The Week That Was: A taste for better connectivity

More efforts are needed to provide wider Internet coverage for new normal practices such as e-learning. — Filepic

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission announced that it is actively working to upgrade the telco towers at Kiulu – a small town located in the Tuaran district in Sabah – from 3G to 4G.

The current 3G network affords minimal connectivity even for voice calls due to spotty coverage.

The expansion effort is concentrated in six locations – Pukak in Kiulu, Lokub, Mantot, Kitapol, Kampung Sinorut and Kampung Gonipis, MCMC said in a press statement.

The towers are being connected with fibre optics, involving up to 39km of cables, and the project is expected to be completed by year-end.

The expansion will benefit service providers looking to serve users in the area, said the regulatory body, adding that the government will continue to improve broadband coverage in rural areas.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for better broadband coverage, as it’s essential in the new normal for services such as e-learning.

The expansion effort will utilise the Universal Service Provision Fund.

Hasni is optimistic that the development of a data centre in Kulai will benefit the people. — NUR AISYAH MAZALAN/The StarHasni is optimistic that the development of a data centre in Kulai will benefit the people. — NUR AISYAH MAZALAN/The Star

In other news, the Johor state government announced that the construction of a Microsoft data centre in Kulai is underway.

According to Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad, construction is 40% complete.

“The construction of the data centre not only brings in specific investments but it will also provide ample job opportunities,” he said in a Bernama report.

“It will also attract Microsoft network companies to come to Johor and invest there, that is the advantage of developing the data centre.”

Meanwhile, e-hailing service Grab expressed concerns about some of its drivers using external tools to grab jobs from others.

“We are aware that there have been a small number of unethical driver-partners who have been using illegitimate tools to exploit other means to gain unfair advantages over job allocations,” a Grab spokesperson said.

Grab is concerned about some of its driver-partners using external tools to steal jobs from other drivers. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The StarGrab is concerned about some of its driver-partners using external tools to steal jobs from other drivers. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

One of the tools spoofs the GPS location, making the driver seem closer to a passenger, so he or she will be prioritised for the pick up.

The spokesperson explained that the exploit is mainly used in high demand locations such as airports.

This is unfair to other drivers who are already near the location, and could cause delays for passengers, as the car could still be faraway, the company said.

“These illegitimate tools only threaten the personal data stored in driver-partners’ own mobile devices, and we have informed our driver-partners of the risks,” said the spokesperson.

The company said it will suspend drivers engaging in such activities as it considered it fraud.

It also admitted that fraud is a never-ending battle for it, requiring the company to continue to invest in anti-fraud tech.

Comparitech discovered a database exposing information of nearly 235 million social media users. — AZMAN GHANI/The StarComparitech discovered a database exposing information of nearly 235 million social media users. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

British research firm Comparitech reported a fraud of another kind – it had discovered an online database exposing the information of nearly 235 million social media users.

The firm stated in a South China Morning Post report that the data came from a company registered in Hong Kong that claimed to help influencers understand their audience through “in-depth insights into demographics”.

After Comparitech’s expose, the firm shut down the servers hosting the data, which contained info from 95 million Instagram profiles, at least 42 million records from TikTok and nearly four million from YouTube.

The majority of info, which in some cases included phone numbers and email addresses, was scraped from social media platforms.

Scraping is an automated process of copying information from webpages in bulk, a practice that’s against the terms of use of all three platforms.

In China, meanwhile, the focus is on deterring social media users from developing an appetite for mukbang videos in which the creators are seen consuming a large amount of food in one sitting.

According to BBC, after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a campaign to curb food waste, social media platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou began displaying messages such as “Save food, eat properly” when users searched for mukbang videos.

China is saying 'No' to mukbang videos. — TNSChina is saying 'No' to mukbang videos. — TNS

Food shortage is becoming a major concern in China due to an ongoing trade war with the United States and severe floods affecting its crops.

Media analyst Kerry Allen told BBC that some mukbang videos are also being blurred and this has resulted in the creators removing them from their channel.

“Social media users have leapt on the opportunity to start naming and shaming those who were once part of the niche that has overnight been rebranded as ‘wasteful’ and ‘vulgar’,” Allen said.

Some have adapted their strategies like mukbang star Mini, a Weibo livestreamer who has over 10 million followers.

She is now encouraging people to reduce food wastage with messages such as “reheated food can be super tasty too”.

The mukbang trend, originating from South Korea, is thought to attract viewers wanting to eat vicariously through the videos. Website NPR reported Korean mukbang star Rachel Ahn saying, “Viewers who watch my mukbang are on a diet. So you call this a sort of gratification through others.”

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