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Tesla showroom in China. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images.

Facebook stayed in the news this week as COO Sheryl Sandberg met with a civil rights group and her story continued to shift on her involvement with a political consulting firm's work. Here are five other stories in tech news this week that may have gotten lost in the Facebook drama.

Catch up quick: Electric vehicles in China are sending real-time data to the government; Instagram is now using AI to describe photos for users with visual impairments; misinformation bots are smarter than we thought; Facebook launched a local news aggregator; and carmakers at the L.A. auto show are pushing their tech, not their cars.

Electric vehicles in China send real-time data to the government (Associated Press)

  • Why it matters: Teslas and other electric vehicles in China are sending information about the precise location of cars to the government. The data collection adds "to the rich kit of surveillance tools available to the Chinese government as President Xi Jinping steps up the use of technology to track Chinese citizens," Sinocism's Bill Bishop writes in his Axios China newsletter.

Instagram is now using AI to describe photos for users with visual impairments (The Verge)

  • Why it matters: If users do not enter their own "alt text," Instagram will use image recognition technology to write its own description of a photo, then read the description of the photo aloud when someone scrolls by.

Misinformation bots are smarter than we thought

  • Why it matters: The studies suggest that bots are getting more adept at gaming social platforms, even as the platforms are making changes to weed them out. Bots are also getting better at avoiding detection. — Axios' Sara Fischer

Facebook launched its local news aggregator "Today In" (TechCrunch)

  • Why it matters: “Today In” began testing in January, and is now expanding to 400 small to medium-sized cities in the United States, as well as in Australia. Facebook will have to strike a balance between local news and alerts and its tendency to prioritize popular content. It's also one more avenue that the company have to police for fake news.

At L.A. auto show, carmakers are pushing their tech, not their cars

  • Why it matters: The auto industry is moving away from gasoline, steering wheels and personal ownership as cities get more crowded and polluted and people look to avoid the hassles of owning a car. The transition is going to be rocky for many traditional auto manufacturers, as we've seen at GM this week, but the consensus in L.A. is that personal mobility is approaching a tipping point. — Axios' Joann Muller

Go deeper

Fintech's record year

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Massive venture rounds into fintech companies have ballooned this year, pushing up total dollars invested — in just the first three quarters of 2021 — to nearly double the amount in all of 2020, per new PitchBook data.

Why it matters: The maturing of fintech startups means a growing number of companies are able to raise huge later-stage funding rounds as investors look to lock-in their bets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Democrats' clean power outlook is very muddy

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Here are two big questions as a key Democratic proposal to slash emissions from power generation flounders: how much its demise would sap climate protections, and what might replace it.

Catch up fast: New financial carrots and sticks for utilities to deploy zero-carbon power — the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) — look unlikely to stay in Democrats' big social spending and climate bill.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC: Unvaccinated are over 11 times more likely to die from COVID

Expand chart
Reproduced from CDC; Note: Data represents 30% of Americans across 16 jurisdictions: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York City, Seattle/King County, Wash., Utah and Wisconsin; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The CDC recently published data evaluating Americans' rate of coronavirus cases and deaths by vaccine status, providing more data on which vaccines are working best and how much protection they offer relative to being unvaccinated.

What they found: As of August, unvaccinated people had a more than six times higher risk of testing positive for the coronavirus, and were more than 11 times more likely to die from the virus.