawei doesn’t seem to have done anything particular to prompt this. It seems to be a general timing thing, as the next link indicates.
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Biden nears win as Japan, Dutch back China chip controls • Bloomberg via Yahoo

Jenny Leonard and Cagan Koc:


Japan and the Netherlands are poised to join the US in limiting China’s access to advanced semiconductor machinery, forging a powerful alliance that will undercut Beijing’s ambitions to build its own domestic chip capabilities, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

US, Dutch and Japanese officials are set to conclude talks as soon as Friday US time on a new set of limits to what can be supplied to Chinese companies, the people said, asking not to be named because the talks are private.

There is no plan for a public announcement of the restrictions, and once an agreement is struck, actual implementation could take months as the two countries finalize legal arrangements, according to people familiar with the matter.

“Talks are ongoing, for a long time already, but we don’t communicate about this. And if something would come out of this, it is questionable if this will be made very visible,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday in The Hague in response to a question about the talks.

“This is such a sensitive topic that the Dutch government chooses to communicate diligently, and that means that we only communicate in a very limited way,” Rutte said.

The Netherlands will expand restrictions on ASML Holding NV, which will prevent it from selling at least some of its so-called deep ultraviolet lithography machines — crucial to making some types of advanced chips and without which attempts to set up production lines may be impossible. Japan will set similar limits on Nikon Corp.


This is a slow closing of the doors on China’s access to essential equipment to chipmaking equipment – ASML makes the machines that everyone needs. Military and consumer chips will be affected.
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Over-spending and under-pricing: Spotify’s commercial missteps have come back to haunt it • Music Business Worldwide

Tim Ingham:


The biggest area of acquisitive spending for Spotify throughout the past half-decade, however, has specifically been in podcasting.

From 2019 through 2022, SPOT spent €850m (around $925m) on acquiring multiple platforms to drive Spotify’s podcasting business – from Parcast to The Ringer, Anchor FM, and, most recently, Podz, Podsights and Chartable.

That $925m figure doesn’t count the cash Spotify spent on non-acquisitive Podcast content deals: For one thing, we know it spent at least another $200m on a multi-year exclusive deal for the Joe Rogan Experience. Spotify also spent further vast sums on podcast content from the Obamas, Kim Kardashian, and Harry and Meghan, amongst others. (Not all of these deals have worked out.)

So, financially speaking, what’s Spotify got to show for four years and over a billion dollars in podcast investments? According to an Investor Day presentation by senior Spotify leaders in June last year, the firm’s podcasting efforts generated under €200m in advertising in 2021.

If you were wondering how that compares to the amount of money generated by music (via subscriptions and ads) on Spotify in the same 12 months, I recommend you look at this single image, of Spotify CFO Paul Vogel, from that summer 2022 investor presentation.

The green bit is music-related revenue in each year. The gaunt wisp of pink at the top of the last bar? That’s revenue from everything else – including podcasts. (Digital graffiti, author’s own.)


Podcasting seems to be a zero-billion dollar business: everyone likes being in it, but the rewards are strictly limited.
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Super Agent: automatic cookie consent


Get control and improve your browsing experience, making it private, fast, and without pop-ups. Super Agent is a browser extension and web service that will auto-accept cookies for you. You define your preferences once, and Super Agent will do the rest.


Oh man I really hope so. It would be so wonderful to be rid of those damn things. Just installed it. Hoping that it does the business. Seems to be for macOS and iOS. (Via Benedict Evans.)
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Professional writer? • On Posting

Luke Winkie:


Shannon Liao, a reporter who was discharged during The Washington Post layoffs, made a salient tweet from the wreckage where she noted that her dream job — as a video game reporter with a muckraking verve — no longer exists in this increasingly austere media ecosystem. Launcher, the Post’s gaming vertical that is being shuttered at the end of March, allowed its staff and contributors to chase a complicated story for months without being derailed by SEO exigencies, traffic quotas, or dramatic reductions in ambition; you know, all of those self-preservation measures newsrooms must enlist in order to stave off the prospect of a Bezos liquidation. (IGN has assigned me stories derived wholly from Twitter trends to soak up residual, semi-sentient engagement. Liao is right to be wary of the rest of the field.)

