This week, a controversial case emerged about high school students creating and distributing deep fake sexual images. An activist group also appealed to Microsoft to keep supporting Windows 10, rather than forcing an upgrade to Windows 11. Ad block developers raised concerns about YouTube’s policy on advertisements. The Discord platform made changes to tackle malware distribution, and TikTok announced plans to end its Creator Fund.
Here are the top in tech highlights for week 45 of 2023.
#1. Teenagers create and spread AI-generated nudes of classmates
The Wall Street Journal revealed that students of New Jersey’s Westfield High School were involved in artificial intelligence (AI) generated nudes. According to the report, male students had created deep fake images of their female classmates. The school’s administrators said the images were deleted and no longer being circulated among students. Unfortunately, this move made it difficult for investigators to identify the source of those images.
Since the case is still unfolding, there is no information about how many students were involved or whether they had been disciplined for their actions. In addition, there is no clarity in the law about such cases. The issue of child sex abuse materials (CSAM) created using AI platforms came to attention in June this year. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order to govern the use of AI. However, there is no clear way to stop the creation and spread of realistic but fake CSAM content online at this time.
#2. YouTube crackdown raises concerns among ad block developers
YouTube began to crack down on ad blockers in June this year. Viewers started to see pop ups on videos asking them to disable ad blockers. This sent ripples through software companies that create ad blocking solutions. Wired reported that hundreds of thousands of users uninstalled their ad blockers in October. However, a similar number of fresh installs were also recorded. This is because users looked for alternative ad blockers that bypassed YouTube’s notice.
Some of the affected ad block providers include Ghostery, AdGuard, AdLock, and Eyeo, which owns AdBlock Plus and other browser extensions. These vendors reported sharp increases in user complaints that ad blocking was failing on YouTube. They also claimed that the usage trends correspond with YouTube’s drive to show more unskippable ads in videos.
YouTube’s spokesperson, Christopher Lawton, said that ad blockers violate the platform’s terms of service. He said that ads are part of the YouTube ecosystem, and that YouTube Premium is available for users who prefer an ad-free experience. YouTube Premium costs $13.99 per month.
#3. Discord changes its file links to fight malware
This week, the messaging and social platform, Discord, took a major step forward in preventing the spread of malware. The platform will use temporary file links in its content delivery network (CDN) instead of permanent links. This change means that any links shared on the platform will expire after 24 hours. It also means that users who opt to host files on Discord will need to find a different file hosting service.
The change is aimed to prevent cybercriminals from distributing malicious files through Discord. A recent study by Trellix showed that Discord’s CDN links have been misused frequently by hacking groups. At least 10,000 malware distributors have used Discord for file sharing. They have also used Discord to steal sensitive information like user credentials and cryptocurrency wallets from compromised devices.
Discord has struggled to curb cybercrime on its platform. This link expiration strategy is expected to address this challenge. It will be rolled out in the next coming months.
#4. Petition launched to appeal for Windows 10 support
A new petition by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) was launched this week, directly addressing Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. The petition asked the tech giant to extend support for the Windows 10 operating system. Otherwise, PIRG argued that the electronic waste (e-waste) caused by discontinuing Windows 10 would be massive. It would also make users spend money unnecessarily to update their hardware devices for the sake of Windows 11.
For users, this end of life strategy leaves only two alternatives. They could continue using Windows 10 but without upgrades, they expose their devices to cybersecurity threats. They could also throw away fully functional devices because of incompatible hardware, contributing to e-waste. PIRG argued that both these options were unacceptable.
Microsoft intends to stop supporting Windows 10 in October 2025. Windows 11 also has different technical specifications, including a more powerful processor and increased memory and storage space. According to Statcounter, almost 70% of Windows users are still on Windows 10, despite Windows 11 being available since October 2021. The PIRG petition asked Microsoft to consider that Windows 10 users expected their devices to last, and therefore they should receive continuous support regardless of future operating system designs.
#5. TikTok to discontinue its controversial Creator Fund
A representative from the social media app TikTok spoke to Fortune this week, revealing that it plans to discontinue its Creator Fund in December this year. The fund was launched in 2021 as a monetization option for content creators. The billion dollar initiative has attracted controversy over the years. First, creators claimed that Tiktok paid under $5 a day for content that had millions of views. Then, Forbes revealed that Tiktok stored sensitive user data on servers in China rather than U.S. servers. This was contrary to what the company’s CEO, Shou Chew, had said under oath.
To replace the Creator Fund, Tiktok launched the Creativity Program in February this year. It requires content creators to have at least 10,000 followers and a minimum of 100,000 views in 30 days. Current members of the Creator Fund can migrate to the Creativity Program.
Although the program is still in its beta version, it promises significantly higher payouts. Some influencers reported thousands of dollars of income from their content, according to Business Insider. The Creativity Program may help content creators to rely less on finding sponsorships and earn directly from TikTok.