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The Download: Europe’s ambitious AI Act, and picturing our galaxy’s black hole

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

It’s a Wild West out there for artificial intelligence. AI applications are increasingly used to make important decisions about humans’ lives with little to no oversight or accountability. The European Union thinks it has a solution: the mother of all AI laws, called the AI Act. It is the first law that aims to curb these harms by regulating the whole sector, and if the EU succeeds, it could set a new global standard for AI oversight around the world.But its huge ambitions are faced with plenty of technical obstacles and pushback from Silicon Valley. Let us run you through why it’s a big deal.

—Melissa Heikkilä

This is the first image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy

EHT COLLABORATION

It might not look like much, but this blurry orange-and-black picture is the supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, which has been pictured for the first time.

Although the black hole itself, known as Sagittarius A*, is entirely dark, it’s encircled by a bright ring of glowing gas that’s been warped by its own gravity. It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, the same global team that took the famous first-ever picture of a black hole inside the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy in 2019. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

Quote of the day

“I want to return to my family – and not in a casket.”

—Dmitri, a Russian soldier, explains why he refused to rejoin the invasion of Ukraine once back on Russian soil to The Guardian.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.1 Elon Musk has put his Twitter deal “on hold”He said he’s waiting for details supporting the calculation that spam and fake accounts represented fewer than 5% of users. (WP $)+ The news comes after the company fired two of its most senior executives. (NYT $)+ For celebrities, Twitter is high risk and low reward. (WP $)+ Musk is pitting American Tesla workers against their counterparts in China. (The Guardian)2 Six people have now died in North Korea amid its first covid outbreakA further 187,800 people are being isolated and treated for the virus. (The Guardian)+ Africa’s first covid vaccine factory is yet to receive a single order. (NYT $)3 Russia’s hackers could face cyber war crime chargesUkraine’s essential infrastructure was targeted during the war. (Wired $)

4 Crypto detectives are in high demand Investigators are being hired to track down stolen bitcoin and NFTs. (Vox)+ How the current crypto crash mirrors the 2008 financial crisis. (Foreign Policy)+ NFT sales are still plummeting, too. (WSJ $)5 Instagram’s algorithms are pushing fear and outrage content to new parentsBut opting out of seeing posts that elicit knee-jerk reactions isn’t straightforward. (WP $)+ A Texas law that punishes social media for “censoring” users has been reinstated. (Axios)6 The FBI purchased Pegasus spyware to aid investigationsThe Bureau previously said it bought the hacking tool to test and evaluate it. (NYT $)+ Google is failing to enforce its own ban on ads for stalkerware. (TR)7 How Japan lost its global tech head startNow it’s trying to claw it back. (Rest of World)8 Thousands of popular websites are tracking your typingKeyloggers collect keystrokes before you even hit ‘submit’ on a form. (Wired $)+ Yik Yak, the anonymous social media platform, exposed its users’ locations. (Motherboard)9 Our understanding of female incels is still murkyMainly because they aren’t a unified group with defined, shared goals. (The Atlantic $)

10 The primitive bots of the 2000s paved the way for AlexaAnd they were a whole lot more fun, too. (Dazed)

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Wrinkle the duck ran the Long Island marathon (well, one kilometer of it) and was rewarded with his own tiny medal.+ Danny Boyle’s forthcoming TV series about the Sex Pistols sounds great fun.+ Barry Webb’s photographs of slime mold organisms are completely fascinating—they look like alien trees.+ After yesterday’s giant sturgeon, a gigantic endangered stingray has been safely returned to the Mekong River in Cambodia.+ “BookTok” is undeniably getting more young people into reading.+ It’s Friday the 13th! Here’s why it’s an unlucky day in some cultures.+ I’m really not sure about this ice cream flavor.

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