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Technology Trends 2022: Crypto, Web 3.0, Big Tech Regulation, and Meatless Meat

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After a year that made the terms WFH (work from home) and metaverse instantly recognizable for many people, there are a new set of technological trends headed this way for 2022.

Here’s a selection of how technology may change lives in the coming year:

Meatless meat

Meat alternatives have become common in an increasing number of US households, thanks in part to Beyond Meat and Impossible Food plant-based products that come far closer to the texture and flavour of beef or pork.

As the products have improved and the prices edged downward, demand has been boosted by concern about the environment: raising animals for food is responsible for a whopping 14.5 percent of human-linked greenhouse gas emissions, according to UN data.

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The global market for plant-based meats is expected to be worth $35 billion (roughly Rs. 2,62,270 crore) in 2027 — up from $13.5 billion (roughly Rs. 1,01,160 crore) in 2020, thanks in part to expansion beyond the United States, according to a report from Research and Markets.

“2022 will be the crowning year of food made from plant-based proteins,” said David Bchiri, president of US consulting firm Fabernovel. “The products are mature and good. They’re going to become mainstream.”

‘Web 3.0’ and crypto

The Internet’s first phase was the creation of websites and blogs, which allowed the emergence of companies like Yahoo, eBay, or Amazon.

The next iteration was Web 2.0, defined by social media and user generated content on sites like Facebook and YouTube.

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These platforms “get the money and control it, they let you on their platform,” summarised Benedict Evans, an independent analyst specialising in Silicon Valley.

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So, is Web 3.0 coming?

In this iteration, “users, creators and developers would have stakes and votes” in a platform in much the way a cooperative works, Evans said on his “Another Podcast.”

Such a revolutionary step could be made possible by blockchain technology, where computer programs run on networks of thousands or millions of computers.

So far, blockchain has enabled the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and more recently, the unique digital objects such as drawings or animations called NFTs.

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“We talk a lot about decentralised finance, but I think that in 2022 we will see more localised use cases, which will enter everyday life,” said Bchiri of consulting firm Fabernovel.

As highly-volatile digital monies like bitcoin have hit record high values in 2021, a huge range of players have gotten into the game including versions launched by the cities of Miami and New York.

Ransomware, everywhere

The spike toward record ransomware attacks and data leaks in 2021 looks likely to spill over into the coming year.

Cyber-extortion heists break into a victim’s network to encrypt data, then demand a ransom, typically paid via cryptocurrency in exchange to unlock it.

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A confluence of factors has fueled the trend, including the booming value of cryptocurrencies, victims’ willingness to pay and the difficulty authorities have in catching attackers.

Cybersecurity company SonicWall wrote in late October: “With 495 million ransomware attacks logged by the company this year to date, 2021 will be the most costly and dangerous year on record.”

“When I think about 2022, the thing that’s top of mind for me and for my colleagues continues to be ransomware. It’s simply too lucrative,” wrote Sandra Joyce, executive vice president and head of global intelligence at cybersecurity firm Mandiant.

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Big Tech regulation? 

It’s difficult to say if 2022 is the year Big Tech will finally be hit with significant new rules, but a series of regulatory and legal threats launched in 2021 will provoke major battles.

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In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission’s anti-trust lawsuit against Facebook represents a genuine threat to the social media giant, though a court has already dismissed the case once.

More lawsuits and a federal investigation — and maybe even finally new laws — are possible in the wake of the damning whistleblower leaks showing Facebook executives knew its sites could cause harm.

Some critics say the firm’s major push into realizing the metaverse — a virtual reality version of the Internet — is an effort to change the subject after years of criticism.

Apple dodged a bullet in 2021 when a US federal court said Fornite maker Epic Games failed to show the iPhone giant held an illegal monopoly, but the firm was still ordered to loosen control over its App Store. Both sides have appealed.

New regulations may come sooner in the EU as it pushes through new laws, such as the Digital Services Act which would create much stricter oversight of harmful and illegal content on platforms like Facebook.

