Categories
Daily dose Science

Debunking the ‘Well played China’ conspiracy theory

Along with the SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus that has spread throughout the world causing a pandemic, conspiracy theories abound. One of the most recent ones being spread through social media can be summarized as follows:

China created the coronavirus to cause global economic collapse – people are told to stay at home to prevent the virus from spreading, businesses temporarily closed & work stoppage has been implemented.
This has sent stock prices dropping then China comes in to buy those low-priced stocks until we end up with a ‘world owned by China’.

Mind-blowing isn’t it? However this conspiracy theory is wrong on several points.

First, SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 is not a man-made or engineered virus. This has already been proven by scientific studies in the journal Nature Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Second, while it’s true that the US stock market has seen some decline as COVID-19 has spread in the US, the market has made a rebound after the federal government announced an economic stimulus package.

Third, Chinese investors did buy shares but the shares they bought are those of Chinese companies.

In addition, the Chinese government rolled out an economic stimulus package and spent more than 1.2 trillion yuan ($170 billion) buying shares to shore up prices.

Lastly, Peter Nolan, a professor of Chinese Development at Cambridge University, debunks the notion that China is ‘buying the world’ in his latest book entitled “Is China Buying the World?

‘China has not bought the world and shows little sign of doing so in the near future,’ Nolan writes. ‘Their presence in high-income countries is negligible. This is a remarkable situation for a country that is the world’s largest exporter and its second largest economy and manufacturer. In other words, ‘we’ are inside ‘them’ but ‘they’ are not inside ‘us’.

Peter Nolan, “Is China Buying the World?”

Final words

Stop spreading conspiracy theories. Verify, look for sources or references that are credible. Since most of us are staying at home these days, use the time to search on Google and do some basic research.

If a message is forwarded to you and it has no references or citations, think twice before forwarding it to others or sharing it on social media. Verify. Google. Research. Or ask first from persons you trust to be experts or have knowledge about these things. Don’t be a sheep. Think! If there’s something more dangerous than the coronavirus is it ignorance and being too gullible.

And remember, stay at home. Stay healthy and be safe.

Categories
Asides

How to contact GCash Customer Service

For most of last week, there has been an issue with GCredit. It wasn’t showing up as an option when I tried to use it in a few purchases. Turns out that GCash has been doing some system maintenance to fix this. Last Wednesday, I decided to report it to GCash customer service, but knowing that their hotline 2882 is often useless, I tried one of their social media accounts. Globe has one @talk2Globe and they’ve answered customer service reports so I figured GCash would have one as well as they have @gcashofficial.

However it turns out that it was only for PR and marketing via social media, so I assumed they had a separate Twitter account for customer support. Searched for “gcash customer support” on Twitter and it led me to an account that posed as one. Turns out it was a fake account meant to steal GCash users’ credentials: mobile number, full name, date of birth and most importantly the MPIN. Cutting to the chase, I was alarmed when that fake account asked for my MPIN:

Fake Gcash customer support account
Fake Gcash customer support account almost got away with my MPIN

I stopped the conversation there even after they messaged back insisting that I reply with my MPIN. This is something that real customer service would never, ever do. Ever. So never give it to them and if they ever do, 99% chance that you are being scammed.

So I did what I should have done in the first place, use the Help Center right inside the GCash app. Tap on the upper-left icon to open the side menu, then Help > Help Center. You can browse the self-help topics or wait for the Live Chat icon to appear on the bottom-right corner of the screen. Tap on that, then tap Live chat and you would be connected to the real customer service team of GCash. No need to call their hotline 2882, you still can but Live chat would be enough to get help. A big improvement is that you would also get a transcript of your chat session sent to the email address associated with your GCash account.

So to recap, GCash customer service can only be contacted in the following ways: email (support@gcash.com), self-help options at help.gcash.com, 2882 hotline and the most convenient Live chat from right inside the GCash app. All the other Twitter accounts out there are fake and would just scam you.

Categories
Daily dose

Snapchat Cameo: Star in your own video clips

Taking Bitmoji to the next level, Snapchat is working on an upcoming feature that lets users put their selfies into short clips that convey quick emotion, reaction, or silly situation in Snapchat messages.

It uses Deepfake tech to add your face into short video clips. It’s under limited testing in France as seen in a few tweets by French Snapchat users who have stumbled into it:

Snapchat has not yet confirmed when the feature will be available globally and you can be sure this will start a new trend among social messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber etc.

The concept has so many potentials, the applications actually scare me a bit. What do you think of Snapchat Cameo?

By the way, here’s a good explanation of what Deepfake is. You’d understand why the technology is quite scary.

Categories
Quotes

Sacha Baron Cohen: Rise of Social media, Democracy declines

At a recent ADL conference, actor/comedian/director Sacha Baron Cohen links the rise of the social media to the decline of democracy:

“Today … demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.”

Sacha Baron Cohen, Keynote Address at ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate

Though he cites many reasons, emphasis was made on one:

But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.

The greatest propaganda machine in history.

Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Keynote Address at ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate

The Age of Reason has come to an end. Social media has helped speed it along.