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Inside the underground sex parties in virtual reality



Other users spend more to make the experience as realistic as possible. Elaine, a 25-year-old telemarketer and ERP from California, uses $500 touch jacket and a Lovense Nora rabbit vibrator, $120. “Wherever people touch my avatar’s chest, it creates a low-frequency vibration,” explained Elaine, who has a voluptuous pink-haired VR stand with bunny ears à la Jessica Rabbit. “It feels like a slight tingling on your skin. It’s so much fun.”

Once the ERP experts have mastered their setup, they’re ready to join the fun. Most events organized through Discord servers are attended, and take place in private, sponsored-only VR worlds that are intended to protect attendees from detection. Participants’ favorites include “cuddle pools” — where they gather to watch movies, wave, and put together each other’s sex toys in sessions that can last up to four hours — as well as themed “Runny Game Nights.”

LuSaffi, a 20-year-old non-binary male from Texas who runs a VRChat ERP Discord server, said his smutty game nights “really go deep into role-playing.” According to LuSaffi — who uses a cat-girl-style avatar with long, flowing dark hair to match their IRL locks — the much-loved event is the group’s regular cops-and-robbers night out. They said, “Instead of being arrested and sent back to your cell, you could choose a better exchange.” They added that their ERP group has security guards to protect attendees from harassment and they recently hired a photographer to document the fun.

At the events, attendees engage in all kinds of adventurous acts, including barbequed and spit gangs. However, the main draw is the chance to interact with virtual partners in real time. “There’s just something about hearing the sounds people make in response to the sensations they’re experiencing that satisfies me,” Jade said. “It means that they are enjoying themselves, and I am helping them get that pleasure.”


Jade added that they particularly like finding partners who use face tracking, a special setup that allows someone’s avatar to mimic their IRL expressions. “Sometimes when people make these faces that look like they’re in pure trance, they’re actually making that face in real life,” Jade said.

Other users are more adventurous. “There’s definitely a lot of BDSM going on in the ERP community,” Elaine said. “There are paddles to hit each other, whips, cages to lock your partner in, collars — you name it.” Other attendees told BuzzFeed News of their exploits in private sex dungeons that have hanging platforms and even disembodied tentacles designed to work with Bluetooth-enabled sex toys.

“I don’t mind being tied up, or being shut up with a blown ball,” said Bambi, who often engages in BDSM sex with his dedicated mistress on VRChat. Although a virgin in the real world, Bambi enjoyed exploring BDSM in a safe environment. Part of the fun, he said, is being able to experiment without worrying about getting hurt. “Most of the time, your arms are tied [in VR]’, so you can put your controllers down, and you feel like you can’t move, which is so exhilarating and fun.” “We have safe words and everything.”

Some users go further than Bambi and create their own risky home appliances to better mimic the physical sensations of BDSM-based play. “Someone made a dildo gun that was strapped around his face, and they reflexed when they were choked on the game,” said Plague. “It stopped them breathing”—as it went in and out of their mouths—“but only for a second.”

Piston dildo guns can It cost more than $1,000 – although it might not be a good idea to create one with “suffocation” in mind, especially without supervision. The way they did it [was safe]Plague confirmed by BuzzFeed News. It can be unsafe for someone, however [the creator] They actually knew what they were doing.”


Lovense — the manufacturer of the Bluetooth-enabled sex toys that VR users love, and which are designed to work better — is quick to point out that these use cases are discouraged. “Lovense does not have toys in its portfolio that simulate choking, produce electrical stimulation, or other potentially dangerous features,” Dan Liu, founder of Lovense, told BuzzFeed News via email.

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Talk of selling or banning TikTok complicates Sino-US relations




The latest clash between the United States and China over popular social media app TikTok is likely to worsen already strained relations between the two countries, as Beijing and Washington wrestle over software bans, technology exports and concerns about espionage and national security.

