The Download: Language-preserving AI, and hackers showed it’s frighteningly easy to breach critical infrastructure

Spilling Silicon Valley’s secrets, one tweet at a time

Shortly after midnight on May 4, 2018, Jane Manchun Wong tweeted her first “finding” ever. She wrote, “Twitter is working in End-End Encrypted Secrecy DM!”

This tweet was Wong’s first. She has been able find out which features and projects are being secretly worked on by going into the public source code of companies like Twitter and Facebook before they release it. A young woman of color exposed the plans of a Big Tech company without any tools other than her ability to reverse-engineer codes. It was (and still is) a radical move that has changed the way tech companies operate. Read full story .

–Tanya Basu

Quote of the day

“We think we are fighting fascism, but there isn’t fascism there. There isn’t.”

–Sergei Klokov, a driver at Moscow’s police headquarters, criticized Russia’s activities in Ukraine during a phone call to a friend shortly before he was arrested, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 We need to prepare for the war in Ukraine to last indefinitely

It’s been eight weeks since the invasion, with no sign of a conclusion to the conflict. (Foreign Affairs)
Ukraine is concerned that Chinese-made drones are sabotaging its defenses. (WSJ $)
Russia has banned Kamala Harris and other US officials from entering the country. (Reuters)
Russian troops are blockading a steel mill with 2,000 Ukrainian fighters inside. (NYT $)
The World Bank is anticipating a catastrophic global food crisis. (BBC)
Russia plans to “falsify” an independence referendum in southern Ukraine, says Zelensky. (The Guardian)

2 Elon Musk says he’s lined up $46.5 billion to buy Twitter
Which is an awful lot of money, even for someone as wealthy as him. (WSJ $)
He says he wants free speech on the platform, but he’s spent years trying to silence his own critics is pretty thin-skinned to criticism. (Bloomberg $)
Musk also appears dead-set on turning back time to when tweets had fewer consequences. (New Yorker $)

3 Zero-day hacks are the rich cybercriminal’s weapon of choice
They’re eye-wateringly expensive, but incredibly effective. (TR)
Google is fixing more zero-day flaws targeting Chrome. (ZDNet)

4 Microbial jet fuel could help cut carbon emissions from flying
If (a big if) it can be proven to work at scale. (TR)
Another way to lower greenhouse emissions? Sue the producers. (The Economist $)

5 The EU is set to announce a new law forcing Big Tech to police illegal content
If it goes through, it means they’ll no longer be allowed to mark their own homework. (FT $)
It could leave the biggest companies vulnerable to fines of billions of dollars. (Bloomberg $)
As ever, the biggest companies are less than thrilled by the prospect. (Bloomberg $)
And marketers won’t be happy either. (The Drum $)

6 Regulation alone can’t combat disinformation
Disinformation is dangerous, but flawed methods to tackle it can be terrible too. (The Atlantic $)
YouTube is more likely to reinforce extreme views than to introduce you to them. (NYT $)
Big Tech has made democracy more vulnerable, Obama says. (WP $)

7 Sheryl Sandberg reportedly persuaded journalists not to write about her then-boyfriend
Partly because it would have harmed her reputation as a champion of women. (WSJ $)

8 Someone in the UK has had covid for more than a year
Doctors say we need better treatments for people battling persistent infections. (The Guardian)
New global covid cases were down by nearly a quarter last week. (The Guardian)

9 Installing smart home tech in rental properties is a thorny privacy issue
On one hand, it’s convenient. It’s also a web-enabled surveillance system. (WSJ $)
Amazon thinks home tech is a safer bet than expanding into the metaverse. (FT $)

10 What it’s like to receive an email from your past self
It’s a lovely way to reflect on your achievements, and the future. (The Guardian)

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