How to create a disposable email address

Disposable email addresses can be canceled if someone starts using the address in a way not intended by the creator. Examples are accidentally sending an email to a spam list or if the address was obtained by spammers. Alternatively, the user can simply decide not to receive further correspondence from the sender.

Temp Mail is a free temporary email address that you can use for one-time email. If you are looking for a safe way to receive emails that self-destruct after 24 hours, this is the best temporary messaging service you will find! No problem, you can generate your email address or let our system randomly create a temporary email for you. With a disposable email service, you can prevent spam from reaching your inbox from those who sell your email address for profit.

The temporary mail address sets up a different and unique email address for each sender / recipient combination. It operates most useful in scenarios where someone can sell or release an email address to spam lists or other unscrupulous entities. The most common situations of this type involve online registration of sites that offer discussion groups, bulletin boards, chat rooms, online shopping and file hosting services. At a time when email spam has become a daily nuisance and when identity theft threatens, DEAs can serve as a convenient tool to protect Internet users.

Why use Temp Mail?
It’s simple, having an anonymous email address can really come in handy when you are forced to “sign up” to receive something you are not sure you will continue to use. Using our free temporary email address, you can receive the confirmation email securely. Depending on what you need the email for, you can easily change your permanent email address.

It is no secret that U.S. politics is polarized. An experiment conducted by MIT researchers now shows just how deeply political partisanship directly influences peoples behavior within online social networks.

Deploying Twitter bots to help examine the online behavior of real people the researchers found that the likelihood that individuals will follow other accounts on Twitter triples when there appears to be a common partisan bond involved.

’When partisanship is matched people are three times more likely to follow other accounts back’ says MIT professor David Rand co-author of a new paper detailing the studys results. ’Thats a really big effect and clear evidence of how important a role partisanship plays.’

The finding helps reveal how likely people are to self-select into partisan ’echo chambers’ online long discussed as a basic civic problem exacerbated by social media. But methodologically the experiment also tackles a basic challenge regarding the study of partisanship and social behavior: Do people who share partisan views associate with each other because of those views or do they primarily associate for other reasons with similar political preferences merely being incidental in the process?

The new experiment demonstrates the extent to which political preferences themselves can drive social connectivity.

’This pattern is not based on any preexisting relationships or any other common interests — the only thing people think they know about these accounts is that they share partisanship and they were much more likely to want to form relationships with those accounts’ says first author Mohsen Mosleh who is a lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School and a research affiliate at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The paper ’Shared Partisanship Dramatically Increases Social Tie Formation in a Twitter Field Experiment’ appears this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In additional to Rand who is the Erwin H. Schell Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of MIT Sloans Human Cooperation Laboratory and Applied Cooperation Team the authors are Mosleh; Cameron Martel a PhD student at MIT Sloan; and Dean Eckles the Mitsubishi Career Development Professor and an associate professor of marketing at MIT Sloan.

To conduct the experiment the researchers collected a list of Twitter users who had retweeted either MSNBC or Fox News tweets and then examined their last 3200 tweets to see how much information those people shared from left-leaning or right-leaning websites. From the initial list the scholars then constructed a final roster of

842 Twitter accounts evenly distributed across the two major parties.

At the same time the researchers created a set of eight clearly partisan bots — fake accounts with the appearance of being politically minded individuals. The bots were split by party and varied in intensity of political expression. The researchers randomly selected one of the bots to follow each of the 842 real users on Twitter. Then they examined which real-life Twitter users followed the politically aligned bots back and observed the distinctly partisan pattern that emerged.

Overall the real Twitter users in the experiment would follow back about 15 percent of Twitter bots with whom they shared partisan views regardless of the intensity of political expression in the bot accounts. By contrast the real-life Twitter users would only follow back about 5 percent of accounts that appeared to support the opposing party.

Among other things the study found a partisan symmetry in the user behavior they observed: People from the two major U.S. parties were equally likely to follow accounts back on the basis of partisan identification.

’There was no difference between Democrats and Republicans in this in that Democrats were just as likely to have preferential tie formation as Republicans’ says Rand.