Last week, the Biden administration She renewed Trump-era efforts To allay security concerns about TikTok, which was created by Chinese tech giant Bytedance Ltd. , by demanding that the widely popular app be sold from Chinese ownership or face a possible ban in the United States on Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said. It was bipartisan grilled by a House committee whose members asked specific questions about data security, alleged racial bias toward content creators and the platform’s mental health effects.


Chinese government, determined to transform domestic technology companies in world championssaid it would oppose any sale of TikTok.

Here the dispute stands.

How is China responding?

Hours before Qiu began testifying before a congressional committee on Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Xu Jueting said that China They firmly oppose the demands US officials said TikTok would be sold, adding that any change in ownership must comply with Chinese regulations.

Xu said the forced sale would “seriously damage the confidence of investors from all over the world, including China, to invest in the United States.”

Commentators, in Chinese official and social media, criticized US lawmakers for their biased statements and questions at Qiu’s hearing. Others have dismissed the event as political theater, or accused the US of trying to steal the technology that powers TikTok’s addictive short video recommendations.


Last week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the United States has no evidence that TikTok poses a threat to national security and should stop discriminating against foreign companies.

China has always emphasized that Data security issue It should not be used as a tool for certain countries to popularize the concept of national security and abuse of state power to unreasonably oppress other countries’ companies.”

But some analysts question how far Beijing will go to protect TikTok. Angela Chang, director of the Center for Chinese Law at the University of Hong Kong, said that while the Chinese government has taken action to prevent the sale of TikTok and its underlying technology without its consent, it is less concerned about a US ban on the app.

The ban on TikTok does not do much harm to China’s national interests become a technologically advanced countryZhang said. “TikTok will have to fight this battle alone.”

Can the US impose a sale or an embargo?

China’s announcement that it would block a sale complicates any US efforts to advance the deal, especially since Beijing added export restrictions on domestic technology in 2020 that require government approval.


Absent divestment, the Biden administration may be left with few options besides pursuing an outright ban on the app. The United States has already blocked the download and use of TikTok on some government agencies Because of national security concerns. Earlier this month, the White House passed a bill that would allow President Biden to completely ban the social media app.

The move renewed pressure dating back to 2020, when the Trump administration threatened to ban TikTok and WeChat, another popular Chinese app Used for social messaging and communication. Bytedance explored a potential sale of an ownership stake in TikTok to Oracle, which was never finalized. Federal courts have also challenged then-President Trump’s attempts to block the app a few years ago.

That year, India banned more than 50 Chinese apps, including TikTok, after escalating border skirmishes and growing concerns about Chinese military aggression. Governments in Britain, Canada and New Zealand have also restricted TikTok to government-owned devices.

Just what is the problem with TikTok?

According to TikTok, the app has about 150 million monthly active users in the US, but its widespread popularity has exacerbated suspicions among US officials that user data collected in the US could be transferred and used for espionage in China.

Republican and Democratic politicians in favor of selling or banning TikTok have cited concerns about the security of user data, and whether that information could be obtained by the Chinese government. They also took aim at TikTok’s history of content moderation, potential for spreading misinformation and Adverse effects on young peoplethe largest user base of the application.


To the American people watching today, hear this: TikTok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you and manipulate and exploit what you see. [it] Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said during the hearing Thursday with TikTok CEO Chew.

In addition, Chew, who is Singaporean, faced questions about the charges Human rights violations in China and espionage, based on a Forbes report that Bytedance planned to use TikTok to monitor the locations of some US citizens.

In China, many US technology platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google have been blocked as part of the country’s strict internet censorship. Instead of TikTok, Chinese users have a sister version called Douyin, which is more strictly moderated than its overseas counterpart and limits the time young users can spend on the app.

Has TikTok addressed these concerns?

In his congressional appearance, Chew rejected the notion that TikTok was a tool of the Chinese Communist Party or a threat to US national security.

Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not It is owned or controlled by the Chinese government. In his opening statement, Qiu said it is a private company.


He assured the committee that TikTok would prioritize teen safety, protect US user data from unauthorized foreign access, guarantee freedom of expression and provide access to independent monitors to ensure transparency.

