The FINANCIAL — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and other tech companies participated in teleconference planned by White House. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios led the call. White House officials urged the tech industry to coordinate its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories on major social media sites.
White House officials discussed combating online misinformation about the coronavirus and other measures during a teleconference Wednesday with tech companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios led the call, which also included representatives from Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and other companies and tech trade groups. The discussion focused on information-sharing with the federal government, coordination regarding telehealth and online education and the creation of new tools to help researchers review scholarship, according to a statement from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Officials from the Labor Department, Health and Human Services Department, Education Department, National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies also joined the call, Yahoo wrote.
Three participants described the phone-and-video conversation on the condition of anonymity because the session was private. Most tech companies in attendance either did not respond or declined to comment, The Washington Post reported. During the session, which participants described as a collegial brainstorm, White House officials urged the tech industry to coordinate its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories on major social media sites, urging the companies to swap intelligence about harmful hoaxes before they go viral, the three participants said. The Trump administration did not single out any company or fault the industry for its practices, The Washington Post.
U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios discussed the planned release of a new database of full-text coronavirus-related scholarly literature and urged tech firms to use tools like “artificial intelligence, to help medical researchers glean scientific insights from this collection of articles,” the White House said. “Cutting edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort,” he said, as reported by Reuters.
Misinformation about the virus has erupted online: In one instance the French government stepped in to counter a fake claim circulating online that cocaine cured the virus. Other fake cures include marijuana, coconut oil, and bleach. Amazon has also announced it’s working with state attorneys general to fight a surge in price gouging on its platform after third-party sellers started jacking up the prices of items like face masks and hand sanitizer. The companies have had to react to the virus on the home front as well. Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook have all asked their employees to work from home rather than come into their Seattle and Silicon Valley offices. In Amazon and Facebook’s case this was after workers at their Seattle offices tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Amazon has also taken the extraordinary step of announcing it won’t penalize its warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off during the month of March. The virus poses a different threat to Apple, as the outbreak has put a huge dent in both its supply chain and consumer behavior. Stats issued by the Chinese government this week showed the phone giant sold just 500,000 iPhones in China last month, less than half of its usual figure, Business insider wrote.
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