Weekly Roundup 12.11.2020

Posted in Newsletters

Happy almost end of the semester! Highlights of the week include more trouble for Facebook, streaming platforms, and AI-generated pizza: 

Tech + Policy

U.S. and States Say Facebook Illegally Crushed Competition: The Federal Trade Commission, along with 40 states, accused Facebook of purchasing rivals like Instagram and Whatsapp, in order to limit competition. In all likelihood President-elect Joe Biden will continue the lawsuit after he takes office. 

Germany investigating Facebook over virtual reality products: Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is investigating Facebook’s virtual reality (VR) software and devices that require Oculus VR glasses. The investigation will determine if Facebook is putting too much pressure on other VR companies or if the Facebook policy constitutes market dominance. 

Want Vaccines Fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights: Some countries are blocking a World Trade Organization proposal to exempt enforcement of certain patents. In this New York Times op-ed, public health advocates and economists make the case for the proposal, arguing that the exemption might help speed up the production of new COVID-19 vaccines. 

Silicon Valley

Watch SpaceX’s Starship Launch and Explode in Crash Landing: A recent SpaceX test of a rocket prototype attempted to land, but exploded on impact (which you can watch via the link). Despite the crash, Elon Musk and the SpaceX team remain optimistic about the future of SpaceX. 

Get Rich Selling Used Fashion Online—or Cry Trying: Poshmark, an app that allows users to directly sell clothes to other users, felt like a dream to some, who finally felt like they could work with flexible hours, decent pay, and be their own boss. Some users, however, are beginning to ask the question: Girl Boss or Gig Worker? 


Disney Plus will add 50 new Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, and Pixar series and movies ‘over the next few years’: New content! Disney has announced that it will create new Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and Disney series and films for their streaming service, Disney Plus. Hopefully we’ll get a Mandalorian spinoff about the life of Jeans Guy.

Trading Box Office for Streaming, but Stars Still Want Their Money: Warner Bros. recent announcement that it will release many of its new films both in theaters and through its streaming service, has caused an uproar in Hollywood, and is raising questions about the future of actor pay packages and the greater Hollywood ecosystem. 

The Modder Who Is Bringing Black Culture to The Sims: Modder and avid Sims player Amira Virgil (XMiramira), recently created a Sims mod that offers a wider variety of tan, medium, and dark skin tones.  “It just seems like in gaming and in everything else, we Black women are always the foundation, but we’re always forgotten where we’re always left out of everything,” Virgil told Motherboard over a Discord call. “Despite how much influence we have on the world.” 

In Other News

He Pretended to Be Trump’s Family. Then Trump Fell for It: Josh Hall has been impersonating Donald Trump’s family members online for almost a year now- at one point getting retweeted by the President himself. Hall’s online personas show how even today, with efforts from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to crack down on disinformation and fake profiles, impersonating folks is relatively easy. 

These Pizzas Do Not Exist: Researchers at Rutgers University have created a machine learning algorithm for- that’s right- fake pizzas. The Multi-ingredient Pizza Generator (MPG) is helping researchers understand AI image generation, even if the pizzas themselves are…not great looking.