Qiu also outlined the company’s proposal to alleviate concerns about Chinese government influence. He said the company spent nearly $1.5 billion implementing the plan, called Project Texas, which involves the use of Oracle cloud computing company To direct and store user data in the United States, which gives the Austin, Texas company access to some of its technology.

“Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access or force access to it,” he said.

But his five hours of testimony did little to assuage lawmakers’ concerns about the app.

Researcher David Shin in Taipei contributed to this report.


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Why Biden’s Potential TikTok Ban Doesn’t Spook Influencers




The US government may be slowly moving towards a drastic restructuring of TikTok, if not an outright ban on the Chinese-owned social media app. But for Jesse Butler, the internet personality and singer with 4 million followers on the embattled platform, the buzz is old hat.

“I’m kind of closed off about it,” said Butler, 27, of Los Angeles. “I’m like: ‘No, there’s no way it could happen again.’” “

However it seems to be happening again. In 2020, President Trump — fueled by growing concerns about the app’s data privacy standards and its ties to the Chinese government — began pressing parent company ByteDance to spin off TikTok’s US assets or face a complete ban from the country.

Those efforts fizzled out after the courts blocked Trump’s bid to ban, but they haven’t gone away entirely. Now President Biden is after them again.


The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, has it It said He told ByteDance he had to Either sell TikTok or kick it out of the country. Meanwhile, Congress is considering wholesale bans on apps that China can control, and there appears to be significant bipartisan demand for change.

Xu Ziqiu, CEO of TikTok, testified before a House of Representatives committee in Washington Thursday morning, fielding questions about the platform’s data privacy, ties with China, and impact on US users.

“ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government,” Chiu said House Energy and Commerce Committee. In response to concerns about user privacy and safety, he added, “We believe what is needed are clear, transparent rules that apply broadly to all technology companies.”

In the opinion of many analysts, the commission Indicates an imminent crisis for TikTok.

“We see 3 to 6 months for ByteDance and TikTok to reach a sale to a US technology company,” investment firm Wedbush Securities said in a note to clients after the hearing. “If ByteDance fights this forced sale, TikTok will likely be banned in the US by late 2023.”


We would characterize today’s testimony… as a ‘disaster’ moment, the brokerage said.

However, TikTok creators who spoke with The Times this week described a mixture of sentiments in reaction to the growing possibility of bans or forced divestments. Some who make a significant amount of their earnings on the platform are concerned about how they will adapt. Others said they were less anxious, either because they had seen everything before or because they were more willing to adapt.

Butler, who joined the app in 2017 (when it was a app), during Trump’s campaign to ban the app, said she makes about 40% of her income through partnerships with brands. “We were all posting final videos and ‘if this is the last time we see you’” [messages] to our fans.”

Jaci Butler has been using TikTok since 2017. Now, she’s accounting for a federal crackdown on the app — the second such effort she’s faced since she joined.

(Brandon Friend Solis)


This time, she said, the nervous energy the TikTok community displayed in 2020 has been replaced by a quieter sadness.

“People don’t seem as freaked out as the first time,” said Alex Stemplewski, a TikTokker user in Orange County who is known for his photography. “My creative friends, they didn’t even come up with this to me. … People are like, ‘Well, we worked so hard about it the first time we thought it was going to happen, and it didn’t.’”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tone wasn’t the only thing that changed in the years since the federal TikTok campaign’s first push. Many social media creators and influencers have moved to diversify their online presence, asking their fans to follow them across multiple competing social media sites.


This task has become easier in recent years American technology companies I started release their own versions From TikTok’s signature format: an endless feed of quick videos powered by Invisible recommendation algorithms. Creators can now share TikTok-like content to YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and more.

“The first time that TikTok was potentially banned was a good wake-up call,” said Stemplewski, 33, who generates more than half of his earnings through TikTok. “It was a reminder that the sound business strategy for me as a content creator is to diversify.”

Emile El Nems, vice president and chief credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, said in an email that a US TikTok ban would benefit competitors like YouTube, Instagram and Snap (which TikTok hosts copycats of Spotlight).

