💡 6 Signals, Vol. 2

A curated list of stories that tell us something about the future of reality, from deep dives to pleasure reads.

Welcome to 6 Signals, a weekly compilation of six different stories from around the web. Whether it’s related to art, tech, politics, culture, or media, each story points to emerging trends and futures.

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This week, we look at the real impacts of fascist communities that form in virtual spaces, the biggest ransomware attack in history (part of an ongoing surge in such attacks), the EU throwing down the gauntlet with Apple, how gig workers around the world are attempting to build collective power, reflecting on 5 years of the biggest game in AR history, and influencers turning their stuffed animal into their latest media play.


How Roblox Became a Playground for Virtual Fascists

At first, this sensibility expressed itself as irreverence. Then it became cruelty. He had finally found his community and established some authority within it. He didn’t mind punching down to fit in. At the same time, he believed that Malcolm was attracted to contrarianism, not out-and-out fascism. He says he chafed at Malcolm’s “oven talk,” the anti-Semitic jokes he made over late-night voice calls. Malcolm’s favorite refrain was “muh 6 million,” a mocking reference to the victims of the Holocaust. “It was at a point in the internet where it’s like, OK, does he mean it?” Ferguson recalls. “He can’t mean it, right? Like, he’d be crazy.” (Malcolm says it was “a little bit of typical trolling, nothing too serious.”)

In 2014, according to Ferguson, Malcolm watched HBO’s Rome, which depicts the Roman Republic’s violent (and apparently very raunchy) transformation into an empire. Inspired, he told Ferguson they would be swapping their uniforms for togas. Together, they forged Malcolm’s proudest achievement within ­Roblox—a group called the Senate and People of Rome. The name conjured high-minded ideals of representative democracy, but this was a true fascist state, complete with shock troops, ­slavery, and degeneracy laws. Malcolm took the title ­Your­Caesar. In 2015, at the height of the group’s popularity, he and Ferguson claim, they and their red-pilled enforcers held sway over some 20,000 players.

See more at WIRED.


Hackers demand $70 million to end biggest ransomware attack on record

Cybersecurity teams are working feverishly to stem the impact of the single biggest global ransomware attack on record, with some details emerging about how the Russia-linked gang behind it breached the company whose software was the conduit.

An affiliate of the notorious REvil gang, best known for extorting $11 million from the meat-processor JBS after a Memorial Day attack, infected thousands of victims in at least 17 countries on Friday, largely through firms that remotely manage IT infrastructure for multiple customers, cybersecurity researchers said.

REvil was demanding ransoms of up to $5 million, the researchers said. But late Sunday it offered in a posting on its dark web site a universal decryptor software key that would unscramble all affected machines in exchange for $70 million in cryptocurrency.

See more at CBS News.


EU's Vestager warns Apple against using privacy, security to limit competition

Europe's tech chief Margrethe Vestager on Friday warned iPhone maker Apple against using privacy and security concerns to fend off competition on its App Store, reasons CEO Tim Cook gave for not allowing users to install software from outside the Store.

Vestager, who is also the European Commission's executive vice president, last year proposed rules called the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that would force Apple to open up its lucrative App Store so that users can download apps from the internet or third-party app stores in a practice known as side-loading.

See more at Reuters.


Gig Workers of the World Are Uniting

But the sunniest of platform capitalist narratives can’t overcome a simple reality: Workers fight back. A business model based on exploitation has made Deliveroo the world’s most-protested app-based platform. Now, even investors are realizing the power of worker organizing. Amid protests by Deliveroo couriers around the world and with drivers’ UK Supreme Court victory over Uber in February, three of the UK’s largest asset managers pulled hundreds of billions out of the IPO, citing concern over Deliveroo’s labor practices. On March 31, as its riders took the streets in a work stoppage organized by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), Deliveroo’s ballyhooed offering collapsed, falling 31 percent in its first minutes of trading—and continues to trade well below its initial price.

Workers face significant challenges in building collective power in an industry that depends on their atomization. How do you bargain for more when your boss is an app, you’re paid by an algorithm, and you haven’t met your coworkers? How do you beat companies that can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to exempt themselves from labor law—as Uber and its Silicon Valley allies did by passing Prop 22 last November? Despite the obstacles, gig workers across the world are beginning to answer these questions. As the platform companies push back against organizing efforts, workers are finding each other and developing a transnational network of resistance over forums, groupchats, and video calls.

See more at The Nation.


‘Pokémon Go’ turns five: Why AR’s defining game is bigger than ever

Though Niantic doesn’t release financial numbers, Sensor Tower estimated that Pokémon Go hit$3.6 billion in total revenue by its fourth anniversary. Hanke tells Fast Company that the business is “really healthy,” with Pokémon proceeds reinvested in at least 10 upcoming augmented reality projects. Those include a Pikmin game—like Pokémon Go, in partnership with Nintendo using characters from one of its video game franchises—as well as a Transformers game and one tied to the strategy board game Settlers of Catan. There’s also a collaboration in the works with Punchdrunk, the theater company best known for its immersive, Macbeth-inspired experience Sleep No More.

“We’re really taking this idea of transforming the world into this arcade of entertainment experiences that you can have while you’re out of the house and walking around and doing stuff with your friends—taking that as far as we can,” Hanke says.

See more at Fast Company.


Charli and Dixie D’Amelio Launch ‘Squeaky and Roy’ Cartoon on Social Media

Social-media stars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio are introducing “Squeaky and Roy,” cartoon characters based on Dixie’s pink teddy bear and his penguin bestie, in their latest media offshoot.

The main character is Squeaky, based on Dixie’s longtime favorite stuffed animal of the same name, which she lost in an airport when she was little. The setup is that all these years later, Squeaky is back and moving into the D’Amelio home in L.A., bringing along his best friend, Roy, a purple penguin.

The teen sisters are major TikTok stars — Charli has 118.1 million followers right now, making her the most-followed account on the app, while Dixie has 52.6 million — and they have large fanbases on other platforms. So naturally, the Squeaky and Roy characters will live on the same services: Their adventures will be shared on InstagramTikTok and Triller at @squeakyandroy.

See more at Variety.


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