The bot accounts used in this experiment were not recommended by Twitter as accounts that users might want to follow indicating that the tendency to follow other partisans happens independently of the account-recommendation algorithms that social networks use.

’What this suggests is the lack of cross-partisan relationships on social media isnt only the consequence of algorithms’ Rand says. ’There are basic psychological predispositions involved.’

At the same time Rand notes the findings do suggest that if social media companies want to increase cross-partisan civic interaction they could try to engineer more of those kinds of interactions.

’If you want to foster cross-partisan social relationships you dont just need the friend suggestion algorithm to be neutral. You would need the friend suggestion algorithms to actively counter these psychological predispositions’ Rand says although he also notes that whether cross-partisan social ties actually reduce political polarization is unclear based on current research.

Therefore the behavior of social media users who form connections across party lines is an important subject for future studies and experiments Mosleh suggests. He also points out that this experimental approach could be used to study a wide range of biases in the formation of social relationships beyond partisanship such as race gender or age.

Support for the project was provided in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation the Reset project of Luminate and the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative.

The specter of ’fake news’ looms over many facets of modern society. Waves of online misinformation have rocked societal events from the Covid-19 pandemic to U.S. elections. But it doesnt have to be that way according to Devavrat Shah a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data Systems and Society. Shah researches the recommendation algorithms that generate social media newsfeeds. He has proposed a new approach that could limit the spread of misinformation by emphasizing content generated by a users own contacts rather than whatever happens to be trending globally. As Congress and a new presidential administration mull whether and how to regulate social media Shah shared his thoughts with MIT News.

Q: How does misinformation spread online and do social media algorithms accelerate that spread?

A: Misinformation spreads when a lie is repeated. This goes back thousands of years. I was reminded last night as I was reading bedtime stories to my 6-year-old from the Panchatantra fables:

A brahmin once performed sacred ceremonies for a rich merchant and got a goat in return. He was on his way back carrying the goat on his shoulders when three crooks saw him and decided to trick him into giving the goat to them. One after the other the three crooks crossed the brahmins path and asked him the same question – ’O Brahmin why do you carry a dog on your back?’

The foolish Brahmin thought that he must indeed be carrying a dog if three people have told him so. Without even bothering to look at the animal he let the goat go.

In some sense thats the standard form of radicalization: You just keep hearing something without question and without alternate viewpoints. Then misinformation becomes the information. That is the primary way information spreads in an incorrect manner. And thats the problem with the recommendation algorithms such as those likely to be used by Facebook and Twitter. They often prioritize content thats gotten a lot of clicks and likes — whether or not its true — and mixes it with content from sources that you trust. These algorithms are fundamentally designed to concentrate their attention onto a few viral posts rather than diversify things. So they are unfortunately facilitating the process of misinformation.

Q: Can this be fixed with better algorithms? Or are more human content moderators necessary?

A: This is doable through algorithms. The problem with human content moderation is that a human or tech company is coming in and dictating whats right and whats wrong. And thats a very reductionist approach. I think Facebook and Twitter can solve this problem without being reductionist or having a heavy-handed approach in deciding whats right or wrong. Instead they can avoid this polarization and simply let the networks operate the way the world operates naturally offline though peer interactions. Online social networks have twisted the flow of information and put the ability to do so in the hands of a few. So lets go back to normalcy.

Theres a simple tweak that could make an impact: A measured amount of diversity should be included in the newsfeeds by all these algorithms. Why? Well think of a time before social media when we may chat with people in an office or learn news through friends. Although we are still exposed to misinformation we know who told us that information and we tend to share it only if we trust that person. So unless that misinformation comes from many trusted sources it is rarely widely shared.

There are two key differences online. First the content that platforms insert is mixed in with content from sources that we trust making it more likely for us to take that information at face value. Second misinformation can be easily shared online so that we see it many times and become convinced it is true. Diversity helps to dilute misinformation by exposing us to alternate points of view without abusing our trust. 

Q: How would this work with social media?