However, even if platforms like Reels and Pants offer viable alternatives, many creators feel emotionally attached to TikTok, which launched the current wave of ultra-short video stars.

“I had a lot of fun with this,” said Kelsey Kutzor, 29, a lifestyle and fashion influencer based in Brooklyn. “I learned a lot. I was able to reach an audience that I might not otherwise have been able to reach.”


As the Biden administration began hinting it might take action against the company, it began backing up its old posts on Pinterest and YouTube in case her phone suddenly stopped allowing her to open TikTok.

“Will we have to start over on another app?” she asked. “It messes with our creativity. We’re nervous. We’re all on edge, basically, waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

To avoid banning TikTok, politicians have suggested that parent company ByteDance could instead sell its US operations to a local buyer, though the Chinese government said on Thursday. will oppose compulsory sale

It will be a less annoying change for TikTokers because they can still access the app. However, such a sale would raise new questions. For example: How can another owner change TikTok?

“I never thought my audience would be global, but it is,” Kotzor said, adding that she worried the new owner might change how the app’s content recommendation algorithm works. “I wonder if it was bought by an American company, if it wasn’t so globalized.”


The impact of the sale “really depends on who bought it,” Butler, the singer, said. “I think the concern is if something happens like Twitter and Elon, you know? How things kind of escalated.”

Elon Musk, the tech mogul who runs Tesla and SpaceX, acquired Twitter in october after a lengthy will-not-contradict-management. Since then, he’s laid off employees, faced legal challenges, overseen bugs and outages, put up a laundry list of site changes, and at one point, commissioned A system that aims to aggressively promote its posts to users.

For many Twitter users, this was a warning about what can happen when the popular social media app comes under new ownership.

Renewed efforts to ban TikTok have also thrown a wrench into the ambitions of new influencers.

Valeria Fredgotto, a 23-year-old student living in Chicago, has been building her presence on the app over the past few months, gaining popularity in part due to her participation in “remove effect” direction. You remember in 2020 seeing Instagram memes of the TikTok music logo emblazoned on a grave. Now it’s a TikTokker itself, and it has a personal stake in this.


“I don’t think people really believe anything is going to happen,” she said. “I hope people take it seriously — because now I’m inside, I’m like, ‘Okay, this can radically change the way I support myself.’” “

Los Angeles Times colleague Helen Lee contributed to this report.

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Trader: How scary must Silicon Valley be?




It became a common refrain among a certain group of Silicon Valley’s elite: They were treated like that unfairly. Case in point: even after tHeir’s favorite bank collapsed spectacularly — in no small part their job — and the federal government moved quickly to guarantee all of its deposits, yet tech managers and investors spent the subsequent days playing the victim loudly.

Prominent venture capitalist David Sachs, who has lobbied hard for government intervention, I bemoaned “The hateful media that will make me be all they need in order to keep their attack machine going.” Michael Solana, Vice President, Peter Thiel Founder Fund, wrote on his blog that “technology is now universally hated,” warned of an incoming “political war,” and claimed that “a lot of people… really seem to want an old-fashioned mass murder,” supposedly a tech executive.

He was Particularly annoying display; New high for a trend that has been on the rise for some time. middle Congressional hearings And stock valuations plummet, the tech elite bemoan a so-called techlash against their industry by those who fear it has grown too large and unaccountable. Raising legitimate questions about labor inequality in the industry, climate impacts and civil rights violations, they claim that The press is biased against them And they are surrounded on all sides by Critics woke up.

If only they realized how good they are, historically speaking.


It’s only been decades, after all, that Silicon Valley’s elite have faced the active threat of actual, not metaphorical, violence. The harshest critics of Big Tech in the 1970s didn’t write stern columns chastising them in newspapers or blowing up their policies on social media — they effectively occupied their computer labs, destroyed their capital equipment, and even bombed their homes.

“Techlash is what the ownership class in Silicon Valley calls it when people aren’t buying their stock.” Author Malcolm Harris Tell me. “Today’s tech billionaires are lucky enough to be mocked on the Internet instead of firebombing their homes – that’s what happened to Bill Hewlett one day.”

