Zoom Is Easy. That’s Why It’s Dangerous.


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The technology we love is easy to use. Paying the babysitter on Venmo, sharing a puppy video on Facebook or buying a novel on Amazon is a breeze.

Most of the time, this is good. But as the security concerns swirling around Zoom show, there’s a dark side to making it easy to buy, share and use.

The same qualities that let musicians go live on Facebook to entertain us also let a terrorist in New Zealand broadcast mass murder at the touch of a button. One-click ordering from Amazon is great — until your kid orders stuff without you knowing.

Ease of use is also a root cause of “Zoombombing” — harassment through the suddenly popular video-calling app.

Adding a little friction to WhatsApp last year helped slow the kind of mob rumors that were deadly in India. To tamp down on coronavirus misinformation, the Facebook-owned chat app this week further tightened rules to allow people to pass on frequently forwarded messages to only one other person or group at a time. Previously the limit was five.

Adding friction is not a cure-all. Bad people will find other ways to spread hate. But now that Zoom has failed to protect our privacy, “we shouldn’t just continue to use its product,” my colleague Brian X. Chen wrote, “just because it works well and is simple to use.” (Brian has a list of protective steps you can take if you need to use Zoom, and he suggests alternatives such as FaceTime and Webex.)

I’m not saying everything in life should be harder. I want to flip open Netflix instead of hunting through 10 menus on my television set. But when there are stark consequences to easy, making things a little more annoying makes life better for all of us.

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My quarantine life has a telltale sound: The knock-knock-knock that nags me about incoming messages in Slack, the chat app I use with my colleagues to talk about work — and dumb things on the internet.

Being cooped up with my pinging screens has made me curious about the back story of this notification tone. Don’t judge me.

What I hear is Slack’s standard incoming message sound called “Knock Brush,” a company representative told me. It was created by Danny Simmons, a musician friend of Slack’s chief executive, Stewart Butterfield. Like almost all the sound effects in Slack, the Knock Brush originally appeared in Glitch, a failed video game from Butterfield and others that morphed into today’s Slack.

And here’s something for the Slackers out there to try: You can change the incoming message tone to the sound of a longtime Slack employee named Anna saying “hummus” in her British accent. I tried this and found it distracting. (Sorry, Anna!) You can also turn the sounds off entirely.


  • It took a pandemic to make the phone call cool: Verizon’s average number of weekday mobile phone calls are more than double the typical peak it sees on Mother’s Day, the Times reporter Cecilia Kang wrote. We’re talking to each other for longer than usual, too.

  • Think twice before following advice from doctors on YouTube. “He’s treating handling your groceries like doing open-heart surgery,” one biologist told Bloomberg News about a family physician’s cereal box disinfectant video. It’s tricky for YouTube to weed out both intentionally harmful coronavirus hoaxes and honest mistakes.

  • This moment was made for “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”: For those of us stuck inside and slumped in our sofas, maybe try a vintage workout video — many now online! — from Cindy Crawford, Cher (?!?!?) and other home exercise honchos from the VHS era.

PUPPIES! The Atlanta Humane Society took some very good dogs on a tour of the Georgia Aquarium, which has been closed to the public.


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