A: To do this the platforms could randomly subsample posts in a way that looks like reality. Its important that a platform is allowed to algorithmically filter newsfeeds — otherwise there will be too much content to consume. But rather than rely on recommended or promoted content a feed could pull most of its content totally at random from all of my connections on the network. So content polarization through repeated recommendation wouldnt happen. And all of this can — and should — be regulated.

One way to make progress toward more natural behavior is by filtering according to a social contract between users and platforms an idea legal scholars are already working on. As we discussed the newsfeed of users impacts their behaviors such as their voting or shopping preferences. In a recent work we showed that we can use methods from statistics and machine learning to verify whether or not the filtered newsfeed respects the social contract in terms of how it affects user behaviors. As we argue in this work it turns out that such contracting may not impact the ’bottom line’ revenue of the platform itself. That is the platform does not necessarily need to choose between honoring the social contract and generating revenue.

In a sense other utilities like the telephone service providers are already obeying this kind of contractual arrangement with the “no spam call list” and by respecting whether your phone number is listed publicly or not. By distributing information social media is also providing a public utility in a sense and should be regulated as such.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic charts and graphs have helped communicate information about infection rates deaths and vaccinations. In some cases such visualizations can encourage behaviors that reduce virus transmission like wearing a mask. Indeed the pandemic has been hailed as the breakthrough moment for data visualization.

But new findings suggest a more complex picture. A study from MIT shows how coronavirus skeptics have marshalled data visualizations online to argue against public health orthodoxy about the benefits of mask mandates. Such ’counter-visualizations’ are often quite sophisticated using datasets from official sources and state-of-the-art visualization methods.

The researchers combed through hundreds of thousands of social media posts and found that coronavirus skeptics often deploy counter-visualizations alongside the same ’follow-the-data’ rhetoric as public health experts yet the skeptics argue for radically different policies. The researchers conclude that data visualizations arent sufficient to convey the urgency of the Covid-19 pandemic because even the clearest graphs can be interpreted through a variety of belief systems.  

’A lot of people think of metrics like infection rates as objective’ says Crystal Lee. ’But theyre clearly not based on how much debate there is on how to think about the pandemic. Thats why we say data visualizations have become a battleground.’

The research will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May. Lee is the studys lead author and a PhD student in MITs History Anthropology Science Technology and Society (HASTS) program and MITs Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) as well as a fellow at Harvard Universitys Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Co-authors include Graham Jones a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow in Anthropology; Arvind Satyanarayan the NBX Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and CSAIL; Tanya Yang an MIT undergraduate; and Gabrielle Inchoco a Wellesley College undergraduate.

As data visualizations rose to prominence early in the pandemic Lee and her colleagues set out to understand how they were being deployed throughout the social media universe. ’An initial hypothesis was that if we had more data visualizations from data collected in a systematic way then people would be better informed’ says Lee. To test that hypothesis her team blended computational techniques with innovative ethnographic methods.

They used their computational approach on Twitter scraping nearly half a million tweets that referred to both ’Covid-19’ and ’data.’ With those tweets the researchers generated a network graph to find out ’whos retweeting whom and who likes whom’ says Lee. ’We basically created a network of communities who are interacting with each other.’ Clusters included groups like the ’American media community’ or ’antimaskers.’ The researchers found that antimask groups were creating and sharing data visualizations as much as if not more than other groups.

And those visualizations werent sloppy. ’They are virtually indistinguishable from those shared by mainstream sources’ says Satyanarayan. ’They are often just as polished as graphs you would expect to encounter in data journalism or public health dashboards.’

’Its a very striking finding’ says Lee. ’It shows that characterizing antimask groups as data-illiterate or not engaging with the data is empirically false.’

Lee says this computational approach gave them a broad view of Covid-19 data visualizations. ’What is really exciting about this quantitative work is that were doing this analysis at a huge scale. Theres no way I could have read half a million tweets.’

But the Twitter analysis had a shortcoming. ’I think it misses a lot of the granularity of the conversations that people are having’ says Lee. ’You cant necessarily follow a single thread of conversation as it unfolds.’ For that the researchers turned to a more traditional anthropology research method — with an internet-age twist.