“How to destroy an empire.” Manifesto and map drawn by radical students promoting their occupation of the Stanford Research Institute.

(Historical Archive of the April Third Movement)


A 1987 article in this newspaper makes his point. When William Hewlett retired from the company he founded, Hewlett-Packard, or HP, as it’s known today, The Times devoted an entire paragraph to the various threats of violence he made. Face the billionaire in the 70’s:

In 1971, extremist animosities directed at Palo Alto high society and the Stanford campus throw terror into the life of the Hewlett family: the Hewlett family’s modest home is firebombed. In 1976, he fought Jr. James, then 28, who would have become a kidnapper. The same year, an extremist group called the Red Guerrilla Family claimed responsibility when a bomb exploded in the HP building.

A map of the college campus.

“How to destroy an empire.” A map drawn by radical students to promote their occupation of the Stanford Research Institute.

(Historical Archive of the April Third Movement)

Harris is the author of a book “Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World,” The book that’s currently the talk of the town – it just hit Los Angeles Times Bestseller list — though not for the reasons that the valley elites might favor. It is a powerful, sprawling history that is highly critical of the great men in the history of technology, and even more so of the systems they served. that it He was Receive Enthusiasticallylike Correction is overdue to the industry’s strong penchant for self-mythology.


And some of the most powerful legends, of course, depend on ellipses. Take, for example, the popular narrative that kids like Hewlett and Steve Jobs started the computer revolutions from their garage in Palo Alto, where their blatant opposition came in the form of old square companies like IBM and Xerox—not actual, bomb-throwing revolutionaries.

Harris’ work reminds us that this is far from the case. There’s been a movement that’s much more organized, much more militant, and vehemently anti-big tech today than anything we’ve seen in the last 10 years, and it’s not even close.

Smiling man wearing a brown jacket.

Malcolm Harris is the author of Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World.

(Julia Burke)

When we think of the 1960s in California, we think of events disparate and panoramic in an explosive decade; The war in Vietnam, the advent of the computer, the student protest movement, and so on. But Harris argues that the computer revolution did not simply coexist with war – it fueled it.


“Not only were these developments related, they were the same thing,” Harris wrote.

Intel and Hewlett-Packard revolutionized microchips, well, but they He sold it to the US Armywhich it used to direct the weapons of war it was deploying in Southeast Asia. For students, activists, and organizers of the so-called New Left, Silicon Valley has been hardening the war effort. She was a tool of injustice and her hands were stained with blood.

Two men standing by a garage.

David Packard, left, and William R. Hewlett stand in front of the Palo Alto garage where the two founded their computer company, Hewlett-Packard.

(News agency)

All of this set the stage for a revolt against the core operators in Silicon Valley. Harris writes that the Palo Alto radicals “singularized Stanford’s industrial society and its role in the Vietnam War specifically and capitalist imperialism in general”. “And as soon as they pointed their collective fingers in the right place, they attacked.”


This is not a euphemism either. They really attacked, physically, the people and infrastructure in Silicon Valley associated with the war effort.

“The New Left has tried to blow up every computer they can get their hands on more or less,” says Harris. “Since both are likely to be found on college campuses, they got their hands on a bunch of them.” (At the time, remember, there was no personal computer—computers were still room-sized machines).

The logic was simple: These computers were making war possible, by providing the physical hardware for missile targeting systems and the like, and by processing the data used to plan combat missions. The war has caused untold suffering and death; Dismantling the war machine, hampering the war effort. This is exactly what members of the left-wing organizers at Stanford University, affiliated with groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), have attempted to do.

First, they tried peaceful tactics, such as the pressure campaign to stop the manufacture of napalm. It didn’t work. So, taking their cues from the Black Panther Party, which at the time was perhaps the most powerful and influential radical left group in the country, Stanford students—and even faculty—adopted direct, hard-line tactics. They have published maps of the high-profile technology companies and research offices in Palo Alto that won defense contracts or were otherwise involved in the war effort.

