Hello and welcome to TechScape. Alex is on paternity leave, and in his place a rotating cast of writers will offer their views on the world of technology.
I apologize to all the readers who have begged Alex to write fewer stories about Elon Musk and cryptocurrencies, however, in a post-Twitter takeover world, there are no quiet weeks for tech journalists. In recent weeks, Musk has submitted documents for the latest edition of the “Twitter Files” to controversial writer Alex Berenson (with the not-so-revealing news that Twitter was asked not to spread vaccine misinformation); he hinted that we’re going to have tweets that are 4,000 characters long; and he tweeted messages about the arrest of disgraced influencer and “king of toxic masculinity” Andrew Tate.
All this happened while the price of the shares of your electric car company, Tesla, it sank down. For better or for worse – and so far it seems mainly for worse – Musk became the protagonist of 2022, Trumping Technologically.
Which is why I hope you’ll forgive us for focusing so much on him, and for continuing to do so throughout 2023. Because, like Trump, Musk’s way of doing things has a butterfly effect that transcends Twitter. Musk is redefining TechScape and how we as journalists (and politicians as regulators) should treat it.
Alex Hern, like me, has long treated big tech companies with a healthy dose of skepticism. Guardian was one of the main outlets to question Facebook during the scandal of Cambridge Analytica; discovered some issues with TikTok’s content moderation system; and laughs (rightly) at the metaverse. It has long been obvious that social media managers can’t always address the issues they need to address, given the central role of their companies in our society, and I personally have had the impression that they are simply not up to the task. the task of understanding its own impact.
However, in hindsight we might appreciate how lucky we were. While executives at big tech companies didn’t always rise to the occasion, they recognized the magnitude of the problem. Mark Zuckerberg made a lot of bad decisions and acted on many occasions in his blatant self-interest, but he seemed to realize that his company’s position in our lives meant that he had to try and keep his platform in check.
In Musk’s case, this does not appear to be the case. The risk is that, just as politicians started flouting the rules after realizing that Donald Trump was getting away with it, other tech executives could start doing the same. We may look back to 2022 and think that we have never done so well when it comes to the behavior of big tech companies, which is a worrying thought.
The metaverse… lives?
This week we got the breaking news that the metaverse could – and I stress that it could – be resurrected. Since Facebook completely revised its activity and renamed itself Goal as of late 2021, the metaverse has been little more than a Mark Zuckerberg dream in search of a use case.
The reason? No consumer wants to spend thousands of pounds on VR hardware that could make it more likely that they’ll stumble into their own home only to find themselves in a sub-Sims-graphics universe.
Until now. Bloomberg reports Manzana will introduce a virtual and augmented reality headset this spring in what is the world’s worst kept secret.
This is an important moment, among other things because there is an assumption (which may be wrong) that Manzana could do with virtual reality headsets, and therefore the metaverse, what it did with the smartphone in 2007. Back then, people didn’t see the point in having an all-in-one device that could replace the camera with the same skill with which he answered a call. And they didn’t always see the utility of the apps. Yet 16 years later, we are slaves to the world of Manzana.
The theory is that the helmet, which could be called Reality Pro, could take the metaverse out of the realm of dodgy tech geeks and into the mainstream. But like everything Apple does, it will come at a (heavy) cost. The metaverse just got interesting again.
Tick to TikTok?
Another major news broke in the world of technology. TikTok he slipped up for the first time, and it was big. Two days before Christmas TikTok sent an internal email from the CEO of the parent company ByteDance, Erich Andersen, in which he revealed that members of his staff were spying on journalists covering the company.
I have some experience covering TikTok And, like a phalanx of reporters, I’ve been looking for the story that will torpedo the company. Not out of malice, but because all tech companies have something to hide. So far, a bunch of talented journalists couldn’t find much more than the problems that plague all big tech companies: harassment (£), content moderation errors, and white lies (£) that aim to make the platform look less intrusive than it is.
Turns out we didn’t need to dig to find the key clue. TikTok did it for us.
It is difficult to underestimate the extent to which espionage is a goal of its own for TikTok. Sino-skeptical politicians in the UK and US, for example, might argue that it confirms their fears that the company is not really Westernising, and they might argue that claims that TikTok is breaking free from Chinese government control are little more than hot air.
The espionage decision is, in its own way, as significant as the fact that Elon Musk tear up the rule book on how to be a great tech executive. It’s the worst possible start to 2023 for TikTok, and it means that the company must rebuild trust not only with politicians and users, but also with journalists who cover information about the company..
We want to say thanks to the author of this short article for this incredible material
TikTok has been spying on journalists