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Merriam-Websters word of the year will intentionally mislead you

2023-03-19 06:13:34

Merriam-Websters word of the year will intentionally mislead you

As misinformation, fake news, deepfakes, and conspiracy theories continue to roll around in their own primetime spots on our tech platforms, it's no real surprise Merriam-Webster's word of the year for 2022 is "gaslighting."

Merriam-Websters word of the year will intentionally mislead you(图1)

According to the dictionary, gaslighting or "the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage" saw a 1,740 percent increase in lookups this year.

Gaslighting beat controversial Wordle word "loamy," as well as runners up "oligarch," "omicron," "codify," "LGBTQIA," "sentient," "raid," and "Queen Consort."

It's been a year for misinformation, just another in a long line of them. Misinformation has run rampant through Russia's invasion of Ukraine with new platforms and tools emerging to report the truth (including Google reviews). Social media platforms Facebook and TikTok failed to block paid ads spreading misinformation about voting in the 2022 midterms, fake news thrived on YouTube though it cracked down on abortion misinformation, Joe Rogan made a bin fire of Spotify, Google and Twitter did the bare minimum to combat fake news before, uh, Twitter's new management came in, TikTok's infinite scroll revealed a growing media literacy crisis, despite its removal of fake news accounts, and Pinterest became the first platform to completely ban climate misinformation, while COVID misinformation flourished on Substack.

SEE ALSO: The best podcasts on conspiracy theories and disinformation

Merriam-Webster credits British playwright Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play Gas Light (as well as the movie that followed) with coining the term, a dark thriller that sees a man who uses light-dimming trickery to make his wife believe her mental health is severely declining, just so he can steal from her.

In the announcement, the dictionary explains that the term gaslighting has evolved from "psychological manipulation of a person" to become a broader practice of deception linked to "fake news" and artificial intelligence technology like deepfakes.

The dictionary also acknowledged the prevalence of "medical gaslighting" in which patients have their symptoms dismissed as nothing to worry about or merely in their head, as well as the type of gaslighting used by big companies trying to deceive the public — hello, greenwashing.

"Unlike lying, which tends to be between individuals, and fraud, which tends to involve organizations, gaslighting applies in both personal and political contexts," the dictionary post reads.

"In recent years, with the vast increase in channels and technologies used to mislead, gaslighting has become the favored word for the perception of deception."

One type of gaslighting the dictionary didn't mention but remains prominent? Racial gaslighting.

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  • How the pandemic could forever change the way porn gets made

    How the pandemic could forever change the way porn gets made

    Welcome to Porn Week, Mashable's annual close up on the business and pleasure of porn.


    The adult industry as a whole has done surprisingly well during, and in many ways thanks to, the coronavirus pandemic.

    The stress, isolation, and boredom(Opens in a new tab) of lockdown life(Opens in a new tab) have prompted huge spikes in overall porn site traffic(Opens in a new tab) in recent months, with viewership up by at least 20 percent(Opens in a new tab) at some points this spring over the same time periods last year. Adult site payment processors “have reported historic high profits” over the same time period, says Alejandro Freixes(Opens in a new tab) of the industry trade publication XBiz. And performers like Carmen Valentina(Opens in a new tab) tell Mashable that sales of their content have “doubled, even tripled, on some platforms” since the current crisis set in as well.

    Yet for all these success stories, not every part of the porn world is thriving right now. The pandemic has “radically restructured the industry,” says Mike Stabile(Opens in a new tab) of the Free Speech Coalition(Opens in a new tab) (FSC), an industry advocacy group. And that upheaval has left certain categories of content, producers, and performers struggling to stay afloat. It may even force some out of business for good.

    Perhaps the most striking trend of the pandemic has been the massive growth of premium (Opens in a new tab)adult fan sites(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab), like OnlyFans(Opens in a new tab). (A shocking(Opens in a new tab) number(Opens in a new tab) of articles(Opens in a new tab), all(Opens in a new tab) published(Opens in a new tab) in May(Opens in a new tab), have chronicled this rise.) That site reportedly netted 3.5 million new subscribers in March, got a shout out in a Beyonce song(Opens in a new tab) in April, and claimed that it was receiving 200,000 new users every day in May. Many of these viewers are likely seeking “the twin pillars of authenticity and intimacy,” which Freixes says drive most porn sales, and which these sites provide through direct communications with stars and, by offering troves of self-shot and seemingly raw content. Hunger for this sort of access and content is especially keen when we all feel anxious and isolated, he adds.

    A whole new kind of "safe sex"

    These platforms have also become especially important to adult performers during the pandemic, many of whom are getting on them for the first time — because of the impact the coronavirus has had on traditional porn production studios. In mid-March, the FSC called for a shutdown of all on-set productions, in line with wider social measures underway to attempt to blunt the spread of the pandemic.

    As in any industry, not every studio complied. Some tiny porn production outfits whose members all share the same house also kept on shooting content, while complying with pandemic restrictions, by drawing on the small pool of people in their socially distanced bubbles, Freixes adds. But for the most part, the gigs that many performers relied on for part of their income, and as functional high-profile promotions for their personal brands, independent content, and live appearances at clubs, suddenly just vanished.

    The FSC lifted its moratorium in mid-June(Opens in a new tab) and published a set of guidelines for maintaining safety on sets — but still noted that they didn’t think it is safe to start shooting with people beyond one’s bubble yet. In mid-July, the organization warned(Opens in a new tab) that it had learned of over a dozen individuals who had recently worked on porn sets and later tested positive for the coronavirus

    The costs of shutting down production

    Despite the moratorium’s end, many content producers have opted to stay offline indefinitely, thanks to the costs and complexity of implementing coronavirus safety and testing protocols, or to their firm beliefs that no mitigation strategies can really, reliably keep workers safe yet.

    Studios are used to closing down, sometimes for weeks on end, when industry health monitoring systems detect HIV infections in their performer pools. (The last such shutdown occurred in 2018.) They stockpile scenes that they can keep churning out even during a shutdown — big studios may have enough content to last to the end of the year. Major production companies also tend to have rainy day funds or diverse investments and side hustles, like their own fan site platforms. Performers also often turn to side hustles, or dip into their savings(Opens in a new tab), during those shutdowns. But they’re usually only off for a couple of weeks at a time, and on rare occasions.

    SEE ALSO: Twitter and the porn apocalypse that could reshape the industry as we know it

    But this functional shutdown has lasted so long that small-to-mid-tier studios are starting to run out of content. Performer and content creator Joslyn Jane(Opens in a new tab) notes that some are already recycling old scenes, a move that does not often go over well with paid subscribers. Some of these studios “were already in a precarious position pre-pandemic, or just getting by — maybe had 10, 20 percent profits,” explains Freixes. And it has been difficult for them to acquire pandemic relief funds, thanks to structural anti-adult access barriers(Opens in a new tab).

    No one Mashable spoke to for this story has seen a studio go under thanks to the pandemic yet. But Jane is already predicting that “about a third of studios, the member sites,” or more will have closed up shop permanently, or get absorbed by the biggest industry players, by the time the pandemic fades. J.W. Ties(Opens in a new tab), the producer behind the mid-sized fetish studio Desperate Pleasures, says that, after over a decade in the industry, he is “actually teetering on the edge of solvency,” and that he’s “seen several producers in my regularly group talking about… quitting because of the uncertainty” afflicting the industry right now. And some industry observers worry that many small-to-mid-sized studios that do come back will do so with decimated audiences and budgets(Opens in a new tab).

    The pain may not be temporary

    Freixes stresses that the decline of studios and rise of premium fan sites is really an old trend(Opens in a new tab), led by the growing consumer demand for authentic and intimate content over heavily produced and mediated studio fare. He argues that the pandemic has just accelerated it by five or ten years — albeit in uniquely painful ways.

    Most porn viewers may not even register the fall of these studios, as they often have niche followings, or operate entirely behind the scenes, making content for big brands. The gap between studios and independent content creators is also shrinking(Opens in a new tab), as performers gain access to better and cheaper recording and editing equipment, hone their production skills, and increasingly sell their self-produced content to major studios and distributors, who even before the pandemic were eager to tap into their fanbases, and the growing market for raw and intimate clips. “In many ways, the top [independent] clip producers will become the studios of tomorrow,” if these trends continue, Freixes argues.

    But this trend will hurt the crews — the camera people, makeup artists, production assistants, and so on — who build the quality studio content is known for. It may also lead to the decline of certain kinds of fetish content that mid-tier studios have historically produced for small but loyal audiences, like sci-fi porn that requires specialized or labor-intensive prop building and special effects work that might not gel with the low overhead of independent performer-producers.

    Shifting interests in difficult times

    Speaking of genres, Alex Hawkins, of the prominent porn tube site xHamster, notes that viewers have not been searching for usually popular content like MILF and incest roleplay porn over the last few months. He suspects this is a response to the fact that many people are spending more time than they’d like with their families, making these sorts of adult fantasies less appealing than they usually are.

    It is also likely the result of shifting interests, driven by other realities of pandemic life. Hawkins notes that searches for public sex scenes are up 87 percent since the spring, and interest in kissing, not usually a key porn search term, is up substantially as well. So are(Opens in a new tab) searches for(Opens in a new tab) medical-, pandemic-, and quarantine-themed porn. People often seek out porn that reflects and riffs on the zeitgeist, or that delivers them the things they crave but cannot currently access.

    Hawkins suspects that genres whose viewership numbers have been hit by the pandemic will bounce back once our lives return to some semblance of normalcy. A few key search terms are already beginning to climb, he notes. However, the safety precautions put in place by independent actors and studios that have started shooting may make it functionally impossible to film certain types of sex acts(Opens in a new tab) — like golden showers or anything that involves a lot of bodily fluids; like group sex or anything that involves a ton of people in close proximity to each other — for the foreseeable future.

    Related Video: How to have virtual sex, according to a sex expert

    Performers may come out on top

    Performer and producer jessica drake argues that the industry always finds a way of catering to fans’ desires, and fans always have a way of finding what they’re looking for. But, depending on whether or not some pandemic-era set safety protocols become new norms, and on the content restrictions newly dominant platforms impose on creators and distributors, certain types of content could grow rarer in a post-pandemic world.

    Even if studios and their staff and some specific genres suffer, prevailing cultural and industry narratives still maintain that “performers are by far the winners” in the pandemic-fueled upheavals facing the industry, as Kat Revenga of the premium site FanCentro puts it. Sure, a lack of studio work, restrictions on who they can shoot with and where, and temporary changes in audience demands may force them to explore new platforms and types of content. But studio work was always scarce, expensive (as performers often have to pay for their own STI tests, hair and makeup, wardrobe, and more), and limited (as performers usually just get one check up front and no residuals on future sales of their scenes).

    “It’s really empowering during this time for performers to understand where the power lies.”