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What do Meta’s New Safety Initiatives to Protect Women Really Mean for Women in India?

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Meta, formerly Facebook, announced a series of initiatives aimed at the protection of the women users on the company’s social media platforms. The initiatives include the launch of stopncii.org in India — a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII) and Safety Hub for Women that will enable more women users to access information about resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience. Meta has also appointed the first Indian members in the company’s Global Women’s Safety Expert Advisors.

“Safety is really core to our mission at Facebook,” Karuna Nain, Director of Global Safety Policy at Meta Platforms told reporters on Thursday, while announcing the initiatives. She further elaborated that the social media behemoth works to keep the platforms safe in three segments — by implementing clear policies, building cutting edge tools and technology, and by working with organisations on the frontlines on the issues around the world.

How does stopncci.org work?

According to Meta, Stopncci.org empowers victims who are concerned about their intimate images being abused, and gives them control over such content.

“If someone threatens you, you can report it so that we can take action on that content,” Nain said. Stopncci.org has been developed in partnership with the UK Revenge Porn Helpline and 50 other organisations around the world. Stopncci.org has been built with feedback from victims, victim advocates, and privacy and safety advocates.

What is striking though, is that despite the large number of teen users on Facebook and Instagram, stopncci.org is not accessible for users under the age of 18. If you are under 18 and want to register a case, the platform displays a message saying, “We are sorry, but we cannot help with your case,” and leads the user to a list of NGOs that can be contacted for help.

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Also, at this point the Stop NCII platform is available only in English, and Nain said that it would take a few months more before the platform supports Indian languages. Given the widespread use of Facebook in a number of Indian languages, this will limit the scope of its impact, something that has been seen in the past with the company’s efforts to combat misinformation as well.

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A safety hub for women

Women’s Safety Hub is a part of Meta’s Safety Centre. The Women’s Safety Hub is a centralised resource where the company tries to capture all the information that women would need to be able to navigate the social media platforms in a safe and secure manner so that they’d be empowered to know what tools they have at their disposal.

The Women’s Safety Hub contains information including Meta’s policies around different issues, tools, and on-demand training. The hub is available in 12 Indian languages including Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Gujarati, and Assamese, among others.

Meta has a Women’s Safety Experts Group in place, who the company consults on an ongoing basis regarding their policies, product, and resources that they should be offering on the platforms.

Bishakha Datta, Executive Editor, Point of View — a Mumbai-based non-profit and Jyoti Vadehra, Head of Media & Communications, Centre for Social Research — a Delhi-based advocacy group for women — are the first Indian members in Meta’s Global Women’s Safety Expert Advisors.

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The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programs to better support women on its apps.

Would women be safer on Meta’s social media platforms now?

Nain said that Meta has invested over $13 billion (roughly Rs. 97,640 crore) in tools and technology to keep the platforms safe and give people security since 2016 and are on track to spend more than $5 billion (roughly Rs. 37,555 crore) on safety and security in 2021.

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“Our commitment to making our platform safe and secure isn’t just something that we talk about. We put real investment behind these efforts. We have around 40,000 people who work on these efforts across the company.”

When asked about the specific initiatives the money was spent on by Meta, Nain only said that the money is being spent on, “…people who work on this space, the technology that we are building, for example, the initiatives that we will announce today or that would come as part of this.”

What do you do if someone is threatening to share your intimate images?

  1. Go to https://stopncii.org/
  2. Click on the Create Your Case button
  3. Confirm if you are 18 years or older
  4. Provide details about the image including who is in the picture by clicking on the drop-down list.
  5. Select the image(s)/video(s) on your device that you would like to protect
  6. A unique “hash,” or a digital fingerprint is generated and shared with the participating companies (Facebook and Instagram)
  7. Create a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to use to check your case status
  8. Check the box consenting to your hashes being shared with the participating companies.
  9. Click Submit.