She was specifically commenting on her own beat of games journalism, which is in the midst of a free fall, but it made me wonder how many genuine, aspirational dream jobs are left in the media writ large. It’s telling that everyone who doesn’t end up at the Times seems to leave the industry entirely. Maybe the best Liao can hope for — the best a lot of us can hope for — is just a job. And frankly, that doesn’t give us much room to complain.

I’m always going to love writing. This newsletter is lots of fun, same with the book proposal I’m finalizing. There are a handful of features I pick up each year that challenge me as a reporter and a thinker, and I appreciate — and will defend to the death — the art of a proudly belligerent white-hot take. But as my mid-30s threaten on the horizon, I’m capable of admitting that some of the glamor has faded from the endless slate of assignments that pay for my rent and indulgences — the grind that is commensurate to calling yourself a professional; the job part of this job.

Have I fallen out of love with the craft? I don’t think so. Instead, when I was a younger, greener journalist, it was simply easier to believe that the future was bright; that every byline was a step in the right direction; that the dream was fingertips away.


I don’t know of any journalist who looks at the current situation and thinks “well, this is an improvement”. But then, how many professions or trades are saying that?
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my year as a hot girl for hire • words from eliza

eliza mclamb got a job managing accounts on a platform (unnamed, but perhaps OnlyFans) which turned out to be just one of the circles of hell:


What was not made immediately clear to me, and what significantly complicated the process, is that there was one thing that almost no client was willing to do: be nude.

This very fact runs counterintuitive to the entire platform design — the idea of this space is that it’s the one place you can see people you know take their clothes off. I quickly learned that my job was to make believe not only in the idea that I was an entirely different person, but that what I was promising as that person was indeed what was being given. I had to prop up the cardboard cutout of a hot girl and try to keep people in front of her, foaming at the mouth, lest I risk her blowing away in the wind and revealing the great fraud.

I was first assigned what were informally deemed “low status” accounts, meaning that they made under $10,000 a month. Eventually, when I was trusted with high status accounts, I was told that commission would be in my future — 2% of the client’s earnings from the platform — but until then, I was paid a flat rate of $3,000 a month, which was not bad for a job I could do “any time I wanted.”

This, of course, was not the truth. I could work any time I wanted, as long as I was logged on for the site’s peak hours, which were from 10pm to 2am every night and later on weekends. I had to post daily, multiple times a day, and constantly respond to a barrage of messages that ranged from innocuous to genuinely traumatizing. If you’ve ever been a woman on the internet, you know what men say to you when they think no one is watching. Now imagine that they think they are one of the lucky few to access a particularly inaccessible woman.


It’s not pretty. At all. So:


The job quickly became demoralizing. I developed a five song playlist of ultra-pop hype music that I would loop while working, effectively turning into a cyborg who could reliably barrel through messages detailing rape and assault and turn violent men into paying customers. I became increasingly jaded in my attitude towards men as a whole, even the polite ones in my messages, and this motivated me to drain them of cash so intensely that part of me wondered if this learned disgust was built into the job to improve employee efficiency.


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Is 5G internet worth it, or was it just hype? • USA Today

Bob O’Donnell:


One of the most widely touted capabilities for 5G was expected to be around connected devices and sensors. The idea was/is that the enhanced speed and bandwidth of 5G versus 4G would unleash a torrent of cellular-connected devices from AR and VR headsets to cars, home appliances and more.

In truth, some of those efforts are starting to happen, but most are more niche applications for specific vertical industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, etc. Many of these projects are starting to make an impact, but just not in ways that you and I can easily see.

We’re also starting to see more 5G applications on the business side of things. A number of companies are starting to set up what are known as “private 5G” networks that only employees or work machines can get access to. In many cases, these are being used to supplement or enhance existing Wi-Fi networks because they can provide important security and performance benefits.

Ironically, it’s on the smartphone side – where expectations were the highest – that we’ve arguably seen the least visible impact from 5G. For example, as many have noticed, download speeds in many situations haven’t been that much different than 4G. But even here, it’s important to note that average download speeds are improving (in some places, dramatically so) and it’s virtually impossible to find a non-5G equipped phone.

In other words, the impact is real, just a bit subtler than we would have hoped.


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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

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