Lees team followed and analyzed conversations about data visualizations in antimask Facebook groups — a practice they dubbed ’deep lurking’ an online version of the ethnographic technique called ’deep hanging out.’ Lee says ’understanding a culture requires you to observe the day-to-day informal goings-on — not just the big formal events. Deep lurking is a way to transpose these traditional ethnography approaches to digital age.’

The qualitative findings from deep lurking appeared consistent with the quantitative Twitter findings. Antimaskers on Facebook werent eschewing data. Rather they discussed how different kinds of data were collected and why. ’Their arguments are really quite nuanced’ says Lee. ’Its often a question of metrics.’ For example antimask groups might argue that visualizations of infection numbers could be misleading in part because of the wide range of uncertainty in infection rates compared to measurements like the number of deaths. In response members of the group would often create their own counter-visualizations even instructing each other in data visualization techniques.

’Ive been to livestreams where people screen share and look at the data portal from the state of Georgia’ says Lee. ’Then theyll talk about how to download the data and import it into Excel.’

Jones says the antimask groups ’idea of science is not listening passively as experts at a place like MIT tell everyone else what to believe.’ He adds that this kind of behavior marks a new turn for an old cultural current. ’Antimaskers use of data literacy reflects deep-seated American values of self-reliance and anti-expertise that date back to the founding of the country but their online activities push those values into new arenas of public life.’

He adds that ’making sense of these complex dynamics would have been impossible’ without Lees ’visionary leadership in masterminding an interdisciplinary collaboration that spanned SHASS and CSAIL.’

The mixed methods research ’advances our understanding of data visualizations in shaping public perception of science and politics’ says Jevin West a data scientist at the University of Washington who was not involved with the research. Data visualizations ’carry a veneer of objectivity and scientific precision. But as this paper shows data visualizations can be used effectively on opposite sides of an issue’ he says. ’It underscores the complexity of the problem — that it is not enough to just teach media literacy. It requires a more nuanced sociopolitical understanding of those creating and interpreting data graphics.’

Combining computational and anthropological insights led the researchers to a more nuanced understanding of data literacy. Lee says their study reveals that compared to public health orthodoxy ’antimaskers see the pandemic differently using data that is quite similar. I still think data analysis is important. But its certainly not the salve that I thought it was in terms of convincing people who believe that the scientific establishment is not trustworthy.’ Lee says their findings point to ’a larger rift in how we think about science and expertise in the U.S.’ That same rift runs through issues like climate change and vaccination where similar dynamics often play out in social media discussions.

To make these results accessible to the public Lee and her collaborator CSAIL PhD student Jonathan Zong led a team of seven MIT undergraduate researchers to develop an interactive narrative where readers can explore the visualizations and conversations for themselves.

Lee describes the teams research as a first step in making sense of the role of data and visualizations in these broader debates. ’Data visualization is not objective. Its not absolute. It is in fact an incredibly social and political endeavor. We have to be attentive to how people interpret them outside of the scientific establishment.’

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council.

Before you scramble to clean your room or attempt to make your pajamas look a bit less like pajamas here is a good excuse to keep your video off during your next virtual meeting: reducing your environmental impact. New research shows that if you turn your camera off during a videoconference you can reduce your environmental footprint in that meeting by 96 percent.

Conducted by a team from MIT Purdue University and Yale University the study uncovers the impacts that internet use has on the environment. This is especially significant considering that many countries have reported at least a 20 percent increase in internet use since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.

While the shift to a more digital world has made an impressive dent in global emissions overall — thanks in large part to the likely temporary emissions reductions associated with travel — the impact of our increasingly virtual lifestyles should not be overlooked.

’The goal of this paper is to raise awareness’ says Maryam Arbabzadeh a postdoc at the MIT Energy Initiative and a co-author of the study. ’It is great that we are reducing emissions in some sectors; but at the same time using the internet also has an environmental impact contributing to the aggregate. The electricity used to power the internet with its associated carbon water and land footprints isnt the only thing impacting the environment; the transmission and storage of data also requires water to cool the systems within them.’

