Skip to main content
All Stories By:

Mia Sato

Mia Sato

Platforms & Communities Reporter, The Verge

Mia Sato is a reporter at The Verge covering tech companies, platforms, and users. Since joining The Verge in 2021, she’s reported on the war in Ukraine and the spread of propaganda on TikTok; Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter; and how tech platforms and digital publishers are using artificial intelligence tools.

Sato has written about tech platforms and communities since 2019. Before joining Vox Media she was a reporter at MIT Technology Review, where she covered the intersection of technology and the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to that she served as the audience engagement editor at The Markup. As a freelance reporter, she’s written about the subversive Hmong radio shows hosted on conference call software, online knitting activism, and the teens running businesses in Instagram comment sections. Her work has appeared in outlets like The New Republic, The Appeal, and Chicago Magazine. She is based in Brooklyn.

Got a tip? Contact her at mia@theverge.com or email for her Signal number.

M
External Link
Meet the people adding “human vibes” to college essays.

Kids applying to high school are using ChatGPT to write their personal essays — and then paying editors to de-AI them to evade detection.

Consultants on platforms like Fiverr told Forbes that like other AI-generated writing, the essays have repetitive “tells” that indicate AI tools were involved. Some clunky phrases like “aligns seamlessly with my aspirations” and “stems from a deep-seated passion” understandably set off alarm bells. Then there are the innocuous words that are now apparently red flags:

“I no longer believe there’s a way to innocently use the word ‘tapestry’ in an essay; if the word ‘tapestry’ appears, it was generated by ChatGPT.”


M
Twitter
The Future of Trash Is Here.

I love living in New York because there’s always something exciting happening — like a curbside demo of a very normal-looking garbage truck lifting a bin while Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” is blasting in the background.

New York is undergoing “trash containerization,” meaning buildings won’t be able to just throw bags of garbage on the sidewalk (yes, it’s disgusting, and yes, the rats love it). The new trucks will be able to pick up extra large bins made to accommodate millions of pounds of trash everyday.


M
External Link
The Messenger is reportedly shutting down after less than a year.

The New York Times reports that the outlet will stop publishing, though it’s unclear when that will happen. The Messenger hired 300 people and was aiming to generate $50 million this year. Despite the initial hiring spree, the outlet struggled to build dedicated readers:

The Messenger’s fatal flaw was over-relying on tech companies like Google and Meta for its readership instead of engaging directly with its audience through newsletters and in-person events, said S. Mitra Kalita, founder of Epicenter-NYC and URL Media.

“The Messenger was built off expertise of an internet that no longer exists,” said Ms. Kalita. “Facebook was not going to surface its links no matter how clickable those headlines were.”


M
External Link
The average TikTok user is over 30 years old.

What started as a kid’s dancing app has changed significantly in recent years. At a Senate hearing on child safety happening now, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said the average user on the platform is well into adulthood.

Chew is among the group of tech executives testifying today. Read his full opening statement below.


M
External Link
TikTok is one step closer to just being QVC.

The company is building livestreaming studios in cities including Los Angeles, according to The Information. Influencers will then stream and sell products to their followers from the TikTok studios.

TikTok’s future is increasingly looking like an endless digital shopping mall: in an effort to cram more shopping links into content, the company is testing a feature that automatically identifies items in a video and prompts viewers to buy them.


M
External Link
The viral cups that people are fighting each other over contain lead.

Stanley, the maker of the obscenely large adult sippy cups that people are going feral over, confirms that yes, one part of the cups is made with lead — but that exposure to it would be “rare.” Lead in drinking cups has been a problem with other brands’ products in the past.

Some background: people are stockpiling Stanley cups in a rainbow of colors. They’re losing their jobs at Target for these things. There are Stanley cup flippers who buy up limited edition colors and sell them for $200 on Facebook Marketplace. I have a feeling the lead will not dissuade the fans.


M
External Link
Another blog has been overtaken by AI sludge.

This time it’s The Hairpin, the women’s site that stopped publishing five years ago. Since then, a Serbian DJ bought up the expired domain for its “great reputation and excellent backlinks,” Wired reports, and filled it with AI-generated SEO bait and fake authors.

One article about jumpsuits, for example, was written by Jaya Saxena, who now writes for Eater. The blog still has her name in the text, but the new owner of The Hairpin changed her byline to “John Lane.” Grim stuff.


TikTok videos are getting even longer.

At some point, we should probably question whether TikTok is still actually a short form video platform. As TechCrunch reports, TikTok is now testing 30 minute-long videos with some users — which is more like a YouTube video essay than a TikTok clip.

TikTok has gradually stretched the length of videos, and right now users can upload content up to 10 minutes long. Creators who monetize on the platform can also share 20 minute paywalled videos that fans buy access to.


M
External Link
Etsy will give shoppers AI gift suggestions.

The company’s new Gift Mode feature asks shoppers a few questions about the gift recipient and then uses AI and human editorial reviews to recommend products.

Tim Holley, VP of product, says the suggestions are based on Etsy’s systems that power things like search and recommendations, and give preference to items “predicted to be high quality” with good customer service. The gift section could be a lucrative space for sellers — Etsy today also published a guide for how merchants can optimize their products for Gift Mode.