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‘Carefluencers’ Are Helping Older Loved Ones, and Posting About It

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On the east side of San Jose, Calif., there is an abuela who seems to have more grandchildren than she can count.

“A lot of people see me and they hug me,” Mardonia Galeana, 89, said in Spanish. “I don’t even know them, but sometimes they ask me for a blessing on the street and I do the best I can on their forehead.”

Her likeness has been featured in a painting in the San José Museum of Art and in a mural in the city’s mission district. But it’s her online presence that has captivated the thousands of people who have come across the photos and videos posted by her grandson Yosimar Reyes.

“Seeing your Abuela smiling and having a good time truly warms my heart,” one user commented beneath a video of Ms. Galeana enjoying herself at a senior center while others danced to a track by the merengue singer Elvis Crespo.

Mr. Reyes has been chronicling moments in his grandmother’s life on a private Instagram account followed by more than 21,000 people. His posts have shown a trip they took to New Orleans, their strolls with his dog, Chulito, around the San Jose Flea Market, and occasional doctor visits.

Although Mr. Reyes calls himself Ms. Galeana’s “personal stylist,” he is first and foremost her caregiver — driving her to appointments, managing her medications, making sure she has a roof over her head.

“I take pride in the fact that I care for and dress my grandma,” Mr. Reyes, 35, said. “That she’s not going to be out here in a muumuu. Her nails are also poppin’ and it’s a big self-esteem boost for her.”

Francesca Falzarano, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, has a term for the growing number of people like Mr. Reyes who share behind-the-scenes looks at the daily realities of providing round-the-clock care for older loved ones.

“In my research lab, we call them ‘carefluencers,’” Professor Falzarano said. “Social media is really the only way a lot of these people are able to access support, education and a sense of belonging.”

Mr. Reyes, a poet and artist, was raised by his grandparents and came with them to the United States from Guerrero, Mexico, in the early 1990s. “Even as a kid, I was already a caregiver,” he said. “I had to translate documents and help my grandparents navigate this country because they were older and didn’t speak English.”

Mr. Reyes, who was named the 2024 Santa Clara County poet laureate, said he has occasionally found himself overwhelmed since he fully undertook the role of caring for his grandmother during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m trying to build a career as an artist and as a writer, but then I still have to go home and have to take care of somebody,” said Mr. Reyes, who has described his experience as a caregiver in poems like “Abuela Gets a Fever.” “Some days, I’m emotionally depleted. And if she’s having a bad day, I have to make sure that I’m not reactionary.”

As the population ages, Mr. Reyes’s experience is likely to become more common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of unpaid caregivers in the United States increased to about 53 million in 2020 from 43.5 million in 2015.

Chris Punsalan of Las Vegas, who became a caregiver for his grandmother Anicia Manipon eight years ago, has shared his experiences with her on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

“I decided to document us because I felt it was important,” Mr. Punsalan, 30, said. “It’s not only for me to be able to look back on, but I also slowly realized that it was very helpful for people who have been through a somewhat similar situation.”

Mr. Punsalan, who has over two million followers on TikTok, has created content out of tending to his grandmother’s bedsores, cooking her breakfast and sharing the products he uses to tend to her needs. Since Ms. Manipon’s death in January, he realized that his social media accounts have done more than provide information and comfort for other family caregivers.

“During her funeral, my cousin said something that really struck a chord with me,” Mr. Punsalan recalled. “He said, ‘Whenever I miss my grandmother, I have a library of videos to remember her by.’”

Jacquelyn Revere, an aspiring TV writer in Los Angeles, began posting about her experiences after she became the main caregiver for her mother and grandmother in 2016. She said she found comfort while trying to help others in her position through social media, and the number of people following her on TikTok grew to more than 650,000.

“When I was posting my mom, it’s not like I felt like I had to — it actually became fun,” said Ms. Revere, 37. “Social media brought so much validation with people saying, ‘You’re doing such a good job,’ and it became a place of refuge.”

Ms. Revere’s grandmother died in 2017; her mother died in 2022.

“Many of my caregiver friends are people who I’ve met on social media,” Ms. Revere said. “We’ve really created a community that’s very close knit, because it’s hard to understand the weight of this role if you’ve never had it.”

While posting a get-ready-with-me-and-Grandma video on TikTok may bring caregivers a sense of community, some viewers can’t shake the feeling that such content might be exploitative. Is a vulnerable older relative in a position to consent to appear in a video, when the person recording it is responsible for administering her medication?

“That is so heartbreaking,” one user commented on a TikTok video of an older woman struggling to eat. “I wish you all would have the dignity to stop posting these messages.”

But according to Professor Falzarano, the gerontologist, the benefits of caregivers’ sharing their experiences outweigh the risks. “It’s really contributing to the greater awareness and visibility of chronic illness in caregiving,” she said.