One hour of streaming or videoconferencing can emit between 150 and 1000 grams of carbon dioxide depending on the service. By comparison a car produces about 8887 grams from burning one gallon of gasoline. That hour also requires 2-12 liters of water and a land area about the size of an iPad Mini. Those hours add up in our daily lives with all the time were spending on video — and so does the associated environmental footprint.

According to the researchers if remote work continues through the end of 2021 the global carbon footprint could grow by 34.3 million tons in greenhouse gas emissions. To give a sense of the scale: This increase in emissions would require a forest twice the size of Portugal to fully sequester it all. Meanwhile the associated water footprint would be enough to fill more than 300000 Olympic-sized swimming pools and the land footprint would be equal to roughly the size of Los Angeles.

To store and transmit all of the data powering the internet data centers consume enough electricity to account for 1 percent of global energy demand — which is more than the total consumption for many countries. Even before the pandemic the internets carbon footprint had been increasing and accounted for about 3.7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

While there have been studies evaluating the carbon footprint of internet data transmission storage and use the associated water and land footprints have been largely overlooked. To address this gap the researchers in this study analyze the three major environmental footprints — water land and carbon — as they pertain to internet use and infrastructure providing a more holistic look at environmental impact. Their findings are published in Resources Conservation and Recycling.

Using publicly available data the researchers give a rough estimate of the carbon water and land footprints associated with each gigabyte of data used in common online apps such as Netflix Instagram TikTok Zoom and 14 other platforms as well as general web surfing and online gaming. They find that the more video used the higher the footprints.

A common streaming service like Netflix or Hulu requires 7 gigabytes per hour of high-quality video streaming translating to an average of 441 g CO2e (grams per carbon dioxide equivalent) per hour. If someone is streaming for four hours a day at this quality for a month the emissions rise to 53 kg CO2e. However if that person were to instead stream in standard definition the monthly footprint would only be 2.5 kg CO2e. That decision would save emissions equivalent to driving a car from Baltimore Maryland to Philadelphia Pennsylvania about 93 miles.

Now multiply these savings across 70 million users all streaming in standard definition rather than high definition. That behavioral change would result in a decrease of 3.5 million tons of CO2e — equating to the elimination of 1.7 million tons of coal which is about 6% of the total monthly consumption of coal in the United States.

’Banking systems tell you the positive environmental impact of going paperless but no one tells you the benefit of turning off your camera or reducing your streaming quality. So without your consent these platforms are increasing your environmental footprint’ says Kaveh Madan who led and directed this study while a visiting fellow at the Yale MacMillan Center.

While many service providers and data centers have been working to improve operational efficiency and reduce their carbon footprints by diversifying their energy portfolios measures still need to be taken to reduce the footprint of the product. A streaming services video quality is one of the largest determinants of its environmental footprint. Currently the default for many services is high-definition putting the onus on the user to reduce the quality of their video in order to improve their footprint. Not many people will be interested in reducing their video quality especially if the benefits of this action are not well known.

’We need companies to give users the opportunity to make informed sustainable choices’ says Arbabzadeh. ’Companies could change their default actions to lead to less environmental impact such as setting video quality to standard definition and allowing users to upgrade to high definition. This will also require policymakers to be involved — enacting regulations and requiring transparency about the environmental footprint of digital products to encourage both companies and users to make these changes.’

The researchers also look at specific countries to understand how different energy systems impact the environmental footprints for an average unit of energy used in data processing and transmission. The data show wide variation in carbon land and water intensity. In the United States where natural gas and coal make up the largest share of electricity generation the carbon footprint is 9 percent higher than the world median but the water footprint is 45 percent lower and the land footprint is 58 percent lower. Meanwhile in Brazil where nearly 70 percent of the electricity comes from hydropower the median carbon footprint is about 68 percent lower than the world median. The water footprint on the other hand is 210 percent higher than the world median and increasing reliance on hydropower at the expense of fragile rainforest ecosystems has other substantial environmental costs.

