Friday roundup: A week in tech, 17 September | News

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The Innovation and Technology Network

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Friday roundup: A week in tech, 17 September

The “very foundations of Wikipedia” are under threat, Wikipedia has warned – to which those men who used to go door-to-door selling vast encyclopaedia volumes* collectively went “ha!”.

*No-one under the age of 40 will get this joke/reference. I barely do myself.

So, what’s concerning the online encyclopaedia so much that it’s shrieking about its very existence? Has Johann Hari** returned to once again bolster his standing while slaying his enemies? No, it’s current enemy No.1 of the American military-industrial complex, China.

**Anyone remember him? I barely do.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, an “infiltration…unprecedented in scope” is afoot, with the aim of advancing the interests of the communist state, whatever they might be.

In response to the menace, the foundation has banned seven Chinese editors – to which something called ‘Wikimedians of Mainland China’ has taken exception, accusing the banners of “baselessly slandering a small group of people”.

According to Maggie Dennis, foundation vice-president, an investigation has been looking into matters over at Chinese-language Wikipedia for almost a year – and she doesn’t like what it’s found.

She said: "When the foundation has credible information that some volunteers may not be interacting in good faith – and in this case, there was plenty – we may feel it necessary to protect the community by removing those individuals from access. In such cases, users are banned."

Of course, supporters of Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, the Labour Party, the Tories, Johann Hari, NATO, Sony, and so on would never dream of ‘infiltrating’ Wikipedia to promote their aims/attack their enemies through textual manipulation.

Anyway, according to Hong Kong Free Press, Wikimedians are increasingly "pushing for the use of Chinese state media as reliable news sources".

A couple of years ago, Wikipedia banned editors from using ‘news’ stories from the Daily Mail as references, as they deemed the ‘newspaper’ a deeply unreliable source of honest information. So, we should probably listen to them now.

***

Bitcoin has brought angry El Salvadorians out onto the streets, outraged that the cryptocurrency has become their legal tender.

According to El Presidente Nayib Bukele, the internet money plan is a great idea, but protestors are concerned it’ll lead to inflation and ruin in the country.

Livid citizens set fire to a newly-installed Bitcoin machine this week – and, no, I don’t know what on earth one of those is either.

Demonstrators got together in the capital San Salvador to hoist placards with messages such as “Respect the Constitution”, “No to Bitcoin”, “Bring Back Johann Hari”, etc.

Interestingly, or not, El Salvador doesn’t even have its own money anyway. The country doesn’t seem to have ever got round to making up its own currency so uses the Yankee dollar to ease transactions between buyers and sellers.

So, the big question: does this have anything to do with Elon Musk, the eccentric yet enigmatic billionaire and cryptocurrency fanboy? I’ve no idea.

***

Now, sit down, because you probably won’t believe this, and you’ll be left shocked, giddy, and weak at the news.

It appears that Facebook, and I can’t believe I’m actually typing this out, has been dishonest about a deeply concerning issue.

According to a leak, the bungling firm has been sitting on internal research that found Instagram – the massive life-consuming enterprise it owns – worsens body image anxieties for young girls.

Well, they probably only found this out a couple of months ago and are getting ready to present a stellar, transparent report to the world’s media, then? Well, it seems they’ve been looking into it since at least 2019 and have consistently found that Instagram has a damaging effect on young minds, especially teenage girls.

And the Wall Street Journal says it’s seen a slide from a 2019 internal Facebook presentation that states, “we make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls”, while a presentation from March 2020 featured a slide with the alarming update: “32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”

Yet another internal slide stated: “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Won’t someone think of the children – because Facebook aren’t going to. They’ve got money to think about.

I haven’t got much to add to this shabby, grotesque, utterly-to-form horror story, so I’ve leave the final word to the 5Rights Foundation – a campaign group that wants digital services to be made more suitable for young people: “Facebook’s own research is a devastating indictment of the carelessness with which it, and the tech sector more broadly, treats children.

“In pursuit of profit these companies are stealing children’s time, self-esteem and mental health, and sometimes tragically their lives…This is an entirely human-made world, largely privately owned, designed to optimise for commercial purposes – it does not have to be like this. It is time to optimise for the safety, rights and wellbeing of kids first – and then, only then – profit.”