Professor Falzarano, 32, whose research is focused on dementia, family caregiving and technology for older adults, also noted that while there are a variety of resources readily available for expecting parents, the same could not be necessarily said for those grappling with the end of life.

“We all have this universal experience where we’ll need to provide care or need to be cared for at some point,” Professor Falzarano said. “Why not start thinking about it now?”

Ms. Galeana, who will turn 90 in December, hasn’t been able to return to the home in Mexico that she and her grandson left behind more than three decades ago. With no clear pathway to U.S. citizenship, the two have built a forever home of sorts online.

“She’s old and she’s been through so much, from poverty in Mexico to all that we’ve experienced in the United States,” Mr. Reyes said. “My goal now is to make sure that she’s happy and not always talking about how sad her life was. And people love her here and know her as the abuelita. It’s beautiful.”

Whether it’s being recognized at the market or having flowers or care packages sent to her home by strangers who have encountered her online, she has become a local celebrity.

“As a little girl, I wanted to be an artist,” Ms. Galeana said in Spanish. “I would dance and sing and want to be on the movie theater screen. But it never happened.”

But later that week, after Mr. Reyes had fixed her hair and done her makeup, she was ready to be the star of a video that would be seen by thousands.



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The Paris Olympics’ One Sure Thing: Cyberattacks

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In his office on one of the upper floors of the headquarters of the Paris Olympic organizing committee, Franz Regul has no doubt what is coming.

“We will be attacked,” said Mr. Regul, who leads the team responsible for warding off cyberthreats against this year’s Summer Games in Paris.

Companies and governments around the world now all have teams like Mr. Regul’s that operate in spartan rooms equipped with banks of computer servers and screens with indicator lights that warn of incoming hacking attacks. In the Paris operations center, there is even a red light to alert the staff to the most severe danger.

So far, Mr. Regul said, there have been no serious disruptions. But as the months until the Olympics tick down to weeks and then days and hours, he knows the number of hacking attempts and the level of risk will rise exponentially. Unlike companies and governments, though, who plan for the possibility of an attack, Mr. Regul said he knew exactly when to expect the worst.

“Not many organizations can tell you they will be attacked in July and August,” he said.

Worries over security at major events like the Olympics have usually focused on physical threats, like terrorist attacks. But as technology plays a growing role in the Games rollout, Olympic organizers increasingly view cyberattacks as a more constant danger.

The threats are manifold. Experts say hacking groups and countries like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran now have sophisticated operations capable of disabling not just computer and Wi-Fi networks but also digital ticketing systems, credential scanners and even the timing systems for events.

Fears about hacking attacks are not just hypothetical. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, a successful attack nearly derailed the Games before they could begin.

That cyberattack started on a frigid night as fans arrived for the opening ceremony. Signs that something was amiss came all at once. The Wi-Fi network, an essential tool to transmit photographs and news coverage, suddenly went down. Simultaneously, the official Olympics smartphone app — the one that held fans’ tickets and essential transport information — stopped functioning, preventing some fans from entering the stadium. Broadcast drones were grounded and internet-linked televisions meant to show images of the ceremony across venues went blank.

But the ceremony went ahead, and so did the Games. Dozens of cybersecurity officials worked through the night to repel the attack and to fix the glitches, and by the next morning there was little sign that a catastrophe had been averted when the first events got underway.

Since then, the threat to the Olympics has only grown. The cybersecurity team at the last Summer Games, in Tokyo in 2021, reported that it faced 450 million attempted “security events.” Paris expects to face eight to 12 times that number, Mr. Regul said.

Perhaps to demonstrate the scale of the threat, Paris 2024 cybersecurity officials use military terminology freely. They describe “war games” meant to test specialists and systems, and refer to feedback from “veterans of Korea” that has been integrated into their evolving defenses.

Experts say a variety of actors are behind most cyberattacks, including criminals trying to hold data in exchange for a lucrative ransom and protesters who want to highlight a specific cause. But most experts agree that only nation states have the ability to carry out the biggest attacks.

The 2018 attack in Pyeongchang was initially blamed on North Korea, South Korea’s antagonistic neighbor. But experts, including agencies in the U.S. and Britain, later concluded that the true culprit — now widely accepted to be Russia — deliberately used techniques designed to pin the blame on someone else.

This year, Russia is once again the biggest focus.

Russia’s team has been barred from the Olympics following the country’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, although a small group of individual Russians will be permitted to compete as neutral athletes. France’s relationship with Russia has soured so much that President Emmanuel Macron recently accused Moscow of attempting to undermine the Olympics through a disinformation campaign.