’All of these sectors are related to each other’ says Arbabzadeh. ’In data centers where electricity comes from a cleaner source the emissions will be lower; and if its coming from fossil fuels then the impact will be higher.’

’Right now we have virtual meetings all over and were spending more of our leisure time than ever streaming video content. There is definitely a paradigm shift’ she adds. ’With some small behavior changes like unsubscribing from junk emails or reducing cloud storage we can have an impact on emissions. It is important that we raise public awareness so that collectively we can implement meaningful personal and systemic changes to reduce the internets environmental impact and successfully transition to a low-carbon economy.’

The study was supported by the MIT Energy Initiative Purdue Climate Change Research Center the Purdue Center for the Environment and the Yale MacMillan Center.

On Jan. 20 MIT juniors and fraternal twins Malik and Miles George uploaded their first science video to their new TikTok account @malikandmiles. The video a short joke about the complexity of the Krebs Cycle got 83 likes. The two pondered if they would join the ranks of popular science media personalities like Hank Green and Bill Nye. Now more than a month later theyve posted more than 100 videos on a variety of science topics including genetics photosynthesis Covid-19 vaccines and physics.

Theyve also amassed nearly 50000 followers.

Their community of fans range from middle schoolers to professional scientists and the brothers often field questions about attending MIT applying to colleges and being Black in STEM. In most of their videos the brothers sport white lab coats embroidered with their names.

Malik and Miles graduated as co-valedictorians from their high school in Woodbridge New Jersey before matriculating together to MIT where they are both majoring in biological engineering and minoring in African and African diaspora studies. Now seeing the success of their new social media account they have big plans for what to do next: launching a STEM education and outreach initiative offering fun immersive remote programming for students of all ages.

Its the start of a dream come true for the duo. Miles says that ’in the back of our minds Malik and I when we got older we always wanted to be science educators public speakers for the sciences.’

Trying TikTok

When social distancing guidelines went into effect in early spring 2020 the George brothers first downloaded TikTok. Around that time the app which allows users to post 60-second or shorter videos to a variety of audios and songs was surging in popularity. TikTok now has approximately 100 million active monthly users in the United States a figure eight times what it was at the beginning of 2018.

Out of boredom and curiosity the George twins started posting dances and memes. Their videos quickly gained traction and that initial account gained almost 200000 followers by the end of August. But they wanted to do more.

’It didnt have a sense of community’ Miles says of the twins first account. ’It was just growth without purpose. We didnt necessarily like a lot of the content we were making.’

With school picking back up for the fall semester they stepped away from their account. Then during the January 2021 Independent Activities Period they decided to relaunch a new account all about making STEM accessible and interesting to all audiences.

To get ideas for videos the brothers look through the apps ’Discover’ page. From there they can see which hashtags and audios are trending. Then they apply a science spin on the new trends.

Many social media platforms open by showing a user recent posts by their friends or accounts they follow. TikTok is different. When a user opens the app they immediately see a ’For You’ page a collection of videos curated based on the users likes and interests from accounts all over the world. Users simply scroll to see more videos curated for them.

’Whether its doing trending dances with STEM memes or comedic skits acting as cells were getting a better rhythm of how to integrate comedy TikTok trends and science into our videos’ Malik says.

In one of their most popular videos posted on Feb. 8 Malik hands Miles a pepper shaker. Miles shakes a bit onto a bowl of water. The pepper flakes distribute evenly across the surface of the water but do not dissolve –– Miles explains that pepper is hydrophobic. Then he places a drop of soap in the center and the flakes of pepper fling out to the bowls edges. Miles explains that soap is a surfactant which reduces a liquids surface tension. A popular TikTok song plays as background music. The video has nearly 53000 views.

Their content isnt all fun tips and tricks. The two have also produced more serious content encouraging viewers to wear masks and sign up to receive the Covid-19 vaccine when eligible.

’We dedicate a lot of our content not only to Covid-19 but also just general misconceptions that are popular especially biology topics in the news just because theyre very important’ Malik says. ’They relate to human health but theyre also very difficult I think for the public to understand. Theres a lot of misconceptions and sometimes fear can arise from these topics.’

