Trapped inside the Rick Astley simulation

Read to the end for a good thread about sax solos

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Facebook Deplatforms Australian News

Minutes after I emailed out Wednesday’s issue talking about Google and Facebook’s struggles in Australia, Facebook announced that they were turning off news in the country. Not only can Australian publishers no longer share their stories on Facebook, Australian users can no longer link out to them, nor can users outside of the country link to Australian news sources. The move comes after the Australian government introduced a media bargaining code, which would force platforms like Google and Facebook to pay for news content featured on their site.

I’ve long believed that everything Facebook does is predicated on one central paradox: Facebook is the biggest and most influential platform in the world, which is why advertisers should give them so much money, but Facebook could not be big and influential enough for misinformation on the site to have any social impact.

But Facebook throttling an entire country’s news actually tears that paradox open a bit. We can now see how much influence the site actually wields on a society. It’s an incredible blunder. Facebook gets its power from a lack of understanding about how much power it actually has and, thanks to the news ban, we have a better look than we’ve ever had before at what a Facebook-less future could look like..

First, there’s the idea that publishers need Facebook. Well, according to a story from Axios this morning, global traffic to Australian publishers has fallen 30%. It’s a lot, but that also means 2/3rds of the readers coming to Australian publishers are coming from other places. Which means Facebook is as dominant as we may have thought.

One sector of Australia’s online ecosystem hit particularly hard by the ban, though, has been charities and nonprofits. The ban also apparently took health departments, indigenous media groups, and meteorological institutions offline, though this seems to have been an accident and a lot of those pages are back up now. The fact that this kind of disruption is happening while the country is attempting to organize a vaccine rollout is particularly disgusting and it definitely reveals how effectively Facebook has replaced digital government outreach in many countries.

It’s still early to get a complete sense of what kind of impact the ban has had on misinformation, but according to a report Thursday from Australia’s ABC, misinformation is everywhere. There have been a lot of questions over the last few years about whether journalism and factchecking actually help prevent this stuff from spreading and now we know. It’s a real Gotham without Batman situation once the journalism disappears it seems.

Many people have made the point that Facebook did this to Australia because Australia wanted the platform to pay news publishers for their content, but the company did not take a similar action when Facebook rumors in Myanmar kickstarted a genocide. Nor did they do anything during the weeks leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol last month, even though they were fully aware of militias using their products to organize violence.

The company’s monopolistic influence is under intense scrutiny from governments in the US, the UK, and EU right now. Exerting this level of control over an entire nation is a bad look, to say the least. But, in many ways, it’s almost reassuring that Facebook has decided to go fully mask off here. There is no question now that they don’t care if their product kills you or is used to overthrow your government, but they will act swiftly and brutally if you ask them to pay for the content shared on their site. We finally don’t have to play this game anymore. They’re gangsters. They will take your content, make you pay them to promote it, inflate their own ad metrics to make yours look even smaller by comparison, and if you ever ask for anything in return, they’ll ban you, even if it means millions of people can no longer figure out how to get a COVID vaccine.


A Cursed 4K Rick Roll

This is so high-res it’s almost disgusting. I’m actually one of those people who really can’t look at 60 FPS video for too long before I get sick. Watching The Hobbit in a movie theater made me unbelievably nauseous. Which actually makes this a great video to Rick Roll people with. Not only will it piss them off, it could also make them throw up.

The channel that made this also made a 4k video of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and the combination of washed-out 90s music video greens and oranges and the light fisheye effect on some of the shots make it literally look like a panic attack. I love technology.


We Found Rick Astley’s Bridge

Some eagle-eyed Twitter users have found the aqueduct thing that Rick Astley sings in front of in the “Never Going To Give You Up” music video. It appears to be underneath a bridge connected to the Latimer Road tube station in Notting Hill. If you click through to the thread, there’s a bunch of other fun details about the music video.

Excited to use 4K technology and geotagged location data to create a four-dimensional simulation of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and live inside of it forever.


A Furry Is Working On The COVID Vaccine

Alright guys *cracks knuckles* let’s talk about furries. In my own experience interviewing members of the community, I can tell you that a shocking amount of them work in STEM or they work in frontline social services like EMTs, nurses, small town cops. And there are a ton of furries in the military. I assume that people who work either highly analytical or incredibly stressful jobs would also gravitate towards a subculture that emphasizes the compartmentalization of various identities.