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WhatsApp Beta Testing Skin Tone Combinations for Couple Emojis on Android, Sticker Store on Desktop

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WhatsApp has started beta testing skin tone combinations for couple emojis on Android. The update comes a long time after the instant messaging app has allowed iOS users to pick their preferred skin tone combination for couple emojis on the iPhone. Separately, WhatsApp has reportedly started testing a new feature to let users explore the Sticker Store and find relevant stickers for their chats directly from the WhatsApp Web or desktop client. Stickers are already an intrinsic part of the messaging app and are gaining popularity among users.

As initially spotted by WhatsApp beta tracker WABetaInfo, WhatsApp has started rolling out skin tone combinations for couple emojis to select beta testers on Android. The change is a part of WhatsApp for Android beta version 2.21.24.11.

Gadgets 360 was able to independently confirm the rollout on the latest WhatsApp beta release, though it may take some time to reflect for all beta testing users.

If you are on the eligible beta version, you can look for skin tone combinations on the couple emojis by tapping one of them on the app.

WhatsApp was initially spotted testing skin tone combinations on WhatsApp for Android beta 2.21.22.8 that was released in October. Beta testers were, however, not able to see the change.

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On iPhone, WhatsApp has allowed changing skin tone for the preloaded couple emojis for some time. You can tap one of the emojis to pick your preferred skin tone.

The exact timeline on when we could see skin tone combinations for couple emojis has not yet been announced. Nevertheless, considering historical records, WhatsApp may bring them for regular users in the near coming future.

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WABetaInfo has additionally reported that WhatsApp is testing a new feature on its Web and desktop clients to explore its Sticker Store. It will appear once you tap the plus icon on the sticker tray, the website notes.

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WhatsApp has been spotted testing a new feature for desktop and Web users to explore Sticker Store

Photo Credit: WABetaInfo

The Sticker Store on WhatsApp Web and desktop will work similar to how you can explore different stickers on your mobile devices, though you cannot download a sticker pack from the store and can only pick a specific sticker from the available packs to send it in a chat.

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WABetaInfo reports that the feature is initially available to beta testers on WhatsApp Desktop version 2.2147.9, though it is planned to reach users through a public release soon.


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Clubhouse Adds Support for 13 New Languages Including Bengali and Marathi, Rolls Out ‘Topics’ Feature

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Clubhouse has rolled out support for 13 new languages on the social audio platform, bringing the total number of local languages to 26. Support for two more Indian languages – Bengali and Marathi – is now rolling out to users along with 11 other languages as part of the latest update. Clubhouse has also announced a new ‘Topics’ feature that users can pick from to show their interests on their profile. The platform pioneered audio social networking that has now been replicated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Clubhouse announced via a blog post that it was adding support for 13 new languages – Arabic, Bengali, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Farsi/Persian, Hausa, Igbo, Marathi, Nepali, Somali, Thai, Turkish, and Yoruba. Users who want to use a localised version of Clubhouse should be able to switch to one of these languages. The Clubhouse app for iOS currently lists around 130 languages to choose from.

In November, Clubhouse had announced the rollout of support for 13 languages on the social audio service. That update brought support for French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Malayalam, Portuguese (Brazilian), Spanish, Tamil, and Telugu. The latest update to the app brings the total number of Indian languages supported on Clubhouse to seven, with the addition of Bengali and Marathi.

The new ‘Topics’ feature announced by Clubhouse appears to be a rebranded ‘Interests’ feature and allows users to pick from thousands of topics, including cities, universities, sports, or even music genres. These will be featured on their profile, so followers can see what a user is interested in. Clubhouse says that users will be able to keep their favourite topics private by hiding them from their profiles.

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The ‘Topics’ feature will also appear on other sections of the app, including Topics pages, which will show users related rooms, clubs, and other users who are related to that topic. Similarly, rooms can also display Topics to explain to participants what the room is discussing, and creators will be able to add and change these even when a room is live. Clubhouse may soon begin testing the ability for users to create Topics of their own on the service, according to the company.

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