    The premium sites many are flocking to rarely offer performers guaranteed income, but they may ultimately offer many(Opens in a new tab) greater flexibility in when, where, what, and how they shoot content — which usually translates to more opportunities to shoot. They also offer more earning potential, as performers can secure rolling subscription payouts, and the proceeds from the passive a la carte sales of new and old content that they own the rights to. (Most premium sites take a fairly modest cut off the top of their profits.) “It’s really empowering during this time for performers to understand where the power lies” within the industry, and to seize autonomy, says drake.

    As performers take control of their own work and content, they get to bypass agents and other gatekeepers, and ideally to work and speak more freely. Queer porn producer and performer Jiz Lee(Opens in a new tab) notes that this is empowering performers to speak out more often “against injustices experienced in the industry [and finding] time to come together to strategize to create systems of mutual aid, resource and skill sharing, and more.” Drake adds that many also seem to be using this freedom to make more diverse content, and work with more diverse co-stars, than these gatekeepers would have let them pursue in the studio-centric past. They’re also finding new ways to integrate SFW hustles into their NSFW brands, like Twitch channels and Etsy stores.

    “Myself and many others who were professional studio performers before COVID are unsure about whether or not we’ll return to studio work after this,” says performer Kate Kennedy.

    SEE ALSO: The art of the porn GIF

    But not every performer is thriving in the pandemic era. Hustling for fans and producing your own content requires its own skill set, which not all existing performers have(Opens in a new tab). Rather than shake things up, performer Kiki D’Aire(Opens in a new tab) says that she knows a number of performers who, for lack of studio work and uncertain prospects, “have gone into retirement or semi-retirement” recently.

    Increased viewership also does not always lead to increased profits, for platforms or performers, as many site visitors never turn into paying customers. Many performers have also tried to keep new, paying eyes on them by slashing their subscription or a la carte content and services prices(Opens in a new tab) to work with tight budgets. Partnered sex clips usually sell better on these platforms than solo performances, says Kennedy, especially now, when people in isolation crave depictions of the type of intimacy most of them cannot get. So, performers quarantining with partners that they can shoot content with may on average have an easier time making money than their fully isolated peers.

    Perhaps most importantly, the coronavirus has led a ton of out of work individuals to try their hands at digital sex work, especially on premium fan sites. OnlyFans alone reportedly registered between 7,000 and 8,000 new creators every day in May, many (but not all) of whom are taking a crack at making porn. Most amateurs will not succeed in making a living on these platforms because they don’t have the exact hustle or skills it takes to hack it in adult work, especially in these environments. But as long as they’re around, they will siphon eyes and dollars off from other established sex workers using these platforms, at times sparking tensions(Opens in a new tab) with them.

    Big and established performers have large and loyal enough fan bases that Kennedy and others believe they’ll be able to weather a little market saturation and global economic hardship just fine, seeing only slight dips, no change, or even increases in their profits throughout the pandemic. However, Kennedy believes that new professionals, especially those who have not had the chance to build up their profiles through studio work, will suffer disproportionately.

    Because no one knows how long this pandemic, or the economic crunch it’s creating, will last, it is hard to figure out exactly who and what in the industry will suffer, or suffer the most, because of it. If the U.S. government fails to provide further economic stimulus and one of the world’s largest adult markets contracts, or if the coronavirus continues to surge in the fall, the industry’s current trajectories could shift dramatically once again, exacerbating existing or creating new pandemic trends and pain points. None of these pandemic trends are developing in a vacuum either, as reckonings around race, consent, and wider power dynamics are also rocking the adult industry now.

    The only general trend that seems firm and clear is that the pandemic will likely spare (or even help) the people, genres, and platforms that were ascendant in the industry. Meanwhile, it will squeeze the smallest, already most precarious people, genres, and platforms. It will accelerate trends and hurt the vulnerable. Just as it has throughout the wider economy.

    Thanks to performers Jayden Cole, MelRose Michaels, and Sarah Vandella, and to producers Freakmob of FreakMob Media and Zsolt Abraham of MixedX, for commenting for this piece too.

  • Master at-home learning with this supply cheat sheet

    Master at-home learning with this supply cheat sheet

    You Got This is a series that spotlights the gear you need to improve one area of your life. If you buy something from this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.


    As the school year approaches, you’re probably already working on your first assignment: putting together your own online learning space at home.

    Setting yourself up for success is key. From maximizing your comfort in front of your screen to having the right gear for an intense study sesh, here’s our school-at-home cheat sheet. Snag these supplies from eBay’s student-budget friendly refurbished program to save some serious cash.

    But first, coffee

    Need a kickstart in the morning? Rise, shine, and get that coffee brewing. Start your day off with a caffeine boost to get your brain firing for the day.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Cuisinart
    Get a refurbished Cuisinart coffee maker for $49.50 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Get comfy

    If you’re setting up your own space, get a chair that’s comfortable. Your back will appreciate it.

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    Sit up straighter with a new desk chair for $449.11 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Your new BFF

    Find a laptop that meets your needs for your class load and interests. You’ll be spending a lot of time together.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Microsoft
    Connect to your classes with your new laptop for $899 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Screen time

    Have a lot of information to digest? Sometimes, a single computer screen just doesn’t cut it. Add an extra monitor to your setup to have all the info you need visible at all times.

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    Snag an extra monitor for $104.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Extra credit

    Now that you’re working with multiple screens, you’ll want to upgrade the rest of your set up. Having an external mouse and keyboard lets you be even more flexible in your learning space and helps avoid unnecessary stressors to your eyes and wrists.

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    Become more efficient with a wireless mouse and keyboard for $109.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Participation is key

    Learning from home means you’ll need high quality headphones. Snag a pair for listening to lectures, but make sure they have a built-in mic so you can speak clearly in class discussions.

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    Get some headphones with a built in mic for $124.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Safe and fast connection

    Has there ever been a more important pair? Secure your network and maximize your internet speeds with one small device.

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    Get a safer, faster internet connection with a modem router duo for $119.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    De-stressing 101

    Don’t let your full course load stress you out. Scheduling in some time during your day to recharge and destress is imperative for a successful at-home learning experience.

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  • Boredoom is the perfect term for the crushing mix of boredom and anxiety in 2020

    Boredoom is the perfect term for the crushing mix of boredom and anxiety in 2020

    Never in my life did I imagine that living through some of the world's darkest days would be so incredibly... boring.


    I've been quarantining at home since March 1, and while I'm more than happy to stay inside, isolate from friends and family, and avoid public settings to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, I have to admit: I'm bored as hell.

    In addition to the boredom, I also somehow simultaneously overwhelmed with anxiety about politics, health, safety, the environment, and, basically, the future of humanity as a whole. I've certainly experienced boredom and anxiety in tandem before. (The past few years haven't exactly been a cakewalk, after all.) But in this moment, with the relentless chaos that is 2020, the constant overlap of the two has caused them to blend into a single, troubling new sensation — one that I now call "boredoom."

    What the heck is boredoom?

    It's defined by a 2009 Urban Dictionary entry(Opens in a new tab) as "doomed by boredom." But I think we can all agree that's not our current fate. A more recent entry from March 30, 2020 (near the start of the coronavirus era) defines the term as "the intense feeling of boredom resulting from sheltering in place during an emergency." Closer. But in my mind, boredoom is simply the state of feeling numb and restless while things around you seem hopeless. And if that doesn't scream "2020," then I don't know what does.

    Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that everything that's happening right now in the world is boring. It's absolutely not. And the ability to even be "bored," that is safe at home and not contending with being sick or having a family member who is, is in itself a great privilege. But that doesn't mean this drastic and sudden change in the way we live hasn't taken it's toll.

    Quarantining in a pandemic is essential, but it also prevents you from doing a lot of the activities that you'd typically turn to for entertainment and stress relief. While normal boredom might arise from not having new or especially exciting plans, boredoom happens when you actually can't have any plans as a result of all the doom.

    For the past several months we've been unable to grab dinner with friends on the weekends, temporarily check our worries at the door of a movie theater, or unwind at an IRL happy hour after work.

    Instead of living our normal lives we're left to entertain ourselves at home with whatever hobbies, chores, and ambitious to-do lists we can come up with. The stay-at-home life had a charming novelty to it back in March, but that quickly faded away and finding distractions has become increasingly difficult.

    When the boredom hits, you have nothing to stop you from dwelling on all the doom. The anxious energy that generates within you then has no outlet for release. So you begin desperately searching anew for ways to occupy your mind. This is boredoom.

    Boredoom is what led me to sculpt this flower out of Babybel cheese wax(Opens in a new tab). It's the reason my colleague Tim runs around his coffee table and turns to these other chaotic time wasters. And it's why so many people are cutting and dyeing their hair, attempting to bake bread, doing puzzles, learning TikTok dances, and doomscrolling in quarantine.

    We're all just trying to keep our minds even slightly occupied during the slow roll through this seemingly endless calamity.

    Is there any cure for boredoom?

    Signs point to no — or at least not in the short term. Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic, but the United States is simultaneously fighting for racial equality and prepping for a crucial presidential election. In such a stressful, chaotic time many people want to be out helping and fighting for causes that are close to their hearts. But current circumstances make that more challenging.

    I'm a scaredy cat, so I can count the number of terrifying, dystopian movies I've watched on one hand. From everything I've seen on-screen, when characters fear their country and loved ones are in grave danger they're not panic-consuming news, tirelessly refreshing social media, or rage-screaming every time Netflix's "Still watching?" screen has the audacity to show up. They're actively doing something to try and stop the doom. The problem is, in a pandemic, staying home is one of the biggest ways we can help reduce the spread of germs.

    Until it's safe to cut down on social distancing, many of us will remain stuck in the vicious cycle of quarantining and searching for ways to distract ourselves from our new levels of fatigue and malaise. If you're suffering from boredoom, be kind to yourself, but don't just accept it. Do something to relieve it.

    There are a bunch of ways to safely take positive action related to pandemic relief, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the upcoming election(Opens in a new tab)... even in a pandemic. If you can find even a few meaningful ways to alleviate your boredom and help those around you, the doom may start to seem less scary.

    Boredoom won't last forever (at least it better not!?), so once it's over let's never take regular old boredom for granted again. Deal?

  • Inventor breaks record for worlds fastest electric ice cream van

    Inventor breaks record for worlds fastest electric ice cream van

    There's something deeply nostalgic about the familiar sound of an ice cream van as it slowly winds its way down your street on a hot summer's day.


    Speed, when it comes to the musical meander of that moving treat dispenser, is never of the essence. Well, until now, that is.

    British inventor Edd China has broken the Guinness World Record title for fastest electric ice cream van after reaching speeds of 73.921 mph. Mr Whippy won't know what's hit him.

    China broke the record with his Whitby Morrison "Amalfi" ice cream van over a standing mile at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire, UK. For those used to driving on UK motorways, you'll know that the record also surpasses the motorway speed limit — hence why the record was likely completed off road.

    I'll have a 99 Flake, please. Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/GWR

    Two years prior to breaking the record, China started to modify his ice cream van to "electrify" it. In the Spring of 2018, the van ran on a Mercedes Sprinter diesel engine, which he then replaced with an electric engine.

