The Download: LinkedIn Scams and Annual Covid Vaccines

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.

1,000 Chinese SpaceX Engineers That Never Existed

If you were to just look at his LinkedIn page, you would surely think that Mai Lingzhen is a top-notch engineer. With a bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua, China’s top university, and a master’s degree in semiconductor manufacturing from UCLA, Mai began his career at Intel and KBR, a space technology company, before ending up at SpaceX in 2013. But it’s not all as it seems.

The profile of “Mai Linzheng” is actually one of the millions of fraudulent pages created on LinkedIn to lure users into scams. Scammers like Mai claim to be affiliated with prestigious schools and companies to boost their credibility before contacting other users, building a relationship and setting a financial trap.

Victims have already lost millions of dollars through scams originating from the platform, and the problem is only growing. Read the full story.

— Zeyi Yang

Podcast: How Retail Uses AI to Prevent Fraud

We’ve all experienced the frustration of a blocked credit card caused by a transaction deemed suspicious that was actually completely normal. This is the most visible way in which the complex web of systems designed to root out fraud fails, but it is far from the only one.

In the latest episode of our podcast, In Machines We Trust, we explain how it’s a technological arms race between companies and fraudsters, with us caught in the middle. And AI is playing an increasingly important role in combat. Listen to it on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you usually listen.

The required readings

I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating tech stories.

1 US plans annual covid vaccine
Like the annual flu shot, the covid booster should offer a high level of protection for an entire year, according to the White House. (WP$)

2 The Merge is the biggest crypto test to date
If successful, it could solve many of the industry’s problems. (Economist $)
+ Upgrading Ethereum will greatly improve its security. (Protocol)

3 Doomscrolling is bad for your health
Partially avoiding the news made the study participants feel less distracted. (The Keeper)
+ How to fix your broken brain from the pandemic. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Apple’s relationship with China is long and complicated
The company’s plans to shift some iPhone production to India may not go as smoothly as hoped. (NYT$)
+ Apple plans to appeal Brazil’s decision to ban the sale of iPhones without chargers. (Bloomberg $)

5 Twitter and Elon Musk’s lawyers met in a pre-trial hearing
Whistleblower Petter Zatko’s claims hung over the meeting. (WSJ$)
+ Musk cited the war in Ukraine as a reason to delay the takeover. (FT$)
+ Twitter’s new edit button will be able to change tweets up to five times. (TechCrunch)

6 No, the transition to clean energy does not increase the risk of grid failures
This is a common argument that is fundamentally flawed. (Vox)
+ India’s answer to Silicon Valley is largely underwater thanks to intense flooding. (FT$)
+ These plastic batteries can help store renewable energy on the grid. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Mobile gambling is giving birth to a new generation of addicts
Enhanced by the constant availability of devices. (Motherboard)

8 How Minecraft Turned Its Back on Blockchain
It causes its players to lose thousands of dollars worth of crypto in the process. (Rest of the World)

9 How the Internet Solved a Six-Year-Old Mystery
Featuring a mysterious man with pointy ears. (New Yorker $)

10 TikTok teachers doing well
Between highlighting their profession and respecting students’ privacy. (with cable $)

Quote of the day

“One of the claims is, ‘This is digital blackface.’

—James O. Young, a philosophy professor at the University of Victoria, explains to the New York Times the backlash surrounding virtual rapper FN Meka, who critics say perpetuates black stereotypes.

The big story

Technology has exposed Syrian war crimes time and time again. Was it for nothing?

October 2019

Syria was one of the first major conflicts in the social media era, with many Syrians having cell phones with cameras and access to high-speed internet.

The material collected by the Syrians allowed people far from the actual fighting to also participate in the investigation. In 2012, Elliott Higgins, then an unemployed British blogger, began sifting through videos and photos released by Syria, trying to identify the weapons used; he later launched a website, Bellingcat, and assembled a team of volunteer analysts.

Fueled by optimism that social media and digital connectivity can be a force for good, and the encouragement of Western politicians, such efforts have made the Syrian conflict the most thoroughly documented in human history. Someone just had to act on the detailed information gathered from the ground. Read the full story.

— Eric Reidy

We can still have good things

A place of comfort, entertainment and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Email me ortweet them to me.)

+ There’s an entire website dedicated to bread labels, because of course there is.
+ Barbers in Sao Paulo are certainly a creative bunch.
+ Balloon shootouts will only end in tears.
+ Obviously, the only good tattoo is a bad tattoo.
+ For the science lovers among you, here’s an intriguing fall reading list.

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