Forget TikTok. China’s Powerhouse App Is WeChat, and Its Power Is Sweeping.

from NYTs Just after the 2016 presidential election in the United States, Joanne Li realized the app that connected her to fellow Chinese immigrants had disconnected her from reality. Everything she saw on the Chinese app, WeChat, indicated Donald J. Trump was an admired leader and impressive businessman. She believed it was the unquestioned consensus on the newly elected American president. “But then I started talking to some foreigners about him, non-Chinese,” she said. “I was totally confused.” She began to read more widely, and Ms. Li, who lived in Toronto at the time, increasingly found WeChat filled with gossip, […]

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What’s This? A Bipartisan Plan For AI And National Security

from ars technica US Reps. Will Hurd and Robin Kelly are from opposite sides of the ever-widening aisle, but they share a concern that the United States may lose its grip on artificial intelligence, threatening the American economy and the balance of world power. On Thursday, Hurd (R-Tex.) and Kelly (D-Ill.) offered suggestions to prevent the US from falling behind China, especially, on applications of AI to defense and national security. They want to cut off China’s access to AI-specific silicon chips and push Congress and federal agencies to devote more resources to advancing and safely deploying AI technology. Although […]

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Facial Recognition for People Wearing Masks

from Schneier on Security The Chinese facial recognition company Hanwang claims it can recognize people wearing masks: The company now says its masked facial recognition program has reached 95 percent accuracy in lab tests, and even claims that it is more accurate in real life, where its cameras take multiple photos of a person if the first attempt to identify them fails. […] Counter-intuitively, training facial recognition algorithms to recognize masked faces involves throwing data away. A team at the University of Bradford published a study last year showing they could train a facial recognition program to accurately recognize half-faces […]

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Coronavirus Forces Universities Online

from Inside Higher Ed After celebrating the Lunar New Year earlier this month, thousands of students at U.S. universities in China have resumed classes. But the campuses are eerily quiet, and classrooms remain empty. That’s because classes have moved online in the wake of the coronavirus. The transition from face-to-face to fully online wasn’t one leaders at institutions such as Duke Kunshan University and New York University Shanghai had planned for. Preparing to teach a course online for the first time usually takes several months. Faculty at institutions in China have done it in less than three weeks — a […]

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Living in Dark Mode

from NYTs THE LIGHTS IN MY ROOM ARE OFF, and the autumn air is trickling in through the window. It is my favorite season in Hong Kong, finally cool enough to get by without air-conditioning. I’m listening to meditation music a friend sent me to ease my persistent insomnia. My partner is staying up late, hunched over his desk with a tall can of beer, tweeting updates for a local media outlet. Outside, a revolution is raging. I check my phone to see whether my ex-flatmate, who has gone out to pick up protesters in his car, has responded to […]

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The Hong Kong Protesters Aren’t Driven by Hope

from The Atlantic For months now, I’ve been told that Hong Kong’s protests would end soon. They’ll end when school starts, I heard during the summer. School did start, but the protests wore on, only now I saw high-school students in crisp school uniforms joining the protesters’ ranks. Next, the mask ban of early October was supposed to slow protesters down, but the very first day after that ban, I watched streams of protesters in masks and helmets make their way to their usual haunts on Hong Kong Island The government shut down many of the subway lines that day, […]

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China’s TikTok Blazes New Ground. That Could Doom It.

from NYTs American leaders have effectively thrown Huawei and a handful of Chinese surveillance technology companies out of the country, warning darkly of the national security and privacy threats of installing Made-in-China products into sensitive parts of the nation’s electronic infrastructure. Now they have cast their fearful gaze on a new Chinese target: the dancing and singing teens and tweens of TikTok. A secretive federal panel with a national security focus is reviewing the purchase of TikTok two years ago by a Chinese company called Bytedance, The New York Times and othersreported last week. Three senators have asked the Trump […]

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China’s New Cybersecurity Program: NO Place to Hide

from China Law Blog The Chinese government has been working for several years on a comprehensive Internet security/surveillance program.  This program is based on the Cybersecurity Law adopted on 2016. The plan is vast and includes a number of subsidiary laws and regulations. On December 1, 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security announced it will finally roll-out the full plan. The core of the plan is for China’s Ministry of Security to fully access the massive amounts of raw data transmitted across Chinese networks and housed on servers in China. Since raw data has little value, the key to […]

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Tiktok Is China’s Next Big Weapon

from Axios Chinese social media is largely impenetrable for most in the West — just check out their memes — but Sino tech giants have their eye on owning the U.S. market, evidenced by the rise of TikTok. Why it matters: While the video-based app simply seems like a benign platform for Gen Zers to make and share funny memes, it’s could become a Chinese vacuum for coveted American data. It has made its top creators into bona fide celebrities, as evidenced by a look at YouTube’s annual VidCon by The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz. Between the lines: TikTok’s “parent company, ByteDance, recently […]

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Chinese Dissidents Feel Heat of Beijing’s Wrath. Even in Canada.