    SEE ALSO: How the hottest temperatures in the world are verified

    When China found out that some ice cream vans had been banned by London councils(Opens in a new tab) due to worries over air pollution, he decided to do something about it. China created a conversion kit for ice cream vans so they can change over from diesel to electric. He plans to roll out the kit globally in the future.

    This isn't China's first Guinness World Record rodeo. He's already broken seven records involving fast motorised vehicles — including "world's largest motorised shopping trolley".

    Too fast for the motorway. Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/GWR

    China's achievement will be featured in the 2021 edition of the Guinness World Records book. Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief of Guinness World Records, said that it's been an unusual year for record breaking. "This year's incredible edition has been compiled in the most extraordinary of circumstances," he said. "Halfway through writing it, the world was turned upside down by COVID-19, but despite lockdowns and quarantines, it's not prevented amazing characters like Edd from breaking records."

    Maybe next time, he can try for 99(Opens in a new tab) miles per hour.

    GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS 2021 (£20) is available for purchase in stores and online from 17th September 2020.

  • Lara Trump used a fake Lincoln quote from a meme in her RNC speech

    Lara Trump used a fake Lincoln quote from a meme in her RNC speech

    Anyone who's been online in their lifetime has probably heard the adage, "Don't believe everything you read on the internet." But apparently not Lara Trump.


    Even before this age of rampant misinformation(Opens in a new tab), the warning not to take online quotes at their word was true. It's so easy to doctor a photo, fudge a quote, and blur the line between fact and fiction. This is why fact checkers are essential.

    Well, true to the Trump Administrations brand of rarely adhering to facts, Eric Trump's wife Lara didn't fact check her RNC speech on Wednesday night. Lara cited a fake Abraham Lincoln quote(Opens in a new tab) that's a popular meme with conservatives: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Trump goes on to say that while those words were said over 150 years ago, they've never been more relevant.

    If you'd like to see it for yourself, Trump says the quote around the four minute mark of this video:

    Perhaps this Lincoln "quote" seems oddly relevant to today because it's fake. As the New York Times (Opens in a new tab)RNC fact check(Opens in a new tab) pointed out, President Lincoln never uttered those words. Snopes even debunked it(Opens in a new tab) 2019. Lincoln's original statement was made during the Lyceum Address(Opens in a new tab) of 1838, and it has been botched and manipulated over time. Here is the quote as Lincoln said it:

    At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

    So how did Lara Trump come to use those twisted words and wrongly attribute them to Lincoln? Why, memes of course — lots and lots of memes. Right-wing organizations like PragerU have shared memes of the fake quote to their social media accounts:

    PragerU notes in tiny little text at the bottom that this is "paraphrased," but the quote is distorted from Lincoln's actual words (note that he didn't say "destroyed" or "freedom"). If you google the false quote, you see a plethora of memes(Opens in a new tab) as well, coming from sources such as the pro-Trump newspaper Epoch Times(Opens in a new tab).

    As Lara Trump should know, memes aren't historical documents or an especially good way of conveying accurate truths. And it was certainly not the only misinformation spread during the RNC. Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle also could have used a fact-check after she claimed in her speech that her mother was an immigrant from Puerto Rico, which is... part of the United States.

    Just another reminder to check your sources — and please, don't believe every meme you see on your Facebook feed.

  • Amazons Halo tracks your body fat and how happy you sound

    Amazons Halo tracks your body fat and how happy you sound

    Amazon knows your shopping secrets. Now it wants to collect data on your body fat and emotional state.


    The company announced the launch of a new fitness band and companion app Thursday that it's calling Amazon Halo(Opens in a new tab). Like competitors Apple Watch and Google-owned FitBit, it measures things like activity, sleep, and other health metrics. But it goes much further.

    Amazon says that it can measure your body fat percentage just through photos. Using the full-body selfies you submit to the app, it can create a "3D body model" that it recommends re-doing every two weeks. That measurement will also tell you how your body fat compares to other people of your sex and age according to "medical literature." You can use a slider to "visualize" what you would look like with more or less body fat.

    Look, it's me, in the cloud! Credit: amazon

    Its second distinctive feature is that it measures the tone of your voice, or how energetic and positive you sound. It's supposed to help you reflect on your interactions with other people to understand how you're coming off in conversations.

    First, you create a "voice profile" so that your Halo can recognize when you're talking. Then, Amazon says(Opens in a new tab) that Tone runs "passively and intermittently in the background...Throughout the day, it will take short samples of your speech and analyze the acoustic characteristics that represent how you sound to the people you interact with." You can also get "continuous tone analysis" for a conversation of up to 30 minutes if you press a button to "bookmark" an interaction you're having with another human being.

    Hmm, wonder how I felt today. Better ask a robot! Credit: amazon

    Let's just get this out of the way: these features sound creepy as hell. Who is the person just dying for an eavesdropping robot on their wrist to tell them how happy they sound while chatting with friends? Is the goal to sound happier, more energetic, all the time?! WHY?

    And, excuse me, Amazon, but why would I want to create a 3D model of myself that exists in the Amazon cloud? It seems like that would encourage a negative body image and obsessive thinking (especially with that comparison feature).

    On the other hand, we gotta acknowledge that a lot of the AI technology Amazon Halo relies on sounds pretty cool. Measuring body fat usually involves sending electrical pulses through your body on specialty smart scales. Amazon says it can do it with just your pictures.

    But just because Amazon can doesn't mean anybody should.

    Amazon has been making inroads into the health industry for some time. It already analyzes and stores health data for hospitals. It acquired prescription delivery service PillPack(Opens in a new tab), and it's launching an insurance venture with Berkshire Hathaway.

    So Amazon clearly has big plans for healthcare. But how does Halo fit into them? Yes, it gets money from the fitness tracker and the subscription fee of $3.99/month. But given Amazon's reliance on collecting mountains of information(Opens in a new tab) to sell products, you can bet data will have something to do with it.

    That's especially true since your Amazon Halo account is linked to your Amazon Prime account. So data about your fitness and engagement with the app is quantified alongside information about past purchases.

    Amazon has built in a few important privacy features(Opens in a new tab), and, of course, insists that Halo is dedicated to privacy. Most crucially, data is encrypted when it's moving between your device and your smartphone, and you can download and delete your Halo data at any time.

    Additionally, Amazon says the most sensitive data — your voice recordings — never leave your device and are deleted immediately after processing. Similarly, Body Scan images are supposedly deleted from Amazon's cloud after they're processed, and only live on your device (unless you enable cloud backup).

    But aside from the raw voice and image files, what about the data related to your mood and emotions? How about your fluctuations in body fat? Amazon told Mashable that data related to users' body fat and tone will not be used to make shopping recommendations.

    Halo's privacy policy(Opens in a new tab), however, does say Amazon "can collect information relating to your fitness metrics, body fat composition, demographic data, sleep, and tone of voice," but does not clearly specify what it will do with that data. It merely says: "This helps us improve the Halo service to provide features and content that are most useful for customers." Amazon wouldn't explain further when contacted by Mashable.

    Amazon's privacy statement on Halo includes some important data protections, but leaves many questions unanswered. Credit: screenshot: rachel kraus / mashable /amazon

    We know that Amazon uses our data to sell us things. Its cloud storage systems have been at the root of multiple third-party data breaches. Add that to the numerous privacy questions around its Echo inappropriately listening to users (including kids)(Opens in a new tab) and collecting voice data. Is this the company you want knowing how often you go for a run, when you go to sleep and when you wake up, whether you're gaining or losing weight, and how damn happy you are?

    Well, if the answer is yes, we have good news for you. Amazon is offering a six-month promotion with Halo on sale for $64.99 instead of $99.99.

  • The best memes from the 2020 Republican National Convention

    The best memes from the 2020 Republican National Convention

    The 2020 Republican National Convention is over, which means four nights of political speeches to meme.


    The RNC took place from Monday, Aug. 24 to Thursday, Aug. 27, and along with several politicians and guests, the official speaker lineup included Mike and Karen Pence, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, known meme-quoter Lara Trump, and even Tiffany Trump.

    Though no Republican National Convention moment filled us with as much joy as the Democratic National Convention's "calamari comeback", the convention still inspired some quality memes. Here are seven of our favorites.

    1. Yes, I'm watching the RNC

    Sometimes the simplest memes are the most satisfying, and the "watching the RNC" meme is a perfect example. Ahead of the nightly Republican speeches, Twitter users found joy in announcing that they'd be tuning into the RNC...just not that RNC.

    2. Kimberly Guilfoyle's very loud speech

    Night one of the RNC kicked off with an ear-shattering bang thanks to Kimberly Guilfoyle's extremely loud speech. The former Fox News host and current girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. let LOOSE in front of the microphone and delivered an intense, deeply impassioned address that reached such a high volume I had to mute my TV. Dwight Schrute would have been proud.

    3. Donald Trump, Jr. saying "PP and E"

    When attempting to tell the country that his father provided coronavirus "PPE" (personal protective equipment) to those in need,Trump Jr. slipped up and said "PP and E." According to a simple Google search, "PP&E" is a finance term that stands for(Opens in a new tab) "property, plant, and equipment," or "long-term assets vital to business operations and not easily converted into cash."

    It's definitely not what he meant to say, but it's not the first time he has incorrectly added "and" to an acronym. Remember when he called Saturday Night Live "S&L"? Great times.

    4. The big Succession vibes

    Fans of HBO's media family dramedy Succession know that the Roy kids live and breathe to make daddy Logan proud. And as Donald Trump kid after Donald Trump kid (after Donald Trump kid after Donald Trump kid) spoke and repeated the words "my father" over and over again, you couldn't help but feel some big Succession "I must make daddy proud" vibes.

    5. The movie trailer energy

    Succession isn't the only on-screen reference people were reminded of during the RNC. The whole convention really felt like one long, confusing movie trailer. Some Twitter users compared certain speeches to sci-fi films like The Hunger Games and dystopian horror films like The Purge. While others marveled over the over-the-top cinematic sound effects and the drama of each convention intro and transition video.

    6. Melania's neon green dress

    I don't know what Melania Trump expected when she decided to walk down the White House steps on the final night of the RNC dressed like a literal green screen. But people obviously couldn't resist poking fun at her wardrobe.

    7. Melania's side-eye to Ivanka

    We're not sure what goes on between the first lady and the first daughter behind White House doors, but when Ivanka walked past Melania on stage Thursday night, FLOTUS gave her a not-so-subtle death stare. (Spoiler alert: Everyone noticed.)

    Congratulations, everyone! You've officially survived the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Now we just have to make it to Voting Day.

  • LG unveils air purifier face mask

    LG unveils air purifier face mask

    Face masks are here to stay, and tech companies are keen to take advantage by offering us breathing protection well beyond what disposable face masks can achieve. LG just revealed its first serious attempt at providing us with "personal clean air."