Building community

Almost every night the two host a livestream on TikTok for several hours. They call it ’Mamp;M Office Hours.’ During the livestream followers can message questions that the brothers see and answer in real-time and followers can chat among themselves. The duo also set up a social channel available to all of their fans on Discord an online community platform.

’Theres high schoolers and middle schoolers and they ask questions about applying to college’ Miles says. ’And then on the other side you have postdocs and grad students who can share their experiences. So its a really wide range group all centered around STEM which is a really nice community that we didnt think we could have on social media.’

Recently a fifth-grade teacher saw a video of theirs and commented that her students would love their content. So they replied to her offering to talk to her students remotely –– and she took them up on the offer.

’At that moment the course of our TikTok expanded’ Miles says. ’We are in the process of opening up a STEM advocacy initiative where we talk to K-12 schools about STEM college and diversity.’

In early March they instructed a class of fifth-grade students on how to make slime. They built a lesson plan about non-Newtonian fluids which can behave as either liquids or solids depending on how they are treated

Their goal on TikTok and off is to encourage young diverse students to pursue careers in STEM. ’We hope that if young Black children see two Black students in college doing science it might inspire them for the future’ Miles says.

’One of my favorite developments is that weve gotten in contact with our old high school principal and were actually going to be doing bi-weekly meetings with our high school where we will be speaking to different grades there’ Malik says. ’Well be talking about our own path at the school and how they can best prepare to go to college knowing what their experience is like directly.’

Theyve already had a handful of other teachers reach out to them on the platform to set up speaking or teaching engagements.

’I think our account helps to humanize the experience at MIT’ Malik says. ’It lets people know that at MIT we have fun we joke about things. In terms of diversity which we also are passionate about we think it helps for people to know that there are also people that look like us at schools like ours.’

Shortly after he sold TRACE the fast-growing New York-based media company he founded at age 24 Claude Grunitzky came to MIT as a Sloan Fellow. He chose MIT because he wanted to learn more about digital media and the ways he could leverage it for his next company. He was also interested in MITs approach to building new technologies that could scale through network effects.

While at MIT Sloan the Togolese-American entrepreneur spent considerable time at the MIT Media Lab working with Joost Bonsen a lecturer in media arts and sciences and Professor Alex ’Sandy’ Pentland the Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program director on shaping what would become TRUE Africa his digital media company focused on championing young African voices all over the world. Grunitzky graduated in 2012 earning an MBA.

TRUE Africa was launched as a news and culture website in 2015. Grunitzky used new publishing technologies to promote African perspectives instead of relying on Western perceptions of what Africa was becoming. Grunitzky and his editorial team chose to document Africans and Afro-descendants innovations and contributions to global popular culture.

In 2019 Grunitzky realized that while useful for telling a different story about modern Africa a media platform was not enough. He decided to pivot to education. His new vision was to create for higher education a remote learning platform for African youth. The pandemic which led to the closure of many universities in Africa gave a sense of urgency to his launch plans for the new venture which he called TRUE Africa University (TAU). The venture is currently being incubated at the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL).

TAU currently consists of a webinar series focused on sustainable development in Africa. Grunitzky serves as a host interviewing thinkers shapers and doers he sees as the inventors of the future of Africa. Produced in collaboration with the MIT Center for International Studies the webinar series features guests including Taiye Selasi the Ghanaian-Nigerian author; Jeffrey Sachs the American economist; and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji the Nigerian serial entrepreneur behind some of Africas most valuable startups.

Here Grunitzky describes his inspiration for and goals for the TAU project.

Q: What is the purpose of TRUE Africa University?

A: Ever since I came to MIT as a Sloan fellow a decade ago Ive wanted to find new ways to tap into MITs can-do spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to help me launch a new type of African company that would play a sizable role in solving some of Africas biggest problems.

At MIT I met kindred spirits who encouraged our experiments but I eventually settled on launching another media company which I named TRUE Africa. With the TRUE Africa website I relied on my expertise in media but three years after launching TRUE Africa online I realized that I wanted to solve a bigger problem than what we could accomplish through reporting about young Africans and their creativity.

