Monday, May 23, 2022

Hashtag Trending Mar. 1 – Meta tackles disinformation campaigns; Starlink in Ukraine; Germany’s renewable energy

Meta removes Russian disinformation campaigns, Starlink extends service in Ukraine, and Germany proposes a renewable energy plan.

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That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now, welcome to Hashtag Trending. It’s Tuesday, March 1st, and I’m your host, Pragya Sehgal.

Early this week Meta said it detected and removed two disinformation campaigns run by groups in Russia and Ukraine. One of the two campaigns was operated by Ghostwriter, a Russia-linked disinformation and hacking group, Business Insider reported. Ghostwriter gained access to people’s Facebook accounts and then posted disinformation. According to Meta, additional security was placed on targeted accounts and affected users were notified. The other campaign used a network of fake accounts belonging to fictitious people claiming to be based in Kyiv. Meta said the display photos for these fake accounts were most likely created using a type of AI called generative adversarial networks. On Friday, the company released advice for Ukrainian users on how to lock and secure their accounts.

Over the weekend, Elon Musk said that Starlink‘s internet service is active in Ukraine and that more terminals are being sent as Russian troops disrupt internet access. Musk made the move after a senior Ukrainian government official asked him to provide more Starlink stations to the country. The vice prime minister of Ukraine and minister of digital transformation tweeted: “While you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations.”

Germany aims to fulfil all its electricity needs with supplies from renewable sources by 2035, according to a government draft paper. The country has been under pressure from other Western nations to become less dependent on Russian gas. However, its plans to eliminate coal-fired power plants by 2030 and to shut its nuclear power plants by the end of 2022 have left it with minimal options. Germany’s economy minister has described the accelerated capacity expansion for renewable energy as a vital element in making the country less dependent on Russian fossil fuel supplies, Reuters reported. The government draft paper revealed that the corresponding amendment to the country’s Renewable Energy Sources Act is ready and the share of wind or solar power should reach 80 per cent by 2030.

And now for something a bit different. Swedish researchers have created an artificial neuron that can control the snapping of a Venus flytrap’s mouth, paving the way for a new type of neurotechnology. The engineered artificial neuron could be useful for future research linking artificial, synthetic devices with biological systems such as brain-machine interfaces. In a study published in Nature, researchers from three Swedish universities constructed the neurons from polymers that can transport electrical signals to cells in the Venus flytrap which control the plant’s mouth. Venus flytraps, like other plants, don’t have nerves like humans and other animals. However, they are able to generate electrical impulses called action potentials that human neurons use to convey information to neural neighbours in the brain and spinal cord. The researcher’s next step is not only to get these artificial neurons to be faster but to advance them to more complex biological systems which they say they are already working on.

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash briefings or your Google Home daily briefing. Make sure to sign up for our Daily IT Wire newsletter to get all the news that matters directly in your inbox every day. Also, catch the next episode of Hashtag Tendances, our weekly Hashtag Trending episode in French, which drops every Thursday morning. If you have a suggestion or a tip, drop us a line in the comments or via email. Thank you for listening, I’m Pragya Sehgal.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Pragya Sehgal
Pragya Sehgal
Born and raised in the capital city of India - Delhi - bounded by the river Yamuna on the west, Pragya has climbed the Himalayas, and survived medical professional stream in high school without becoming a patient or a doctor. Pragya now makes her home in Canada with her husband - a digital/online marketing fanatic who also loves to prepare delicious meals for her. When she isn’t working or writing around tech, she’s probably watching art films on Netflix, or wondering whether she should cut her hair short or not. Can be contacted at psehgal@itwc.ca or 647.695.3494.

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