    Using IFA 2020 as a launching ground, LG is introducing the PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier(Opens in a new tab). It's a face mask, but promises to provide a fresh supply of clean air to the person wearing it for hours. That's achieved through a combination fo two H13 HEPA filters and dual fans, powered by a rechargeable battery.

    LG built-in its patented Respiratory Sensor to automatically adjust the Puricare based on the "cycle and volume of the wearer's breath." Each fan has three speed settings, which adjust to run slower or faster depending on whether the wearer is breathing in or out so as to reduce the effort required to simply breathe normally. The battery powering the mask is only 820mAh, but LG claims it's enough for eight hours of filtered air.

    Credit: LG

    As well as covering the nose and mouth, LG says the mask will be comfortable to wear for hours. When it isn't being worn, the mask can be placed in its case where it will recharge and be subjected to UV-LED lights in order to kill any germs before the next use. LG also linked the case to its ThinQ Android and iOS mobile app, so the user can be informed when the HEPA filters need replacing.

    As The Verge reports(Opens in a new tab), LG isn't commenting yet on how effective the Puricare mask is at slowing the spread of coronavirus. The company is waiting for testing to be completed and certification granted before giving any further details. We also don't yet know when the mask will be made available for purchase or how much it will cost, but LG has suggested it will be launched before the end of 2020.

  • The algorithms defining sexuality suck. Heres how to make them better.

    The algorithms defining sexuality suck. Heres how to make them better.

    Mashable’s series Algorithms explores the mysterious lines of code that increasingly control our lives — and our futures.


    Ever since porn was credited as one of the most innovating forces behind early internet technology, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of tech enhancing our sex lives. We’re so horny for it that we've helped build a $30 billion industry(Opens in a new tab) that's expected to keep growing(Opens in a new tab).

    Sextech often sells people on the promise that algorithms can optimize users’ sexual experiences. But a vast majority of algorithms built explicitly for pleasure remain rudimentary at best and harmful at worst — including those used in smart biofeedback sex toys and AI-generated porn deepfakes(Opens in a new tab).

    That's because a lot of sextech relies on a grossly reductive view of sexuality. Exhibit A: The all-male startup that claimed to invent an algorithm that can “validate” real versus fake female orgasms(Opens in a new tab). Exhibit B: The Autoblow A.I.(Opens in a new tab) fellatio machine which promises "the perfect blowjob” thanks to artificial intelligence fed porn video data.

    Even the most advanced, well-intentioned sextech is held back by a lack of legitimate sex research, accurate data, and designer diversity. That’s on top of the biases built into algorithms, overstated tech capabilities, marketing gimmicks, and Silicon Valley capitalism.

    “The pleasure product industry is one of the few industries that has been relatively untouched by modern technology,” said Liz Klinger, co-creator of the Lioness biofeedback rabbit vibrator(Opens in a new tab), which tracks and generates charts of your vaginal contractions during arousal. The biggest trends of VR and remote control smart toys, she pointed out, use tech that’s decades old. “Existing companies just don’t understand how software, data, AI, or other technology can introduce new experiences or appeal to new, different demographics.”

    The failures to integrate algorithms into sexual exploration and expression go beyond an outdated adult toy industry and bleed into all corners of the internet. As it stands now, the binaries encoded in algorithms seem almost diametrically opposed to the complex spectrum of human sexuality.

    But there are ways to change that.

    The binaries encoded in algorithms can seem almost diametrically opposed to the complex spectrum of human sexuality.

    “Technologists write algorithms that are interacting with these very complicated social systems with no consideration or background in their complexities. But there's already a lot of information out there on how to approach gender and sex that you just have to incorporate into your algorithm,” said Annie Brown(Opens in a new tab), the founder of Lips(Opens in a new tab), a social media sharing platform that uses machine learning to create a safe space for women and LGBTQ folks to express themselves sexually.

    The algorithms policing sex on social media have such little nuance that they can't even differentiate porn from sex ed, sexual health(Opens in a new tab), or sex commentary(Opens in a new tab). Sexism and homophobia are so entrenched in how platforms like Facebook and Instagram police sexuality that ads for women's sex toys and HIV/AIDs prevention(Opens in a new tab) are banned while ads for condoms and erectile dysfunction pills are allowed. Those same biases plague algorithm-driven sextech devices, too, which often impose false and exclusionary ideals about what the "best" sex should feel like. Lack of scientific research and data around pleasure and sex, especially when it comes to people with vaginas, makes it almost impossible for sextech to deliver on its promises of sexual optimization.

    It doesn't have to be that way, though. Algorithms don't need to default to constricting heteronormative male views on sexuality. Instead, a few companies are grounding their algorithms in more inclusive feminist approaches to sexuality in the hopes of countering these cultural biases.

    But it takes investment to try something new, which the majority of the sex and tech industries have so far been unwilling to pony up.

    Related Video: This is how algorithms work

    “We’re seeing an increase in people using sextech to feel connected,” said SXNoir(Opens in a new tab), an activist for sex workers’ digital rights, vice president of Women of Sextech(Opens in a new tab), and a self-described thot leader. “But I always say, with sextech, we're not teaching yoga or selling smoothies here. We're dealing with something so intricate, so personal, so deeply rooted in all of us. We need to think carefully about the philosophies we’re putting into these algorithms and talk about their potential harms as much as their potential benefits.”

    Once we start doing that, the sex-positive potential of algorithms are theoretically endless.

    “There’s a lot that algorithms, software, and other technology can do to help improve pleasure and understanding of our own sexualities,” said Klinger. “For Lioness, some of the uses I’m seeing is utilizing real-world sex data to put different experiences of pleasure into context for our users.”

    Perhaps the greatest potential for algorithms in the sexual wellness field might lie beyond just explorations of pleasure. According to Emily Sauer — the creator of the Ohnut wearable(Opens in a new tab) that allows couples to customize penetration depth to avoid pain — algorithms could help remove the societal shame of openly discussing our sexual difficulties.

    “We turn to sextech to feel less alone,” said Sauer. “We want to know how we relate to everyone else through the tech, the data, because nobody's talking about these taboo things that make us uncomfortable.”

    The promise land of algorithmically-driven sexual exploration is like playing with fire, though. Algorithms are as capable of destroying healthy relationships to sex as nourishing them.

    Fixing the algorithms that police sexuality

    Time(Opens in a new tab) and time(Opens in a new tab) again, algorithms have been shown to perpetuate the implicit biases of human beings around gender and race. The most influential algorithms informing sexual expression in our modern world are no exception.

    Leadership at social media companies like Facebook and Twitter tend(Opens in a new tab) to be mostly(Opens in a new tab) white, heterosexual, cis men. They're also the ones who get to decide what their platforms — and the algorithms that monitor them — consider appropriate sexuality versus obscenity, or sexual exploitation versus sexual expression on the internet.

    Unsurprisingly, those definitions of sexuality are revealing themselves to be very narrow and discriminatory(Opens in a new tab).

    Sex-blocking algorithms have been found to disproportionately censor marginalized groups, especially LGBTQ folks, sex workers, and women. One cybersecurity firm found that over 73 percent(Opens in a new tab) of online content flagged as inappropriate featured LGBTQ people. Aside from straight-up deleting and blocking accounts, the more subtle phenomenon of shadowbanning has been accused of enabling apps like Instagram(Opens in a new tab) and TikTok(Opens in a new tab) to exclude marginalized people's content from discovery and explore pages. Instagram's CEO has said shadowbanning "is not a thing," while TikTok has admitted to the practice — although a TikTok representative said its intentions were good even if its execution was not.

    “Accounts like Playboy and Kim Kardashian are welcome on social media platforms because they follow a mainstream view of sex. But the second that you have any alternative expression of sexuality that doesn’t cater to the male gaze, that's something their algorithms deem unsafe and unacceptable,” said Brown.

    According to SXNoir, the discriminatory, anti-sex algorithms on social platforms have been accelerated by legislation like FOSTA/SESTA(Opens in a new tab). Aimed at stopping sex trafficking, it made tech companies legally responsible for all the sexual content on their websites. This incentivized social media platforms to censor sex even more, disproportionately impacting marginalized groups like sex workers and queer communities(Opens in a new tab), who rely on the internet for safe sexual expression.

    "What happens is that sexuality as a whole becomes collateral damage in digital spaces,” said SXNoir. “Sex workers become the scapegoats for censoring everyone’s freedom of speech, expression, privacy.”

    Just look at Tumblr, which was flagged by Apple for child pornography in 2018(Opens in a new tab) after the bill passed. Instead of investing in better algorithms that could distinguish between sexual expression and sexual exploitation, Tumblr banned adult content altogether. This left the queer communities and sexual subcultures who thrived(Opens in a new tab) on it with nowhere to turn. Other tech companies like Facebook are making similar decisions(Opens in a new tab), implementing more punitive rules around sex rather than nuanced algorithms.

    “We need to create technology for us and by us. The reason why technology does not currently work well for BIPOC, queer people, those engaging in sexuality, is because we are not the ones creating the rules, the Codes of Conduct," said SXNoir. As seen in recent discourse around OnlyFans, "Black sex workers are very much pioneers of these digital spaces, the ones who [often need to] navigate sexuality on the internet the most. We’re futurists. And we deserve a seat at the table.”

    Lips is trying to do exactly that, by working with those marginalized by social media algorithms and making them the central forces powering new algorithms around sexuality.

    “Black sex workers are very much pioneers of these digital spaces, the ones who navigate sexuality on the internet the most."

    Launched a couple months after the Tumblr ban, it offered a new home for those who had been kicked off. Aside from being a safe sharing platform for honest sexual expression and exploration for the marginalized, it’s also a marketplace for those banned from advertising on other social platforms, like organizations who work in HIV/AIDS prevention.

    Despite what giant social media platforms want you to believe, Brown said, it’s actually possible to create algorithms that can distinguish between legal and illegal sexual content. But making them takes time, investment, diversity among developers and users, a social-theory based moderation process, and explicit anti-hate speech agendas that protect marginalized voices.

    Ultimately, though, doing all that just isn’t immediately profitable for those tech companies.

    Lips prides itself on a machine learning system that empowers its diverse community of users to train the algorithm to understand the granular distinctions between sexual exploitation versus expression. Because while both computers and humans have a hard time defining those differences in concrete terms, people can tell the difference between, say, erotic art versus pornography when it’s in front of them. (Famously, in a court case trying to distinguish obscenity from erotica, former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said(Opens in a new tab), "I know it when I see it.")

    SEE ALSO: We're in a sex toy revolution. Here's how you can join.

    “You're using the power of the collective to create the knowledge base and data set, which the algorithms can then apply in a way that’s faster than any one individual could,” Brown said of Lips.

    Of course, this requires confidence in your user base, which is why Lips implements a gated entry. Anyone can browse Lips. But to participate in the community you must apply by submitting a couple posts you want to contribute to the platform as well as information on why you want to join.

