The appearance of Chinese influencers and the origin of covid


No one could have predicted how quickly three of China’s most powerful influencers would fall. On June 3, Austin Li, a 30-year-old livestreamer with more than 60 million followers, abruptly cut off a livestream after a tank-shaped ice cream dessert appeared on screen. Although he later posted that it was due to “technical issues,” most people understand that it triggered government censorship, which interpreted it as referring to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Li is not known to have been arrested and his account remains active, but he has not streamed or posted on social media since then. Fans suspect he may not be allowed to stream anymore.

Live streaming e-commerce in China is a huge industry worth more than $180 billion. Influencers like Li have risen to match the popularity of A-list celebrities, and have been known to enable billions of dollars worth of online purchases in one night.

But in Li’s and at least two other cases, these online empires were toppled overnight in what appears to be a government crackdown extending through the end of 2021 — suggesting a reckoning is in progress. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find the funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology today.

1 We are still in the dark about the origin of covid
We need more data from China, says a new WHO report. †NYT
It also wants to further investigate the theory that it leaked from a lab. †WP
+ Meet the scientist at the center of the lab leak controversy. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Quantum computers can create entirely new forms of matter
Such species have never been seen in nature before. †new scientist
+ Data is at risk of being corrupted by computers that don’t even exist yet. †Spectrum IEEE
The US is already concerned about the threat it poses to encryption. (MIT Technology Review)

3 How eBay Sellers Get Around the Assault Weapons Ban
Some offers are blatant about what they’re selling, while others are more subtle. †LA Times
While in theory you can’t sell guns on Facebook, you have to break that rule 10 times to be enforced. †WP

4 Is community governance the answer to the problems of social media?
Relying on the cooperation of strangers is risky, but so is one man’s unlimited power over a platform. †The Atlantic Ocean
+ Eight legal complaints were filed against Facebook this week. †protocol
+ Big Tech spent $36 million on ads opposing a US antitrust law. †WSJ

5 NASA Joins Up To Hunt UFOs
It wants to collect data about phenomena we don’t understand. †WP
+ Astronomers are rethinking how the planets came to be. †Quanta
+ A key substance for life has been found in asteroid samples. †CNET
+ The Japanese space agency is experimenting with a four-legged moon robot. †CNN

The eyesight of 6 East Asians is getting worse
However, more exposure to sunlight can help future generations. †Economist

7 Stimulating Your Muscles With Electricity Is The Hottest New Fitness Trend
But there is no evidence that it is more effective than old-fashioned exercise. †Neo.Life

8 Silicone Breast Implants Are Still Making Women Sick
Despite their problems have been known for decades. †Slate

9 The internet was supposed to make life easier
Now we depend on middlemen that our grandparents never needed. †The Atlantic Ocean

10 The Moral Implications of Whether Animals Dream
And why one day we might know what they dream about. †Motherboard