Anyways! There’s a furry working on the COVID vaccine. Meet @sailorrooscout.

Their account has made a bunch of buzz on Tumblr over the last few weeks. I think at first there were assumptions it was just a LARP. It’s not uncommon for furries to chaotically insert themselves into news cycles. See: them cooking a tide pod pizza back in 2017. But @sailorrooscout has a bunch of prominent scientists following their account and they posted a thread back in January explaining what kind of work they do.

I’ll be honest, I get a certain kind of emotional when members of weird internet communities pop up like this. There’s a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling I get thinking about the idea that all of us, even viral biologoists, are using the internet explore subjects that interest us, no matter how weird or niche they may be. We’re all just very strange humans and it’s cool that it’s getting less and less taboo to admit that there’s this big invisible network of information we’re all using to express ourselves and learn more about ourselves.

Ok, that got a little too serious. Here’s a completely unrelated video of a furry who bought a tank.


Pixar Is Anime Now

I was absolutely flabbergasted that this was officially released by Pixar. It’s amazing. It reimagines the plot of Up as the opening to a shōnen anime. And you can really tell it was made by someone who knows their stuff. It has Evangelion sky overlays, Hunter x Hunter big bad guy reveals, a Dragonball Z power-up, and even a very Tokyo Ghoul-esque one tear drop hitting the ground against a black background scene. And don’t even get me started on the stereotypical anime crabcore theme song they have playing underneath it all.

The only note I have is that for a movie that features the sky so prominently, I think not having any characters fighting the sky or reaching up at it from a field was a real missed opportunity.


The Knee-Jerk Reaction To Millennial Pink

I fell down a big rabbit hole of discourse this week about a clear face shield called the Leaf. The drama around the leaf started when a few accounts started sharing photos of the product and (rightfully imo) calling it dystopian — most notably the design director over at the New Republic. Then Jake deHahn, a deaf designer and accessibility campaigner, quote-tweeted it and (also rightfully imo) called the reaction to the Leaf ableist.

My father is getting extremely hard of hearing. He has hearing aids, but, of course, he hates wearing them and would prefer to just read lips. COVID masks have been a nightmare for him. We traveled a few months ago and helping him around airports while trying to stay safe but also communicate effectively was incredibly difficult. And I have also written about the commodification of the pandemic before. There have been a bunch of similar-looking products pop up since the outbreak began. So I can sort of understand this compulsive disgust at any product attempting to pragmatically deal with it.

But more than anything, this entire discussion has made me realize that if I see a picture of a young woman in front of a pastel-colored background now I reflexively expect it to be an ad for some completely predatory startup that’s going to use blockchain-based subscription services to give me clean drinking water or something.

Which sucks! The future will bring us bigger and bigger climate emergencies that will unquestionably impact people with disabilities worse than those without so hopefully we can figure out better ways to call out the companies trying to exploit these disasters and promote the ones trying to help.

Quick aside here. I think we need a nice and concise term for that particular kind of hell spiral you go down digging through a bunch of Twitter threads and quote replies of people fighting with each other about a topic you’ve never really encountered before. It’s a bit more active than “doom scroll”.


The Vine Kid TikTok Fake Out

If you see this video going around, this is NOT the sweatshirt ear kid from Vine. That kid’s name was Kyle and you can watch him recreate the Vine in a YouTube video from 2018.


Cool Pokémon Thing

I firmly believe that Twitch Plays Pokémon was one of the greatest and most joyous moments on the internet ever. The channel is still going and I like to check in on the community sometimes. The subreddit is a really fun blast of complete nonsense.

Earlier this week, a redditor linked to a similar experiment which I had totally missed. Tweets Plays Pokémon is like Twitch Plays Pokémon but was powered by users tweeting at it. It’s a cool little project. It just wrapped up, but definitely head over and check it out. Their final team was a Vaporeon, Ninetales, Pidgeot, Venusaur, Primeape, and a Haunter.


Some Data Journalism

This was sent to me by my friend Alan. Here’s a link to the video if you need it.


A Good Video Of French People Pronouncing Stuff

This video is from 2019. It seems like it went pretty viral at the time, but I have somehow never seen it until this morning. I love it. It’s Friday. I don’t need to explain myself here! Just watch it.


P.S. here’s a good thread about sax solos.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***