    Users who demonstrate an understanding of sex-positivity tend to be more qualified to make these judgment calls. Feeding their knowledge into the algorithm teaches it to be more effective and unbiased about sexuality than the cis, white, heterosexual male gaze that currently informs the rules. That’s on top of the diversity of their team on the backend, who lead the way in removing as much discriminatory bias as possible from how the technology itself is built.

    "A machine doesn’t inherently weed out what it personally thinks is icky or inappropriate.”

    They’re also using a unique tagging system that further reflects their sex-positive outlook that doesn’t shame or yuck people’s yum. It’s an inclusive rather than exclusive system. This means that instead of users inputting preferences that exclude others, everything is allowed on the main feed. Then, users curate it to what they like by labeling the type of posts they’d rather not see again. It’s an extension of the philosophy that everything that’s legal and doesn’t impede others’ abilities to express themselves should be allowed to exist on the main feed of Lips — even if a lot of people don’t care for it.

    But Lips also knows that to accomplish its vision, it can’t just rely on machine learning moderation. It prioritizes a team of human experts with backgrounds in, for example, exploitation, who can further gut check disputed submissions.

    Brown believes that, in some ways, algorithms can allow for a type of shame-free exploration of sex that real-life can’t.

    “Sex is one of those things where it's really hard for us to see outside our own perspective because it's such a visceral thing. But a machine doesn’t inherently weed out what it personally thinks is icky or inappropriate,” she said. “A machine has more of an 'if, then' approach to sex that can be beneficial. But it depends on who’s creating the machine, what data you’re feeding it, and whether it’s vast and diverse enough to be a good algorithm.”

    The algorithms for better sextech hardware

    There’s an oversaturation of data-tracking and AI devices on the market that claim their tech optimizes or enhance sex through algorithms. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them use a lot of overstated tech-speak to sell people on impossible promises. On top of the same issues with implicit biases, sextech lacks good, representationally diverse scientific data as well as legitimate technologists.

    Take the Autoblow A.I. The methodology behind its artificial intelligence are detailed in a not peer-reviewed paper(Opens in a new tab) with anonymous authors, spear-headed by one scientist who told Vice(Opens in a new tab) they had a "PhD on AI stuff” while the rest of the team was mostly engineers. The data was gathered by a marketing firm, which Autoblow A.I. worked with in the past on a vagina beauty contest(Opens in a new tab). By watching POV porn videos of blowjobs, they translated the linear motions into data with a slider tool, which was then put into a neural network(Opens in a new tab) that developed the device's haptic feedback patterns.

    Autoblow A.I. creator Brian Sloan told Mashable in an email that the data-gathering team used video sorted from most to least popular on Pornhub. The race of performers was not considered relevant. About 90 percent of the videos showed a woman giving a blowjob and 10 percent showed a man giving a blowjob. But Sloan noted that "even if there were differences between how gay or straight people performed blowjobs, the Autoblow’s penis gripper and motor system does not perform at such a high resolution that those differences would be felt by users."

    As for the diversity of the team behind the technology, Sloan said, "I hire by ability and cost; not by race or sexual orientation. I don’t think it's appropriate to ask people who work for me about their race or sexual orientation because it is unrelated to their work and in general none of my business."

    It's well known that porn (especially on Tube sites) overwhelmingly caters to cis, straight, white men. Regardless, porn is also a visual performance of sex, which probably isn't representative of what a great blowjob feels like. According to Kyle Machulis(Opens in a new tab), a software engineer in sextech who created in a new tab), that's one of the many reasons why the data set used for the Autoblow A.I. can't deliver on its promise(Opens in a new tab) of being the "best blowjob machine in the world" that allow you to "enjoy blowjobs the same way they’re given in real life."

    “Sex is a complex emotional and sensory experience, and algorithms can only replicate vague traces of that experience,” Machulis said. “The hardware that the algorithms are controlling is usually nothing like a person someone would have sex with, and to match the marketing, the algorithms themselves have to distill all the desire and lust and scents and touches and sounds of sex into that crappy hardware. It's a challenging scenario even for the best of engineering and research teams, and most sex toy companies have neither engineering nor research teams.”

    Sloan countered by saying that, "It is obvious that oral sex includes other auditory, physical, and emotional sensations, but at least to us it is also obvious that the other characteristics are virtually impossible to measure, and even closer to impossible to reproduce in a physical product that costs a few hundred dollars... While every inventor including myself would love to include innumerable fantastical features in his invention, we are unfortunately limited to only those which are reasonably achievable at an economical cost. I have been granted a number of patents both on the machine(Opens in a new tab) itself and on methods for automatic porn synchronization using machine learning(Opens in a new tab) we plan to use for future iterations. That is to say we are pushing our field forward and pioneering the future of A.I. in sex toys."

    The underlying issues with the Autoblow A.I. speak to how a vast majority of sex devices incorporating algorithms rely on an interpretation of intercourse that ranges from rudimentary to dehumanizing.

    Smart cock rings do this, too. Take, for example, the Lovely(Opens in a new tab), which is marketed as a Fitbit for optimizing your sex life that collects biofeedback data during the act to learn what you and your partner like and give personalized suggestions for improvement. In practice, though, it just tracks the elapsed time of intercourse, speed, and depth of the cock ring-wearers thrusts — which, you know, isn’t very useful for much of anything, least of all the person receiving the penis.

    Or there’s a Fitbit for vaginal wellness, the smart kegel trainer Elvie(Opens in a new tab), which promises “better bladder control, faster postnatal recovery, and enhanced intimacy.” It’s one of the most blatant examples of a gamified sexual wellness algorithm. You play a literal game where the strength and timing of your vaginal contractions basically acts like a controller. It can even detect if you’re doing the kegel wrong — yet fails to provide any sort of in-depth instruction on how to do it right. It also doesn’t account for how, often, vaginal pain during sex comes from the pelvic floor being too tense and constricted.

    “A lot of these new products that measure all different kinds of physiological responses view sex only in the physical realm of pleasure. But sex isn’t just a physical need. There’s a psychological component,” said Sauer. “Data-focused products often fail to ask what is the purpose of sex? How do we want to feel about ourselves during sex? Because when sex is anything less than perfect, or somebody's body isn’t meeting that algorithm’s expectations, the last thing you want is something measuring your performance level.”

    "Our human nature is then to use that sexual data as a measurement against ourselves.”

    Ultimately, a lot of sextech sells us on the promise of validation from the seeming objectivity and impartiality of an algorithm. But as we know, there’s no such thing as an unbiased algorithm. There’s also little data on sexual pleasure (especially for people with vaginas) that would even allow for an “objective” measure of pleasure.

    “I do think that there's value in that data,” said Sauer. “I just think that our human nature is then to use that sexual data as a measurement against ourselves.”

    Perhaps no one knows that better — and how much thought and care needs to go into an ethically data-driven sextech device — than Klinger, the co-creator of Lioness. During its early development phase, three different potential cis, male, heterosexual investors suggested she create a leaderboard to measure which users had the “most” or “best” orgasms.

    “I don’t even know how you’d measure that, or what that even means,” Klinger said.

    There is no ideal or “perfect” orgasm. The whole point of the Lioness, actually, was to help users understand how individual sexual arousal is: Some prefer orgasms with a longer lead up time, others prefer orgasms that last longer, while others like smaller successions of multiple orgasms. The point of the data is not to measure the “adequacy” of your pleasure, but to encourage curiosity over the multiplicity of ways we can experience pleasure.

    So, instead of gamification, “We try to frame Lioness almost like a meditation app versus a goal-oriented exercise app. You're not competing in meditation. It's more about continuing the practice, having a journey, learning about your body’s experience, rather than trying to compete for faster, stronger, or better orgasms.”

    I even used the Lioness in conjunction with a meditation biofeedback-tracking device precisely to do that, tracking different physiological and psychological responses through experiments in mindful sex.

    As a woman who dealt with anorexia and body shaming growing up, it was essential to Klinger that the data never be presented in a way that inspired self-critique — or invalidated, judged, or even instructed users on how to have an “optimal” experience. Instead, the app mostly just gives you the hard data, and encourages you to fill out the journal to describe how you felt and how it relates to your interpretation of said data.

    In an upcoming update, the team plans to provide classes in the app to help users learn how to better interpret their own data. But they never want the algorithm itself to impose any strict meaning or assumptions — despite the fact that it would probably be more profitable to do so.

    What Klinger and the Lioness team have just launched, though, is a research platform(Opens in a new tab) where users can opt-in to fix one of the biggest issues that’s holding sextech algorithms back: all that rigorous, legitimate scientifically-gathered data on sexual function we don’t have.

    Not only is there a lack of research on the topic, but the data that does exist also has its own biases because of the lack of a diverse or big enough sample size. That’s why Lioness is also trying to get free devices to people who want to participate in these studies but can’t afford the high cost of most sextech. Two upcoming studies center around the pelvic floor muscles’ relationship to orgasms(Opens in a new tab) while another focuses on experiences of pleasure in menopausal women(Opens in a new tab) (another severely understudied topic).

    What Lioness ultimately does through its data-driven algorithm is give users access to knowledge about themselves that they've been sorely robbed of.

    “There's so little places to get reliable, personalized information about your own sex life, your own body. And there’s few spaces to explore that comfortably,” Klinger said.

    The marriage between algorithms and sex is in its infantile stages. But what’s clear is that no algorithm — no matter how smart — will ever remove the need for a human understanding of sexuality.

    Read more from Algorithms:

    • What is an algorithm, anyway?

    • Algorithms control your online life. Here's how to reduce their influence.

    • It's almost impossible to avoid triggering content on TikTok.

  • NFL paints End Racism on its fields and no, this isnt a joke

    NFL paints End Racism on its fields and no, this isnt a joke

    The NFL's unhelpful attempt at standing for social justice is getting dragged by Twitter.


    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told NBC Sports(Opens in a new tab) that the league will paint "End racism" and "It takes all of us" in each stadium's end zones for the upcoming season.

    "The NFL stands with the Black community, the players, clubs, and fans confronting systemic racism," Goodell told NBC Sports. "We will not relent in our work."

    The move is especially ironic, as the NFL iced out(Opens in a new tab) San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism in 2016. Kaepernick hasn't played since his contract with the 49ers ended in 2017, and hasn't been picked up by other teams in the league since. Kaepernick's protest inspired(Opens in a new tab) a nationwide movement of sitting out or kneeling during the anthem in support of the fight against systemic injustice. While the protest has been gaining popularity since Kaepernick first knelt four years ago, especially in wake of the global rallies for the Black Lives Matter movement, kneeling during the anthem has been condemned by conservatives like Donald Trump.

    The NFL's support of anti-racism seems especially paltry given its history of banning kneeling(Opens in a new tab). The league reversed its decision(Opens in a new tab) in June this year, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that took place after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer.

    Which is why the decision to stencil "End racism" on its fields faced so much backlash from Twitter users.