Having seen excellence in motion at MIT I came to believe that what young Africans need more than anything is quality education. I had been deeply inspired by Salman Khan ever since he launched Khan Academy and I wanted to achieve something on that scale. I was thinking conceptually of a pivot to education but I didnt have the confidence to take on something so ambitious until I found myself in another defining MIT moment in May 2019.

It happened on the terrace of the Grafenegg Castle outside Vienna in Austria. I had gone to the MIT Grafenegg Forum as a speaker on media and society in Africa and I saw an opportunity to pitch my TRUE Africa University idea to Sanjay Sarma the vice president for open learning at MIT who was one of the forums organizers. I was an admirer of Sanjays work overseeing edX and MITs other digital learning platforms and I made my case during a short break from the seated dinner.

He gave the TRUE Africa University idea his blessing on the spot and three months later my Moroccan co-founder and I were camping out at Sanjays office and ideating with his teams at MIT J-WEL on curricula for digital learning in developing nations. Another person I became close to at MIT is John Tirman the political theorist who is also the executive director at MITs Center for International Studies (CIS). I have been a research affiliate at CIS since 2011 and Id organized webinars for CIS before. John and I agreed that the best way to launch the TRUE Africa University platform was through a webinar series. That is when I got to work on the programmatic aspects of the series.

Q: Why are webinars the medium of choice for accomplishing your goals with TAU?

A: With my background and aspirations as a storyteller Ive been writing publishing broadcasting and operating across various media platforms since I was 21-year-old journalist. I know that content is king. The problem is there is way too much content out there now. Social media has opened the floodgates and the various social networks have dramatically increased content output globally but not all that content is interesting or engaging or useful.

I wanted to launch the TRUE Africa University webinar series with a film screening. Its actually a film I executive produced alongside Fernando Meirelles the director of some of my favorite films including ’City of God’ ’The Constant Gardener’ and last years ’The Two Popes.’ Our documentary ’The Great Green Wall’ premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and won many awards in many countries. 

’The Great Green Wall’ is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8000-kilometer natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Its actually a wall of trees being planted from Senegal in the west all the way to Djibouti in the east. A decade in and roughly 15 percent under way the initiative is already bringing life back to Africas degraded landscapes at an unprecedented scale providing food security jobs and a reason to stay for the millions who live along its path. We launched the webinar series with a screening of that film and a post-screening panel discussion that I moderated with Meirelles.

Most people including in Africa are not aware of the devastating effects of climate change on the African continent and on the prospects for African youth. That screening and first webinar discussion sets the tone for our higher learning ambitions with TRUE Africa University while helping us to bring in experts who can frame some of the major issues facing young Africans as many of them seek new pathways to a more sustainable future for the continent.

Q: What are your longer-term goals for the project?

A: The webinars are meant to provide fresh ideas out-of-the-box solutions and new ways of thinking of Africas future post-pandemic. We are exploring the new digital solutions to some of Africas problems and how technology can create a virtuous circle for African development. Consider this: At the end of 2000 there were just 15 million Africans with access to mobile devices. Now more than a quarter of Africas population of 1.3 billion have adopted the mobile internet.

In 2100 there will be close to 800 million people living in Nigeria alone quadrupling the current population of 200 million. Nigeria will be the worlds second-most populated country after India. I am launching TRUE Africa University because those young Africans need to be educated and there is just no way that African governments will have the resources to build enough classrooms for all those students.

The solution will have to be online and in my wildest dreams I see TRUE Africa as a daily resource for millions of young Africans who demand quality education. The journey is just beginning and I am aware of the hurdles on this long road. I am so fortunate that we have MIT in our corner as we embark on this ambitious endeavor.

Vice President of Research and Development at Nanotronics, Vadim Pinskiy is a well-known expert in AI and Neurosciences in scope of biomedical and neuroanatomy. Apart from the scientific advances, he also empowered the Research department with knowledge and inspiration for a remarkable revenue growth.