Friday roundup: A week in tech

Twitter

The good folks at Twitter have shared a gigantic heap of politically meddlesome Russian and Iranian tweets – 10 million of them to be exact: imagine sifting through that lot.

The 360GB cache of allegedly state-backed digital chicanery was posted on the silly yet popular social media network between 2013 and 2018, with a great deal of it concerning two of the most divisive events of our times: the Toblerone size-reduction scandal, and GDPR.

Only joking! I mean of course the election of President Donald Trump and the ongoing Brexit balls-up – both of which may or may not have been partly engineered by foreign Twitterizers.

A US think tank called The Atlantic Council was given early access to the heap of nonsense – and has now concluded that: ‘One main purpose was to interfere in the US presidential election and prevent Hillary Clinton’s victory but it was also aimed at dividing polarised online communities in the US, unifying support for Russia’s international interests and breaking down trust in US institutions.’

Meanwhile, interference with a more Iranian flavour was focused on spreading good news about that country’s government – although one suspect account sent out a French-language tweet that read ‘What they will never tell you about Christmas’ with a tempting link. Must have been irresistible.

In even more shocking news, the Iranians tweeted Theresa May’s name (Theresa May) a shocking 344 times, and French president Emmanuel Macron’s name an unforgivable 3,661 times!

Hang on. This is all a bit underwhelming, isn’t it? Is this how you bring down Western democracy? Through rubbish tweets?

Anyway, in vaguely related news, Russia’s state censor has ‘jokingly’ offered net users a 24-hour internet ban – you know, for a laugh.

The funny jokers at Roskomnadzor posted ‘Friends, only today and only to mark our anniversary, we are handing out one-day bans to anyone who wants them,’ adding that ‘You can then tell all of your friends that RKN itself has blocked you’.

Isn’t that hilarious. The organisation was given the power and block websites in 2012, and has in the past banned Russians’ access to evil Wikipedia and the messaging service Telegram. Still, it’s good to know they have a sense of humour about these things.

***

You know that super-fast, super-exciting 5G that’s heading our way? Well, bad news: we’ll all have to buy new phones if we want to actually use it.

To the undoubted absolute orgasm of the likes of Apple and Samsung, to access 5G tomorrow’s phones will need to have a far more complex antennae, better chipsets and increased energy resources. Naturally! Furthermore, David McQueen of ABI Research reckons that 5G-ready phones will start at around £438-£534 – and you can quite imagine that Apple, for instance, will whack £1,000 on top of that for starters.

Anyway, this interesting article from the BBC asks if people will actually bother forking out the extra cash for 5G’s rumoured pleasures.

According to Scott Petty of Vodafone, 5G ‘will kick off another wave of innovation that we haven’t seen in the last three or four years,’ which includes better virtual reality on the move – so, while at present you can only stare blankly at a small screen while the real world passes you by, in the near future you’ll be able to experience full emersion in Facebook while the sun rises and sets.

A spokesperson for Apple didn’t really say: ‘We couldn’t be happier. This is going to go on and on. After 5G comes 6G. There’s no end to it, really. We own you.’

***

The expansion of global internet access has slowed down dramatically, a report has revealed.

Shared with the Guardian (not with me, oddly), the Web Foundation’s as yet unpublished report shows that the rate at which earth humans have been getting online has dropped massively since 2015, with women and poor rural folk the groups most likely to be missing out on being insulted over Twitter.

The rate of net access growth fell from 19% in 2007 to below 6% in 2017.

Dhanaraj Thakur, research director at the Web Foundation, said: ‘We underestimated the slowdown and the growth rate is now really worrying. The problem with having some people online and others not is that you increase the existing inequalities. If you’re not part of it, you tend to lose out.’

(This is all firmly unfair and unacceptable: everyone should have access to the net. However, I can’t help but feel a little bit envious of those deprived of the web. I know this isn’t the point, but I try to find ways to spend as little time on it as possible.)

Anyway, the report warns that ‘as our daily lives become increasingly digital, these offline populations will continue to be pushed farther to the margins of society.’

Here’s a for instance: in 2016, 98.2% of Icelanders accessed the internet, but only 1.2% of Eritreans did, which is a pretty shocking disparity. Having said that, it’s freezing in Iceland so there’s probably little to do but stay inside and moan at strangers over social media, while Eritrea is quite warm, isn’t it?

Ok, I’m being flippant, but is there not something in that? I mean, when we go on holiday and lie next to sparkling swimming pools at luxurious resorts in the burning sun we don’t waste our time on the internet…oh hang on, nothing changes, does it. Yep, ok, get Eritrea some internet.

Anyhow, here’s the full Guardian story about the report they were given a sneak preview of.

Have a good weekend.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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