    The NFL will also allow players to wear T-shirts that say "Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us" and "End racism" during warmups. In addition, players will be allowed to decorate their helmets with decals of either the name of a victim of police brutality, or one of four NFL-approved phrases: "Stop Hate," "It Takes All Of Us," "End Racism," and "Black Lives Matter."

    In an effort to raise awareness, the NFL will also feature a victim of police brutality's story each week, but how and when is still unclear, Sports Illustrated reports(Opens in a new tab).

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  • Inside the viral collab house featuring OnlyFans and TikTok creators

    Inside the viral collab house featuring OnlyFans and TikTok creators

    What happens when creators across mega social media platforms combine forces to create a stash of content from a weekend getaway?


    A group of TikTokers and OnlyFans creators found out recently — and went quickly viral in the process. A bunch of internet stars and sex workers met up to create content together at a sprawling rented cabin in an undisclosed location in the U.S. over the weekend of Sept. 17. The crossover collab was dubbed #OrigamiCamp.

    Organized by @hawkhatesyou(Opens in a new tab) and @the_gothbaby(Opens in a new tab), Origami Camp brought together these creators on the heels of OnlyFans announcing its ban on sexually explicit content. The paid subscription platform was previously credited as an empowering space for sex workers to host content, so the company's decision incited outrage from both users and creators. Just days after this announcement, the site decided to reverse its ban in the end.

    Following this backtrack, Origami Camp was an opportunity to connect with likeminded creators from both OnlyFans and TikTok.

    "The purpose of the Origami Camp was to get some creators who know each other together to collab and make TikToks, plus any other content [we] were comfortable making since all of us are sex workers,” says Natasha Noel (@babygirlnoell(Opens in a new tab)), who took part in the event. Noel, like most of the creators at the event, uses both TikTok and OnlyFans.

    The creators doing a TikTok dance challenge. Credit: SCREENSHOT: TikTok / @Lunababyyy69

    "Origami" is a substitute for the word "orgy", says Luna (@lunababyy69(Opens in a new tab)), one of the participants in the camp (who would like to keep her full identity private out of safety concerns). The creators brought in the substitute word to avoid censorship online, she explains. "Origami camp was one last 'big collab' after news broke that OnlyFans wanting to rid the platform of creators like us," says Luna. "It was an absolute blast and such a beautiful group of people."

    It's important to note that while OnlyFans reversed its decision, it's unclear if the decision will be permanent.

    The getaway had the creators making a range of content for both TikTok and OnlyFans. The content from the weekend posted on OnlyFans is vastly NSFW. The videos from the Origami Camp group on TikTok, though, are primarily behind-the-scenes footage of the gathering: dance routines and classic TikTok challenges.

    More TikTok content from Origami Camp. Credit: SCREENSHOT: tiktok / @mykendoll

    Tariq (@mykendoll(Opens in a new tab)) is another one of the creators who participated in the camp. He is also keeping his full identity private for the purposes of safety. "I had such a good time bonding and getting to know all the creators," he tells Mashable. "Everyone was so nice and there’s nothing better than getting to work with your friends."

    Noel agrees, saying, "It felt great to meet some fellow creators that I've only ever seen online."

    Videos under the hashtag have 24.5 million views on TikTok at the time of writing. Members of the Twitter-verse, too, appreciated the trend just as much as the creators appeared to enjoy it, with people posting about how #OrigamiCamp was the ultimate highlight on social media throughout the weekend. Talk about viral content.

    "The group was honestly completely blown away and excited that we made such an impact on the internet over the weekend," says Noel. Luna expressed the same. "We did expect [Origami Camp] to get popular but definitely not at the level it has gone. We just kept watching it blow up in a matter of hours and there were thousands of stitches and duets, then came the articles, and we were all so shocked but ecstatic."

    Origami Camp is a positive movement for sex workers looking for a welcome space, both physically and in the digital realm. OnlyFans has been flagged for becoming saturated with influencers and high-profile celebrities. The descent of these big names has impacted a once-safe space from sex workers who rely on the platform as a primary source of income (though OnlyFans has been criticised for taking 20 percent of revenue for years). It also made the platform a far more crowded one. With Origami Camp, it seems that these creators are carving out an empowering space of their own.

    Natasha Noel taking followers through the Origami Camp weekend. Credit: SCREENSHOT: tiktok / @babygirlnoell

    Luna also touched upon the importance of recognition, especially after OnlyFans dangled the possibility of taking away the livelihoods of sex workers on the platform.

    "Our community deals with so much backlash from [both] regular people and platforms that will completely censor us. It was nice to finally get some recognition for the years of work we've put into our content," she says.

    #OrigamiCamp is just the latest of the phenomenon of collaborator houses for platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Amongst the most publicized was "Hype House"(Opens in a new tab), the Los Angeles mansion that once had 19 TikTok creators (including Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae) weaving in and out of the space, collaborating on digital content. The locale was home to a fair bit of controversy, too, but is allegedly still running(Opens in a new tab). This was just one of the content houses that became a cornerstone of the wild world of influencers. YouTube collectives have been doing this for years too, with houses in West Hollywood and in other lux neighborhoods throughout LA.

    View this post on Instagram
    (Opens in a new tab)

    A post shared by Tariq (@tgardner07)(Opens in a new tab)

    The Origami Camp group's weekend home doesn’t appear to be a permanent residence for them, like other established collab houses. But though temporary, it allowed creators to both bond and concoct truly viral pieces of content all under the same roof, speaking to a burgeoning trend amongst digital natives.

    It's more than just behind-the-scenes stuff. Content made about the content will always have a home, it seems.

  • 10 TikTok accounts to follow if you love to cook

    10 TikTok accounts to follow if you love to cook

    The world of cooking on TikTok (CookTok?) is as big and varied as an all-you-can-eat Las Vegas buffet. Some of it looks scrumptious, some of it is questionable, and some of it might make you downright sick. But don't worry, we've done the prep work of choosing the creme de la creme for your cooking pleasure.


    There are lots of amazing cooking accounts on TikTok, so this is by no means comprehensive. But the ones to make this list were chosen for their genuine usefulness, diversity of cuisines, and unique voice. Bon appétit!

    @iamtabithabrown(Opens in a new tab)

    Come for the vegan recipes, stay for the iconic catchphrases. Tabitha Brown, an actress who you might also recognize from works like The Chi, cooks up vegan food with infectious enthusiasm. In one video, she makes a recipe using leftover pasta, and in another she uses liquid smoke to make air fried carrots taste like bacon. What makes her worth following though is her warmth and relatability and off the cuff remarks like "don't let that greedy spirit burn your tongue," before blowing on a hot bite of pasta.

    Tabitha Brown makes vegan food with delightful commentary. Credit: @iamtabithabrown / Tiktok

    @cookingwithshereen(Opens in a new tab)

    Shereen Pavlides is a chef and recipe developer who brings her no-nonsense, anyone-can-cook attitude to every recipe; she often says "there's no rules in cooking." Each video is filled with tips and hacks along the way thanks to her knowledge and experience. Whether Pavlides is making simple dishes like burgers and potato salad, or something more complicated like Beef Wellington, it's easy to follow even for beginner cooks.

    No-nonsense cooking with confidence and ease. Credit: @cookingwithshereen / tiktok

    @eitan(Opens in a new tab)

    Eitan Bernath is 19 years old, but wise beyond his years. Bernath made his public debut on Chopped at the age of 12 and has been gaining fans ever since. Bernath's videos are very high energy and often incorporate viral food trends, or tackling the homemade version of a famous product (like McDonald's Hash Browns.) But don't be fooled. Behind every junk food recipe is some serious technical skill.

    @the_pastaqueen(Opens in a new tab)

    Nadia Caterina Munno, aka The Pasta Queen is Italian and makes pasta. What more could you want in a TikTok account? Each video is a culinary journey, transporting you from the origin of the pasta, through the recipe itself and often a characteristic hair flip. Sure, there are plenty of pasta videos on TikTok, but the Pasta Queen's sensual voice and cultural credentials take it to the next level.

    Enjoy la doce vita with mouthwatering pasta recipes. Credit: @the_pastaqueen / tiktok

    @jennymartinezzz(Opens in a new tab)

    For fans of Mexican food, look no further. Jenny Martinez will win you over with her enthusiasm and family recipes. Martinez often makes traditional Mexican dishes like chicken mole or nopales, but isn't afraid to explore fusion with dishes like al pastor pizza or jalapeño burgers. Often family or friends join her in the videos, which makes it feel like one is hanging out in her kitchen.

    Traditional Mexican food that makes you feel at home. Credit: @jennymartinezzz / tiktok

    @jeremyscheck(Opens in a new tab)

    Like Bernath, at just 21, Jeremy Scheck is something of a culinary prodigy. Scheck shares recipes and thoughtful insights with equal amounts of confidence and conviction. He calls out pie crust standards, and backs it up by making his own which looks buttery and flaky. Like his video that breaks down how restaurants make pasta dishes, he always delves into the how and why of technique.

    @poppycooks(Opens in a new tab)

    Poppy O'Toole is a Michelin-trained chef, but is as down-to-earth as they come. In her videos, O'Toole breaks down even the most advanced recipes with humor and warmth. In addition to tips and hacks that can only come from someone as experienced as she is, O'Toole sometimes does duets with her fans and hilariously reacts to them cooking her recipes.

    @myhealthydish(Opens in a new tab)

    Simply put, My Nguyen of @myhealthydish makes healthy food that doesn't compromise flavor and depth. The basis of her recipes shows how using the right flavors and techniques can make any ingredient delicious — especially for children who are picky eaters. Nguyen often makes dishes that are influenced by Vietnamese cuisine, but isn't afraid to buck tradition, saying it doesn't matter how a spring roll is rolled.

    It's hard to go wrong with healthy and delicious. Credit: @myhealthydish / tiktok

    @flakeysalt(Opens in a new tab)

    Joshua Weissman, the professional chef behind @flakeyseasalt is quirky, adventurous, and brimming with a passion for cooking. Many of his videos consist of some kind of challenge — recreating McDonalds sauces, or competing with his girlfriend in a mushroom cutting contest. Inevitably, the result is an entertaining, and often knowledgeable video by an eccentric guy who loves food.

    Weissman's passion for cooking shines through every video. Credit: @flakeysalt / tiktok

    @rootedinspice(Opens in a new tab)

    Many of Chaheti Bansal's dishes on TikTok are Indian, but she often experiments with fusion. No matter what, Bansal's knowledge of flavor and spices is vast. Her recipes, which are mostly vegan or vegetarian use a huge variety of produce and often in creative or unconventional ways and often about more than just food. In one video, what we see is a recipe using cooked watermelon rinds. But between the lines is a story about not wasting anything.