The International Olympic Committee has also pointed the finger at attempts by Russian groups to damage the Games. In November, the I.O.C. issued an unusual statement saying it had been targeted by defamatory “fake news posts” after a documentary featuring an A.I.-generated voice-over purporting to be the actor Tom Cruise appeared on YouTube.

Later, a separate post on Telegram — the encrypted messaging and content platform — mimicked a fake news item broadcast by the French network Canal Plus and aired false information that the I.O.C. was planning to bar Israeli and Palestinian teams from the Paris Olympics.

Earlier this year, Russian pranksters — impersonating a senior African official — managed to get Thomas Bach, the I.O.C. president, on the phone. The call was recorded and released earlier this month. Russia seized on Mr. Bach’s remarks to accuse Olympic officials of engaging in a “conspiracy” to keep its team out of the Games.

In 2019, according to Microsoft, Russian state hackers attacked the computer networks of at least 16 national and international sports and antidoping organizations, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, which at the time was poised to announce punishments against Russia related to its state-backed doping program.

Three years earlier, Russia had targeted antidoping officials at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. According to indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers filed by the United States Department of Justice, operatives in that incident spoofed hotel Wi-Fi networks used by antidoping officials in Brazil to successfully penetrate their organization’s email networks and databases.

Ciaran Martin, who served as the first chief executive of Britain’s national cybersecurity center, said Russia’s past behavior made it “the most obvious disruptive threat” at the Paris Games. He said areas that might be targeted included event scheduling, public broadcasts and ticketing systems.

“Imagine if all athletes are there on time, but the system scanning iPhones at the gate has gone down,” said Mr. Martin, who is now a professor at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.

“Do you go through with a half-empty stadium, or do we delay?” he added. “Even being put in that position where you either have to delay it or have world-class athletes in the biggest event of their lives performing in front of a half-empty stadium — that’s absolutely a failure.”

Mr. Regul, the Paris cybersecurity head, declined to speculate about any specific nation that might target this summer’s Games. But he said organizers were preparing to counter methods specific to countries that represent a “strong cyberthreat.”

This year, Paris organizers have been conducting what they called “war games” in conjunction with the I.O.C. and partners like Atos, the Games’ official technology partner, to prepare for attacks. In those exercises, so-called ethical hackers are hired to attack systems in place for the Games, and “bug bounties” are offered to those who discover vulnerabilities.

Hackers have previously targeted sports organizations with malicious emails, fictional personas, stolen passwords and malware. Since last year, new hires at the Paris organizing committee have undergone training to spot phishing scams.

“Not everyone is good,” Mr. Regul said.

In at least one case, a Games staff member paid an invoice to an account after receiving an email impersonating another committee official. Cybersecurity staff members also discovered an email account that had attempted to impersonate the one assigned to the Paris 2024 chief, Tony Estanguet.

Millions more attempts are coming. Cyberattacks have typically been “weapons of mass irritation rather than weapons of mass destruction,” said Mr. Martin, the former British cybersecurity official.

“At their worst,” he said, “they’ve been weapons of mass disruption.”

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'Bad at almost everything': AI wearable panned by reviewers

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A new AI-fuelled gadget has fallen foul of the tech world’s expectations.

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Microsoft Makes High-Stakes Play in Tech Cold War With Emirati A.I. Deal

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Microsoft on Tuesday plans to announce a $1.5 billion investment in G42, an artificial intelligence giant in the United Arab Emirates, in a deal largely orchestrated by the Biden administration to box out China as Washington and Beijing battle over who will exercise technological influence in the Gulf region and beyond.

Under the partnership, Microsoft will give G42 permission to sell Microsoft services that use powerful A.I. chips, which are used to train and fine-tune generative A.I. models. In return, G42, which has been under scrutiny by Washington for its ties to China, will use Microsoft’s cloud services and accede to a security arrangement negotiated in detailed conversations with the U.S. government. It places a series of protections on the A.I. products shared with G42 and includes an agreement to strip Chinese gear out of G42’s operations, among other steps.

“When it comes to emerging technology, you cannot be both in China’s camp and our camp,” said Gina Raimondo, the Commerce Secretary, who traveled twice to the U.A.E. to talk about security arrangements for this and other partnerships.

The accord is highly unusual, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said in an interview, reflecting the U.S. government’s extraordinary concern about protecting the intellectual property behind A.I. programs.

“The U.S. is quite naturally concerned that the most important technology is guarded by a trusted U.S. company,” said Mr. Smith, who will take a seat on G42’s board.

The investment could help the United States push back against China’s rising influence in the Gulf region. If the moves succeed, G42 would be brought into the U.S. fold and pare back its ties with China. The deal could also become a model for how U.S. firms leverage their technological leadership in A.I. to lure countries away from Chinese tech, while reaping huge financial awards.