After the US military bombed Cambodia, the student dropout escalated his tactics by targeting the data processing infrastructure that was aiding the war effort.


They ran the Applied Electronics Laboratory at Stanford itself. AEL was an on-campus lab that was conducting classified research for the Pentagon’s war effort, and students moved to shut it down. The occupation ended with a major distinction: no clandestine military research would be conducted on campus, and its resources would instead be used for community purposes.

That victory helped inspire copycat acts across the country—and even tougher ones. Students and activists bombed or destroyed acid computer labs at Boston University, Loyola University, Fresno State, the University of Kansas, and the University of Wisconsin, among others, causing millions of dollars in damage. The explosion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison killed Robert Fasnacht, a postdoctoral researcher, who, unbeknownst to the vandals, was working late at night. IBM’s offices in San Jose and New York were also bombed.

With momentum in their backs, the Stanford radicals decided to raise the stakes, and conquer a bigger target: The Stanford Research Institute, or SRI, an off-campus think tank overseen by the university’s board of trustees, won. Huge military contracts.

“Stanford is the nerve center of this complex, which now does more than 10% of the Pentagon’s research and development,” activists wrote in a post promoting the work. She criticized SRI’s “social dividends for the rich”, and how it was used to “produce weapons to suppress insurgents at home and in the Third World”.

This post contains a map as well, with the relevant Big Tech buildings surrounded by them; Hewlett-Packard, Varian, SRI. It was titled “How to Destroy an Empire”.


It was a militant movement and it was effective. It hindered investment in the war effort, made universities rethink their involvement with the Department of Defense, and contributed to the eventual withdrawal and policy reforms won by the broader antiwar movement.

So why don’t we remember it more often? Why do we remember the summer of love, societal counterculture, and the entire catalog of Earth—but not the violent struggle over the diffusion of technology and those who profited from it?

Or, as Harris put it: “Why are we more likely to hear about the Yepes trying to level up the Pentagon than about the SDS trying to successfully bomb the Pentagon?”

One reason is quite simple: It’s a feel-good story that complicates a narrative that has grown increasingly central to how we understand the history of how our technology was invented and produced.

Particularly in Silicon Valley, the anti-technology movement’s explicit strategy is inappropriate because “the hippies invented the Internet narrative,” says Harris.


But the fear remains. Even if there is nothing like organized threats to their well-being — guillotine memes on Twitter don’t count — today’s tech elites can certainly feel the discontent brewing.

Perhaps that is why they are so sensitive to the suggestion that the government’s rescue of the SVB was a Saving the venture capitalist— that it was a special treat for a constituency that drives Model Xs to Tahoe ski chalets, and that wants to reap the rewards of investing in world-changing technologies while taking very little actual risk. Many of today’s most visible tech groups know that a lot of people don’t like inequality. which they represent, the preferential treatment they seem to enjoy, and the powers initiated by their corporations and investments.

They definitely see Amazon workers And Uber drivers become increasingly restless and Organizerand openly lobbying for change against gross inequalities. They see movements for gender equality and climate justice at Google and Microsoft.

They see anger in the fact that, like its Hewlett-Packard predecessors and former Silicon Valley companies, the newest iteration of Big Tech has become Major defense contractor Also – Google, Amazon and Microsoft I competed To provide the cloud, artificial intelligence, and robotics for the military — and they see movements opposing it, as in the #TechWontBuildIt effort, where tech workers have campaigned to reject such projects. (And hey, HP He is Still Defense contractor.) They see a backlash against the social media companies that give authoritarian regimes the tools to commit atrocities. If they knew to look, today’s tech elite might see much of the same kindling that was put on the ground in the combustible 1960s.

Harris says, pointing to Former Patagonian billionaire Yvon Chouinardwho gave up his entire company as a way to combat the diseases of the super-rich.


In other words, they would rather keep up the flame wars on social media and build bunkers to survive in Montana than tackle the social ills their critics accuse them of exacerbating.

“I think they’re very, very worried,” Harris says. If history sets a precedent – perhaps they should.

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