    Home-cooked Indian food that packs a punch. Credit: @rootedinspice / tiktok

  • How — and why — to start a blog in 2021

    How — and why — to start a blog in 2021

    Blogging: maybe you’ve heard of it? Very briefly called weblogging, the format — a sort of direct-to-reader, voice-driven writing of the early internet — started in the very late 1990s and boomed post-Y2K. Until recently, blogging seemed like to join certain early social network sites (you know the ones) as an internet relic of a past era, but it’s recently come roaring back into fashion as more writers rediscover its simple pleasures and efficacious delivery system for their ideas. Maybe we won’t ever fully embrace all-denim ensembles and text-only, flip phones again (as if), but there’s a lot we can learn from blogging.


    Even now, some of the most successful blogs from that era have evolved into global brands. Their staying power has only proved blogging can create avenues for pursuing what you really want to do or supporting a business. Since blogging is versatile, it has made a comeback for individuals and brands looking to connect more directly with their readers — and break-free from the limitations of social media platforms. But how to jump into blogging, whether you’re reacquainting yourself or starting your first venture? We’ve got you covered: Here’s why and how to start a blog in 2021.

    1. It’s very easy to get into

    Yes, wide-leg jeans and middle-part hairstyles are trending again, but blogging is a lot different than it was during the dot-com boom. Like most tech, it’s a lot more user-friendly and endlessly customizable. To that end, the first steps for building a blog are finding a web host and registering a domain name(Opens in a new tab). A web host stores your blog on the web and a domain name(Opens in a new tab) is how people find your content. For many bloggers, .com is often the most attractive domain extension, but there are other options. Web-hosting solution Hostinger(Opens in a new tab) offers guidance on making the right choice(Opens in a new tab), and its domain checker(Opens in a new tab) can let you know whether your top choices are available.

    2. You can showcase your niche

    You can also start a personal blog without a specific focus and see where it goes, but it’s a good idea to give some initial thought to what you want to accomplish with your blog. Think of it as finding your niche(Opens in a new tab). Your niche is a reflection of your brand, from synthwave expert to eco-conscious fashion label or keyboard warrior for social justice. Another decision you’ll need to make upfront is picking a free or a paid platform.

    A look at Hostinger Panel, the platform's user interface Credit: HOSTINGER

    3. It’s a way to express a personal or brand identity

    Blogging can be as neat or messy as you wanted it to be. Whether you want to emulate the unfiltered, tell-all posts of the 2000s or create a more polished narrative for a small company, a content management system (CMS) helps keep it all tidy behind the scenes and you don’t need any coding know-how to set one up (anyone who knows how to use a device connected to the internet can handle it).

    WordPress is the most popular, open-source CMS, but there are others like Joomla and Drupal. For WordPress blogs, Hostinger has (Opens in a new tab)a quick guide for getting started(Opens in a new tab), which takes less than five minutes to read. Alternatively, if you want to weigh your choices, there’s a (Opens in a new tab)comprehensive guide(Opens in a new tab). Either way, utilizing Hostinger to build your blog offers a wide array of customizable elements and powerful tools.

    4. Your posts can generate traffic

    A CMS offers themes for the look of your blog, as well as plugins every blog should have like search engine optimization (SEO), anti-spam, and security. (Great content can attract readers, but also trolls, which is why you want some protection.)

    For a TL;DR option on building your blog, Hostinger has a (Opens in a new tab)play-by-play video tutorial(Opens in a new tab). You can create pages like “about” or “contact” sections, as well as blog posts. Posts can include text, images, or video to reach your audience. If you want to attract new readers, the next steps are learning basic SEO and how to use Google Analytics.

    5. You can make money

    Blogging can be 100% a passion project, but if you want to gain a following or monetize your blog, that requires some strategy — or crazy levels of luck (the internet is a wild place though and you may not be the only one interested in very detailed analysis of the latest sci-fi series everyone is streaming). You can bring in cash through ads, sponsored posts, and partnerships, or by selling products or services using ecommerce plugins. Regardless of why you want to blog, the how part is simple.

    Check out Hostinger(Opens in a new tab) for intuitive, powerful, and customizable tools to create your blog, along with a host of helpful tutorials and how-to guides to get your creative energies flowing.

  • Level up your home organization skills for 2022

    Level up your home organization skills for 2022

    You Got This is a series that spotlights the gear you need to improve one area of your life.


    If you’ve been living, working, and doing everything else at home for the past year, chances are your space is a bit untidy. But it’s almost a spanking new year so let’s get it together, literally. These easy home organization essentials from Walmart will help you reclaim your happy place.

    Sort it out

    This heavy-duty laundry basket on wheels lets you organize your smelly clothes by color, wash cycle, and water temperature. Your whites will come out white and your skivvies hole-free.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    Honey-Can-Do Commercial-Grade Triple Laundry Sorter (Now $46.33, originally $121.61) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Stack it up

    This handsome guy turns 3.5-feet of wall space into a full-on storage area. Use it in your bedroom for sweatshirts, or in the living room for your vinyl collection. Add bins to keep cords and clutter out of sight and out of mind.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Better Homes & Gardens 9-Cube Storage Organizer with Metal Base, Multiple Finishes (Now $79.00, originally $99.00) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Hang in there, baby

    This slick garment rack holds up to 80 pounds — like the second closet you need but don’t have. Roll it into your living room and it’s a perfect place for your bulky winter jackets, too.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    Honey-Can-Do Rolling Commercial Garment Rack, Metal, Chrome (Now $42.99, originally $49.54) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Make some space

    This sturdy unit has locking wheels to stay put and three shelves that hold up to 10 pounds each, so it’s perfect for storing your air fryer and extra mugs. It also makes a pretty sweet entertainment center.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    Honey-Can-Do 3-Tier Steel Rolling Cart with 2 Locking Wheels, Multicolor (Now $39.99, originally $47.75) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Put a fork in it

    If you rummage through your utensil drawer every night searching for a knife to cut your pork chop, this will put everything in its proper place. It’s expandable to fit almost any drawer size, and it’s made from sustainable bamboo, which is cool.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    Expandable Bamboo Kitchen Drawer Organizer in Brown (Now $17.06, originally $31.95) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Show us what you got

    You know those bags of nuts that clutter your kitchen shelves and the explosion of cotton balls in your bathroom drawer? These multi-sized glass canisters will tidy everything up and turn your mess into a post-worthy photo opp.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    Mainstays 4 Pieces Glass Kitchen Canister Set with Bamboo Lids (Now $29.49, originally $34.01) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Spice it up

    Stop shoving your baggies of spices together in a drawer so that your cinnamon tastes like curry. This small yet capable spice rack is how grown-ups do it — and you’ll get free spice refills for five years with your purchase.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    Kamenstein Duke 16-Jar Hanging Spice Rack with Pre-Filled Glass Jars and Free Spice Refills for 5 Years (Now $34.98, originally $49.99) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Be an old-school star baker

    This three-piece set is ideal for storing sugar and flour, just like your nana used to do it. The rose-colored embossed glass is gorgeous and the lids have an airtight seal so your homemade chocolate-chip cookies stay fresh.

    (Opens in a new tab)
    Credit: Walmart
    The Pioneer Woman Cassie Glass Canister, Rose (Now $18.96, originally $24.96) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

  • Turns out Razer’s over-the-top, light-up mask isn’t ‘N95 grade,’ as it claimed

    Turns out Razer’s over-the-top, light-up mask isn’t ‘N95 grade,’ as it claimed

    UPDATE: Jan. 10, 2022, 4:15 p.m. EST: In a statement, Razer confirms that "to avoid any confusion, we are in the process of removing all references to "N95 Grade Filter" from our marketing material." It also pledged to reach out to existing customers to "clarify" what the mask can and can't do.


    UPDATE: Jan. 10, 2022, 10:15 a.m. EST: Over the weekend, Razer removed references to "N95 grade" from its marketing web pages, and updated the fine print on its "The Science Behind Razer Zephyr" website(Opens in a new tab).

    "Razer Zephyr is not a medical device, respirator, surgical mask or personal protective equipment (PPE) and is not meant to be used [in] medical or clinical settings."

    "The Razer Zephyr and Zephyr Pro are not certified N95 masks, medical devices, respirators, surgical masks, or personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not meant to be used in medical or clinical settings."

    The company did not publicly announce the removal of "N95 grade" from its website. On Saturday, it simply posted a tweet that said it has "taken feedback and guidance from regulatory agencies to establish our testing protocols for the Razer Zephyr and Razer Zephyr Pro," which includes a link to the aftermentioned science website. Note that on its page, Razer does not say the masks are "certified," only that they "took guidance" from regulators.

    Razer has not yet responded to PCMag's request for comment from last week.

    The original story is as follows:

    Not all "N95s" are the same.

    Gaming PC maker Razer plunged into the protective mask world during COVID, selling paper masks, cloth masks and its pièce de résistance—the Razer Zephyr(Opens in a new tab), a light-up wearable air purifier with what it says are "N95-grade filters." At CES this week, it unveiled(Opens in a new tab) a new version, the Razer Zephyr Pro, which amplifies your voice from behind the mask.

    Following that announcement, my Twitter feed exploded with rage against the company's "N95" claim. Naomi Wu(Opens in a new tab), an influencer in the 3D-printing world, argued that having an "N95 Grade filter" doesn't make something an N95 mask. But most people will see that phrase as equivalent to "N95 mask," no matter how many fine-print disclaimers Razer adds, she says.

    "N95 grade filters with two-way protection," Razer's website says.

    In the US, the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH(Opens in a new tab)) certifies that N95 respirators "used in an occupational setting meet the minimum construction, performance, and respiratory protection standards." It also maintains a website(Opens in a new tab) of NIOSH-approved N95 respirators listed by manufacturer from A-Z. Razer's products are not on the NIOSH list.

    In its fine print, Razer acknowledges(Opens in a new tab) that the Razer Zephyr and Zephyr Pro "are not medical devices, respirators, surgical masks, or personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not meant to be used in medical or clinical settings." It also says that while it has "adopted standards" set forth by NIOSH, it has not been certified by the agency.

    Razer is clearly using the "N95" signifier here.

    When we reviewed the original Zephyr, Razer told us it worked with a company called Intertek to perform testing for Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) certification. It also filed the Zephyr with the FDA(Opens in a new tab). We contacted Razer, but have not yet heard back.

    Wu says she raised a complaint with the CDC. A lot of the problem here is around tricky usage of medical and legal terms that the layperson can't be expected to understand. For example, the designation between "adopting standards" and getting certified by NIOSH.

    In the last day, Razer appears to have added a section to its Zephyr product page comparing its mask to other safety solutions.

    I don't have any way of actually testing mask efficiency, but marketing contradictions make the whole thing look shifty. It says the Zephyr is not personal protective equipment (PPE), but at the top of its product page, it says the Zephyr uses "replaceable N95 Grade filters(Opens in a new tab) for daily protection." So if the Zephyr is not PPE, why claim this personal equipment provides protection? It feels disingenuous. Ultimately, the disclaimer below shows this isn't the protection it intuitively appears to be. Unless the mask is properly certified, wearing it might as well be Fallout cosplay.

    Are you confused by these two boxes? You should be.