from NYTs Search for Sheng Xue on Google in English and you will find the story of an award-winning writer who left China for Canada after the Tiananmen Square uprising and became one of the world’s leading advocates for Chinese democracy. But that same search in Chinese comes up with a very different portrait: Sheng Xue is a fraud, a thief, a traitor and a serial philanderer. Want proof? It offers up salacious photos, like one seeming to show her kissing a man who is not her husband. As China extends its influence around the globe, it has mastered the […]

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Is Big Tech Merging With Big Brother? Kinda Looks Like It

from Wired A friend of mine, who runs a large television production company in the car-mad city of Los Angeles, recently noticed that his intern, an aspiring filmmaker from the People’s Republic of China, was walking to work. When he offered to arrange a swifter mode of transportation, she declined. When he asked why, she explained that she “needed the steps” on her Fitbit to sign in to her social media accounts. If she fell below the right number of steps, it would lower her health and fitness rating, which is part of her social rating, which is monitored by […]

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Life Inside China’s Social Credit Laboratory

from Foreign Policy Rongcheng was built for the future. Its broad streets and suburban communities were constructed with an eye to future expansion, as the city sprawls on the eastern tip of China’s Shandong province overlooking the Yellow Sea. Colorful billboards depicting swans bank on the birds — one of the city’s tourist attractions — returning there every winter to escape the Siberian cold. In an attempt to ease bureaucracy, the city hall, a glass building that resembles a flying saucer, has been fashioned as a one-stop shop for most permits. Instead of driving from one office to another to […]

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Jaywalkers Under Surveillance In Shenzhen Soon To Be Punished Via Text Messages

from South China Morning Post Traffic police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have always had a reputation for strict enforcement of those flouting road rules in the metropolis of 12 million people. Now with the help of artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology, jaywalkers will not only be publicly named and shamed, they will be notified of their wrongdoing via instant messaging – along with the fine. Intellifusion, a Shenzhen-based AI firm that provides technology to the city’s police to display the faces of jaywalkers on large LED screens at intersections, is now talking with local mobile phone […]

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China Presses Its Internet Censorship Efforts Across the Globe

from NYTs Within its digital borders, China has long censored what its people read and say online. Now, it is increasingly going beyond its own online realms to police what people and companies are saying about it all over the world. For years, China has exerted digital control with a system of internet filters known as the Great Firewall, which allows authorities to limit what people see online. To broaden its censorship efforts, Beijing is venturing outside the Great Firewall and paying more attention to what its citizens are saying on non-Chinese apps and services. As part of that shift, […]

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The End of Democratic Capitalism?

from NewCo Shift A clash of fundamentally competing economic philosophies broke into the mainstream news this weekend, with the fate of democratic capitalism hanging in the balance. And while it’s likely too early to call a winner, the trends are certainly not looking good for democracy as we understand it in the west.* First, the news. Bowing to Chinese law, Apple will be storing the keys to its Chinese customers’ data inside China?—?subjecting that information to Chinese legal oversight, a system which, as Yonatan Zunger points out, is markedly distinct from that of the United States, where Apple had heretofore protected […]

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Tech Companies Should Stop Pretending AI Won’t Destroy Jobs

from MIT Technology Review No matter what anyone tells you, we’re not ready for the massive societal upheavals on the way. I took an Uber to an artificial-­intelligence conference at MIT one recent morning, and the driver asked me how long it would take for autonomous vehicles to take away his job. I told him it would happen in about 15 to 20 years. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, I’ll be retired by then,” he said. Good thing we weren’t in China. If a driver there had asked, I would have had to tell him he’d lose his […]

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China To Build Giant Facial Recognition Database To Identify Any Citizen Within Seconds

from SCMP The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy. The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai. The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project. However, some researchers said it was unclear when the system would be completed, as the development was encountering many difficulties […]

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China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

from The Atlantic The Pakistani town of Gwadar was until recently filled with the dust-colored cinderblock houses of about 50,000 fishermen. Ringed by cliffs, desert, and the Arabian Sea, it was at the forgotten edge of the earth. Now it’s one centerpiece of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, and the town has transformed as a result. Gwadar is experiencing a storm of construction: a brand-new container port, new hotels, and 1,800 miles of superhighway and high-speed railway to connect it to China’s landlocked western provinces. China and Pakistan aspire to turn Gwadar into a new Dubai, making it a city […]

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China’s Mobile Revolution (pt. 1)

from The Startup In February 2016, I went to China to celebrate Lunar New Year with my relatives. Having emigrated to North America over 14 years ago, I’ve always been amazed by China’s continuous transformation. As my life in the West became interweaved with services provided Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Uber, Youtube, and Amazon, I realized that my relatives in China couldn’t access any of these services (with the exception of Uber and Amazon in some cities). This is due to China’s Great Firewall, which blocked off most Western Internet technologies. Though I had read about the rise of WeChat, Alibaba […]

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With Tensions Rising, Asia Should Not Delay Settling South China Sea Disputes

from Yale Global Online The US military is challenging China’s claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea that includes some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. “The unpredictability of the American presidential election now heightens the risk because inevitably it will come with ramped-up anti-China campaign rhetoric,” reports BBC journalist Humphrey Hawksley. The United States and countries in Asia are divided internally over whether intervention is the correct approach considering that the nations of East Asia are tightly interconnected through trade and economic ties, and the country that instigates conflict could expect condemnation. The governments of the region could […]

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