Download: the original movie of covid and the uncertain future of TikTok

This is today’s edition of Download, Our weekday newsletter provides daily coverage of what’s happening in the tech world.

New coronavirus data revealed has rekindled a debate about the origin of the virus

This week, we’ve seen the resurgence of a heated debate since the beginning of the pandemic—where did the virus that causes covid-19 come from?

For the most part, scientists still assert that the virus may have passed from animals to humans at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan at some point in late 2019. But some suggest the virus -The virus has spread from person to animal and not the other way around. And many people go on to claim that the virus somehow leaked from a nearby lab studying coronaviruses in bats.

The data collected in 2020 — and not made public since — is likely to add weight to the animal theory. It highlights a potential suspect: the raccoon dog. But exactly how much weight it adds depends on who you ask. Read full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly biotech newsletter. Register to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Read more about the MIT Technology Review covid report:

Our biotech senior editor, Antonio Regalado, investigated the origins of the coronavirus behind covid-19 in his five-part podcast series Curious coincidence.

+ Meet the scientist at the center of the covid lab leak controversy. Shi Zhengli spent many years at the Wuhan Institute of Virology studying coronaviruses that live in bats. Her work has been criticized as the world tries to figure out where covid-19 came from. Read full story.

+ This scientist now believes that covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why. Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, believes that the spread of the virus from animals at the Huanan seafood market is almost certainly the source of the pandemic. Read full story.

Must read

I’ve scoured the Internet to find you today’s most interesting/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The future of TikTok in the US is at stake
Banning it is a huge challenge, and officials still lack the legal authority to do so. (WP $)
+ TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has been barbecued by a congressional committee. (FT $)
+ He told lawmakers that the company would get their trust. (WSJ $)
+ Meanwhile, TikTok has been paying DC influencers to lobby for its cause. (Wired $)

2 A Crypto fugitive was arrested in Montenegro
Do Kwon has been on the run since the TerraUSD stablecoin collapsed last year. (WSJ $)
+ Want to mine Bitcoins? Take yourself to Texas. (Reuters)
+ What’s next for crypto. (Technology Review MIT)

3 Twitter is getting rid of its old blue checks
On the completely serious day of April 1st. (precipice)+ The platform remains an unattractive prospect for advertisers. (Vox)

4 Chatbots are having difficult conversations for us
ChatGPT is very good at scripting sensitive conversations with children and colleagues. (NYT $)
+ OpenAI granted ChatGPT access to live web data. (precipice)
+ How Character.AI became a billion dollar unicorn (WSJ $)
+ The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it. (Technology Review MIT)

5 Jack Dorsey’s Block has been accused of fraudulent trading
The payment company denied that and claimed that they also inflated their user numbers.(FT $)
+ Dorsey has no record of caring about things like this. (Information $)

6 homeowner associations are secretly installing surveillance systems
The system tracks license plates and tracks the movement of residents. (intercept)

7 Inside the complex ethics of using DNA to solve crimes
The new database can help protect user privacy. (Wired $)|
+ Citizen scientist finds killer from her couch. (Technology Review MIT)

8 There are many reasons to be optimistic about the climate
A healthier, more sustainable diet is a good place to start. (American Science)
+ An inventory of our climate past, present and future. (Technology Review MIT)

9 TikTok keeps following us
It seems that we cannot bear to be strongly criticized for what to do. (Vox)

10 Don’t be fooled by deepfake
CallerID cannot be trusted to protect you from AI fake calls. (Gizmodo)

Quote of the day

“Wait, I need content.”

—TikTok fashion creator Kristine Thompson refused to miss a content opportunity during a trip to the US Capitol to lobby against a potential TikTok ban, she told New York Times.

big story

This sci-fi blockchain game could help create a super universe that no one owns

November 2022

The Dark Forest is a vast universe and is largely covered in darkness. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to venture into the unknown, avoid being destroyed by opposing players that may be lurking in the shadows and build an empire of planets that you explore and can create your own empire.

But while this video game looks and plays like other online strategy games, it does not rely on servers running other popular online strategy games. And it could point to something even more profound: the possibility of a metaverse not owned by a major tech company. Read full story.

—Mike Orcutt

We can still have good things

A place for comfort, fun and entertainment in these strange times. (Any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet them with me.)

+ If underwater horror is your thing, Joe Romier features some seriously impressive shark pictures and videos.
+ Do your best, by Ted Lasso British dialog wide fall of the mark.
+ Let’s snoop around some celebrity bedroom.
+ Why can’t we have enough of those? favorite candle.
+ Interview with tiny animals checkered microphoneit doesn’t get much better than that.

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