    I'm being picky here. Fabric masks with filters are useful(Opens in a new tab), according to several studies, just not to N95-certified levels. I mostly wear a set of ratty, overused KF94s that are probably at this point more placebo effect than anything else.

    But as my mentions have shown recently, a lot of people do care about the use of "N95" here, and Razer's marketing feels over the line. It should stop using that term.

  • The Milk Crate Challenge is the latest dangerous internet challenge

    The Milk Crate Challenge is the latest dangerous internet challenge

    The Olympics may be over, but our thirst for watching people test their strength and agility apparently has not been quenched.


    The #cratechallenge is the latest viral internet challenge and the latest way to get seriously injured. Seriously, don't try this at home.

    The milk crate challenge has participants scale milk crates stacked like a mountain with a seven milk crate-tall peak. While seven milk crates may not sound very tall, this challenge leads to very spectacular falls.

    Not only do participants in the challenge topple onto the ground beneath them, but they often hit all the crates on their way down! Watching these videos is not for the faint of heart.

    Participating in this challenge is an easy way to go viral, the hashtag #cratechallenge had over 75 million views on TikTok before the app disabled it through search. However, there are still videos all over TikTok and other social media apps like Twitter and Instagram.

    TikTok user @juiceellison posted multiple videos of people participating in the milk crate challenge in a park. As in almost all the milk crate challenge videos, his videos show people delicately climbing up the milk crates before they inevitably fall.

    This video has over 240,000 views and over 8,000 likes. Credit: screenshot: tiktok / juiceellison
    Ouch! Credit: screenshot: tiktok / juiceellison

    Don't get any ideas, but there have been a couple of successful milk crate challenges. The most iconic being a woman who successfully completed the challenge in heels.

    The milk crate challenge is not only a spectacle on the internet, but has drawn in-person crowds. On Monday night there was a milk crate challenge gathering at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Manhattan which drew a crowd of around 100 people according to attendee Nate Bradley.

    Bradley, a 21-year-old NYU student, heard about the event through word of mouth and said it was mostly young skater kids and college-aged adults in the crowd. "Everyone was super excited and into it, they would hype people up crazy when they made it," Bradley told Mashable over Instagram DM.

    "Whenever someone fell everyone would look away a bit but then laugh it off and make someone else go up," continued Bradley.

    Watching these videos leaves us with a lot of questions, but we are mostly asking why participate and where are you getting all the milk crates?

    UPDATE: Aug. 24, 2021, 4:01 p.m. EDT Update with quotes from Bradley.

  • Ebays new adult item ban makes absolutely zero sense

    Ebays new adult item ban makes absolutely zero sense

    Long story short: Ebay recently announced a new policy restricting the sale of "Adult items"(Opens in a new tab) on its online marketplace.


    This policy, which was announced via email to sellers who have listed or are currently listing items that fall into the adult category, amounts to a ban on most nudes, fetishwear, sexually explicit films, video games, and magazines, as well as hentai, some sex toys, and "other."

    Ebay's reasoning for the change is vague to say the least, amounting to a one-sentence explanation in response to the prompt "Why does eBay have this policy?"

    "We want to make adult items available to those who wish to purchase them and can do so legally, while preventing those who do not wish to view or purchase these items from easily accessing them."

    As a marketplace Ebay has the right to determine what can or cannot be sold on its domain, but that doesn't make the specifics of this adult items ban any less bizarre. Some of the rules have nonsensical exceptions that make almost no sense if the intention is to keep adult items off the site, and the rest of them are simply worded incomprehensibly.

    For example, adult magazines are banned except for Playboy, Playgirl, Penthouse, and Mayfair, for reasons the policy does not bother to explain. Nude art and photography is not entirely banned, but any listed nude art cannot "contain sexually suggestive poses or sexual acts," which seems subjective and liable for uneven enforcement if past cases of which bodies are and are not considered inherently sexual or offensive are taken into account.

    There's also a ban on "modeled clothing that is see-through or very tight and shows human genitalia, the anus, or the nipple/areola of female breasts," which raises the question if the clothes themselves are banned from sale or if simply modeling them with a visible butthole or two is grounds for listing removal. It's also now against policy to ship sex toys internationally, but pre-approved sellers can hawk them within their country of origin. If anyone knows what Adults Only music sounds like, that's banned too.

    SEE ALSO: What to do when your soul is too tired to even get off post-pandemic

    An Ebay spokesperson told Motherboard that the new policy, which goes into effect on June 15, 2021, is a safety measure(Opens in a new tab). But the statement provided by the spokesperson just offers some details about what the site will look like once the policy goes into effect.

    The consequences for violating this new ban on adult items ranges from de-listing of the specific item to account suspension. Just going on how many loopholes and subjective judgements appear from a first pass on these rules suggests that Ebay will have a fascinating job ahead of them enforcing this. For now, if you've been raking in the cash selling custom nipple clamps, vintage porn, and assless chaps on Ebay, you might want to reconsider your choice of marketplace.

    Mashable has reached out to Ebay for further clarification on this decision and the apparent grey area cases that the policy-as-written doesn't address.

  • An AI-generated parody of Seinfeld is streaming on an infinite loop

    An AI-generated parody of Seinfeld is streaming on an infinite loop

    Seinfeld first aired in 1989, running for nine seasons. Its popularity has prevailed, so many years later, with demand continuing until present day(Opens in a new tab). But an unlikely occurrence has come from this: an AI-generated episode of the hit show is being live-streamed on Twitch, in a never-ending loop.

    Entitled Nothing, Forever(Opens in a new tab), the infinite episode/show features mechanical characters and pixelated animation. Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George, the main characters, remain the fixation of the show, but they exist in contemporary New York. The foursome oscillate between their apartments and Jerry's stand-up setting, with an occasional laugh track erupting in the background.

    SEE ALSO: 6 scary things ChatGPT has been used for already

    According to the show's Twitch page, Nothing, Forever channels the popular description of Seinfeld by describing itself as "a show about nothing." But unlike the comedy show, which ended on May 14, 1998, this program "happens forever". It's "kinda like popular sitcoms of the past, except that it never stops". The channel promises that the stream will run "365 days of the year, and [deliver] new content every minute". At the time of writing, 1,396 viewers had tuned into the livestream, which has been playing non-stop since Dec. 14 last year.

    Want more entertainment and tech news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for Mashable's Top Stories newsletter today.

    According to Vice(Opens in a new tab), the creators intend for the show to be something of a parody to Seinfeld. Mismatch Media(Opens in a new tab), the media lab behind it all, focuses on using generative technologies, like OpenAI and DALL-E, to create experimental forms of entertainment like television shows. For the dialogue in Nothing, Forever, the creators utilised OpenAI’s GPT-3 language model. Outside of the moderation filters within the AI, there is little human moderation.


    The show hardly runs smoothly — the characters speak robotically about their lives, some scenes are left unfinished and without context, and the accompanying laugh track emerges at arbitrary times.

    Yet, people seem to be hooked.

    Can we safely say this is the future of television? Perhaps not just yet. But considering the Twitter reactions so far, there appears to be some scope.

  • Equipment to get you in the cardio zone at home

    Equipment to get you in the cardio zone at home

    You Got This is a series that spotlights the gear you need to improve one area of your life. If you buy something from this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.


    Winter is coming, and for most of us, our outdoor runs we’ve gotten used to will need to move indoors. With a few additions to your home gym setup, you can keep your heart rate up and work up a serious sweat all winter long.

    So grab your water bottle, a towel, and lace up those sneakers because we’re about to enter the cardio zone with some awesome equipment from Best Buy.

    Get in the right headspace

    Sometimes we all need that extra kick in the pants to get ourselves going. For an extra burst of motivation, try the JBL Boombox 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker. Not only are they waterproof with a 24-hour battery life, but the monstrous bass will also keep you motivated throughout your workout.

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    Credit: JBL
    Get in the zone with a JBL Boombox 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker for $499.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Be smart and know your numbers

    Using a smartwatch like the Fitbit Versa 2 helps you work out, well, smarter. Knowing where your heart rate is during your workouts can help you know when you should pick up the pace a little more or when you should slow down a bit.

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    Credit: Fitbit
    Stay in tune with your body by using a Fitbit Versa 2 for $179.95 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Keep the cardio sesh fresh

    If you’re looking to take your cardio to the next level, give the Bowflex BXT116 Treadmill with the Bowflex JRNY app a try. You can keep your workouts exciting by getting real time feedback from coaches. If you’re into a solo run, there are dozens of virtual courses and gorgeous virtual trails that automatically adjust to your pace to keep you motivated.

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    Credit: Bowflex
    Your pathway to a great workout with Bowflex BXT116 Treadmill for $1,599.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Small, but packs a punch

    If you're tight on space, try using a compact elliptical that you can tuck anywhere in your room.

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    Credit: Cubbi
    Compact cardio with Cubbi Pro Elliptical Machine for $349.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Jump right in

    This may be a schoolyard favorite, but a good ol’ jump rope can give you a full body workout and burn a ton of calories in a short period of time.

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    Credit: GoFit
    Get going with a GoFit jump rope for $19.99 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Weight training

    Cardio and weight training, what a dynamic duo! Don’t have space for a full weight set? Check out the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. This super versatile dumbbell has a range of 5-52.5 pounds with a simple twist of a dial.

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    Credit: Bowflex
    Top off your cardio with the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells for $329.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

    Recovery is key

    Reduce your recovery time after a hard workout with a percussive therapy massager. Use the Theragun Elite Handheld Percussive Massage Device with the Therabody app to get customized wellness routines pulled directly from your activity data.

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    Credit: Theragun
    Cooldown and give your muscles a treat with the Theragun Elite Handheld Percussive Massage Device for $399.00 (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab) (opens in a new tab) (Opens in a new tab)

  • LED screen was installed outside the temple for remote devotees to pray.

    On Friday, over 200,000 Buddhists gathered over Zoom to celebrate Makha Bucha Day(Opens in a new tab).


    One of the holist days to Buddhists, Makha Bucha Day(Opens in a new tab) marks the full moon day of the third lunar month. This year, that date was February 26.

    Credit: Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

    When the Buddha was alive thousands of years ago, 1,250 of his followers came to see him in India without a scheduled meeting; they all came on what is now known as Makha Bucha Day. These followers were said to be "enlightened ones," and Buddha ordained them himself. He then taught three core principles of Buddhism: Don't do evil; do good; and cleanse your mind.

    Credit: Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

    Buddhists also celebrate the creation of an ideal community(Opens in a new tab) on Makha Bucha Day.

    Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Usually, thousands flock to the Dhammakaya Temple outside Bangkok, Thailand for the celebrations, according to Reuters. The ceremony was unsurprisingly different in 2021, with large gatherings canceled amid the pandemic(Opens in a new tab).

    Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Authorities allowed the candle ceremony, however, with precautions. A select 1,000 Buddhists were at the temple in-person, and a 280-meter long LED screen was installed outside the temple for remote devotees to pray.

    Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    The resulting photos are a striking reminder of how we can come together even amid crisis.