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What's going on in tech? - 16 Jan 2019

Lets face it, the UK is in the midst of political shambles right now. I’m not even going to mention the B-word, because I’m sure you are sick of hearing it too.

Instead, take a gander at what’s happening in tech at the moment. We talk more in depth about these articles on the latest Tech Talks podcast, so give that a listen too.

  1. The Egg

As the latest installment in the bizarre world of The Internet, an egg has stolen the record from Kylie Jenner for the most liked photo on Instagram. Yes, an egg. And it's not even a special egg. It’s literally just a stock photo of an egg. It was posted by “world_record_egg” and has amassed over 45 million likes in less than two weeks, making Jenner’s 18 mil for the picture of her newborn baby seem like child’s play. (Eggxcuse the pun.) (Sorry).  

Anyway, this strange and slightly worrying development tells us a few things. One: that Instagram likes mean literally nothing. They are not a reflection of your self worth. Algorithms define what people see, people click like passively and are clearly so bored of the whole social media charade that a completely out of context stock photo of an egg provides such sweet release from the usual overly curated instagram feeds of friends and celebrities that everyone goes rabid for it.

Secondly, it reminds us that nearly everything you see on social media is a marketing stunt, or at least a money making attempt. We are only just recovering from the explosion that a certain vegan sausage roll caused on Twitter, and now this! It’s too much. But I digress. If you look in the bio of the OG egg profile, you will see a link to ‘OFFICIAL MERCHANDISE”. Where you can pick from a selection of ‘Egg gang’ T-shirts, or a simple black hoodie with the egg in question printed on the front, that will set you back £25. Everything is meme content now, nothing is real and my brain hurts. Oh, and The Guardian published a nice little parody bio of The Egg, if you aren’t all yolked out.

2. The YouTube prank

As reported on the BBC YouTube has banned videos that depict dangerous or emotionally distressing “pranks”. The move comes as people are literally dying or seriously injuring themselves trying to carry out viral pranks, such as the Birdbox challenge. (Which, side note, may actually have been a Netflix marketing stunt, to make people believe it was a craze before it really was. People saw this tweet and then it caught on for real. See, I told you. Marketing.) For example, a teenager in Utah crashed his car into oncoming traffic because he was blindfolded.

So YouTube’s desire to put a stop to this is nice, on the surface. But dig deeper, and it’s more complicated than that. First of all, where do you draw the line between harmless fun and “dangerous or emotionally distressing” prank? What classes as serious injury, and what is just accidental? That is a hard line to draw, but one that must be.

Secondly, YouTube is riddled with disturbing content. It was heavily reported in the press that kids were viewing really graphic content, disguised as child friendly cartoons. Even worse, it was fed to them through an algorithm. And Buzzfeed recently published a report stating that depictions of beastiality were appearing alongside kids content. The websites problems run deeper than pranks.

It will be interesting to see whether this ban has any impact, on a site where ‘fail’ and viral videos are born and thrive.

3. The robotic dildo.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that a robotic ‘personal massager’ (that’s a fancy word for a vibrator) was banned from Las Vegas’ mega tech show, CES. The hands-free sex toy was selected as the CES 2019 Innovation Awards honoree in the ‘robotics and drone product’ category. It’s the first product developed by the SexTech company Lora DiCarlo. It’s called the Osé personal massager, if you want to look it up. Alas, Founder and CEO Lora Haddock and her team never did get to celebrate that award, because administrators with the Consumer Technology Association rescinded the award, and banned the company from showcasing the product at CES 2019. Their reasoning? That it should never have been nominated, because it “does not fit into any of our existing product categories”. And that any entrees deemed to be “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified”. Expect, this doesn't hold up. At all. Exhibit A: OhMiBod, a Kegel exerciser, won thedigital health and fitness product category in 2016. Furthermore, as Haddock beautifully pointed out in an open letter to the CTA, “a literal sex doll for men launched on the floor at CES in 2018 and a VR porn company exhibits there every year, allowing men to watch pornography in public as consumers walk by”.

This is not about decency, or being prude about sex. This is about systematic double standards when it comes to sex and pleasure.

This is a harsh reminder that female pleasure, and women orientated tech in general, isn't given the same freedom, platform or acceptance that predominantly male tech is given. It seems that the CTA  are perfectly happy with a bunch of dudes sitting in a room watching porn together, or talking to a agreeable sex doll, but a genuinely clever dildo - that is sleek and subtle to look at, may I add - is just FAR TOO OBSCENE.

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