Friday roundup: A week in tech | News

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The Innovation and Technology Network

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Friday roundup: A week in tech

Plans that could potentially tackle the housing crisis in the form of five new sustainable cities have been revealed – unfortunately, they won’t be ready until 2100 and they’ll be on Mars but it’s a start.

The good people at The Mars Society have worked with global scientist posse the SONet network to draw up the scheme, while architecture outfit ABIBOO has helped with the designs.

Bearing in mind that, despite years of excitable hype, we still haven’t managed to get drones to deliver our takeaways, the team truly seems to believe that chunks of prime Red Planet real estate will be going up by 2054.

Capital city Nüwa will be vertical and full of homes, green spaces and…offices, which I thought were now cancelled even on earth, so not sure why the obsolete concept is being dragged 255m kilometres across the solar system.

For added spice, Nüwa will be built into the side of a cliff to protect Nüwaians from deadly levels of radiation and fatal atmospheric pressure…apparently life has become so rubbish on earth that such inhospitable conditions are acceptable.

ABIBOO’s Alfredo Muñoz is realistic but upbeat: "We had to do a lot of analysis based on computing and working with the scientists to try to understand what are the circumstances that we will face…we have to face challenges that are very specific to the conditions of Mars, one of them is gravity, which is only one-third of the gravity on Earth."

But how many people would want to leave earth to live somewhere where you have to stay in all the time and look out the window, no doubt passing the endless hours watching television…oh hang on.

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Ofcom have been on the internet, and they don’t like what they see.

According to the media regulator’s latest report, it seems the information superhighway is awash with vileness, with one in three people coming across hate speech while browsing video platforms between June and August last year. Who knew?

Laughably, Ofcom says it expects video networks to “take active measures” to deal with the problem of online racism, homophobia and all the rest of it – a line which could have been taken from any report on such matters, from almost anywhere in the world, on any day from the last 15 years. So, good luck with that.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s head of online content, said: “Although video services are making progress in protecting users, there’s much further to go. We’re setting out how companies should work with us to get their houses in order – giving children and other users the protection they need, while maintaining freedom of expression.”

If only the likes of YouTube had a few quid lying around that they could chuck at this problem. Oh well.

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Facebook news, anyone? Surely, they’re due a good turn?

Not this week. According to data from the NSPCC, over half of online child sex crimes recorded between October 2019 and September 2020 took place on apps owned by the bungling company.

Facebook has plans to add end-to-end encryption to messages sent through Instagram and Facebook Messenger – but the children’s charity has warned that the move will lead to many offences going unreported, unless safeguarding measures are put in place.

The NSPCC gathered data from 35 police forces across England, Wales and the Channel Islands, which revealed cops recorded 9,477 incidents involving sexual or indecent image offences against children – with 52% occurring on Facebook-owned platforms.

Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, said: “Facebook is willingly turning back the clock on children’s safety by pushing ahead with end-to-end encryption despite repeated warnings that their apps will facilitate more serious abuse more often.”

In response, Facebook mustered: “Child exploitation has no place on our platforms and we will continue to lead the industry in developing new ways to prevent, detect and respond to abuse.”

Glad they clarified that.

Anyhow, the NSPCC is calling on the government to get tougher with tech firms, which never seems to happen but it’s worth a try.

What about the coming Online Safety Bill? Maybe that will fix things?

Someone from the government thinks so: “Our Online Safety Bill will bring in world-leading measures to protect children and ensure there is no safe space for paedophiles to hide on social media.

“The burden will fall solely on social media companies to prove they’re doing all they can to keep children safe and they will not be able to use encryption as an excuse.

“End-to-end encryption risks blinding both social media companies and law enforcement to these dreadful crimes and tech companies must put public safety at the heart of their system designs or face heavy fines.”

Well, we’ll see, won’t we.