But the matter is sensitive, as U.S. officials have raised questions about G42. This year, a congressional committee wrote a letter urging the Commerce Department to look into whether G42 should be put under trade restrictions for its ties to China, which include partnerships with Chinese firms and employees who came from government-connected companies.

In an interview, Ms. Raimondo, who has been at the center of an effort to prevent China from obtaining the most advanced semiconductors and the equipment to make them, said the agreement “does not authorize the transfer of artificial intelligence, or A.I. models, or GPUs” — the processors needed to develop A.I. applications — and “assures those technologies can be safely developed, protected and deployed.”

While the U.A.E. and United States did not sign a separate accord, Ms. Raimondo said, “We have been extensively briefed and we are comfortable that this agreement is consistent with our values.”

In a statement, Peng Xiao, the group chief executive of G42, said that “through Microsoft’s strategic investment, we are advancing our mission to deliver cutting-edge A.I. technologies at scale.”

The United States and China have been racing to exert technological influence in the Gulf, where hundreds of billions of dollars are up for grabs and major investors, including Saudi Arabia, are expected to spend billions on the technology. In the rush to diversify away from oil, many leaders in the region have set their sights on A.I. — and have been happy to play the United States and China off each other.

Although the U.A.E. is an important U.S. diplomatic and intelligence partner, and one of the largest buyers of American weapons, it has increasingly expanded its military and economic ties with China. A portion of its domestic surveillance system is built on Chinese technology and its telecommunications work on hardware from Huawei, a Chinese supplier. That has fed the worries of U.S. officials, who often visit the Persian Gulf nation to discuss security issues.

But U.S. officials are also concerned that the spread of powerful A.I. technology critical to national security could eventually be used by China or by Chinese government-linked engineers, if not sufficiently guarded. Last month, a U.S. cybersecurity review board sharply criticized Microsoft over a hack in which Chinese attackers gained access to data from top officials. Any major leak — for instance, by G42 selling Microsoft A.I. solutions to companies set up in the region by China — would go against Biden administration policies that have sought to limit China’s access to the cutting-edge technology.

“This is among the most advanced technology that the U.S. possesses,” said Gregory Allen, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former U.S. defense official who worked on A.I. “There should be very strategic rationale for offshoring it anywhere.”

For Microsoft, a deal with G42 offers potential access to huge Emirati wealth. The company, whose chairman is Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, the Emirates’ national security adviser and the younger brother of the country’s ruler, is a core part of the U.A.E.’s efforts to become a major A.I. player.

Despite a name whimsically drawn from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” in which the answer to the “ultimate question of life” is 42, G42 is deeply embedded in the Emirati security state. It specializes in A.I. and recently worked to build an Arabic chatbot, called Jais.

G42 is also focused on biotechnology and surveillance. Several of its executives, including Mr. Xiao, were associated with a company called DarkMatter, an Emirati cyber-intelligence and hacking firm that employs former spies.

In its letter this year, the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party said Mr. Xiao was connected to an expansive network of companies that “materially support” the Chinese military’s technological advancement.

The origins of Tuesday’s accord go back to White House meetings last year, when top national security aides raised the question with tech executives of how to encourage business arrangements that would deepen U.S. ties to firms around the world, especially those China is also interested in.

Under the agreement, G42 will cease using Huawei telecom equipment, which the United States fears could provide a backdoor for the Chinese intelligence agencies. The accord further commits G42 to seeking permission before it shares its technologies with other governments or militaries and prohibits it from using the technology for surveillance. Microsoft will also have the power to audit G42’s use of its technology.

G42 would get use of A.I. computing power in Microsoft’s data center in the U.A.E., sensitive technology that cannot be sold in the country without an export license. Access to the computing power would likely give G42 a competitive edge in the region. A second phase of the deal, which could prove even more controversial and has not yet been negotiated, could transfer some of Microsoft’s A.I. technology to G42.

American intelligence officials have raised concerns about G42’s relationship to China in a series of classified assessments, The New York Times previously reported. Biden administration officials have also pushed their Emirati counterparts to cut the company’s ties to China. Some officials believe the U.S. pressure campaign has yielded some results, but remain concerned about less overt ties between G42 and China.

One G42 executive previously worked at the Chinese A.I. surveillance company Yitu, which has extensive ties to China’s security services and runs facial-recognition powered monitoring across the country. The company has also had ties to a Chinese genetics giant, BGI, whose subsidiaries were placed on a blacklist by the Biden administration last year. Mr. Xiao also led a firm that was involved in 2019 in starting and operating a social media app, ToTok, that U.S. intelligence agencies said was an Emirati spy tool used to harvest user data.

In recent months, G42 has agreed to walk back some of its China ties, including divesting a stake it took in TikTok owner ByteDance and pulling out Huawei technology from its operations, according to U.S. officials.

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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