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Hillicon Valley: Senators press Amazon over workplace safety amid outbreak | Lyft expands to deliveries | Dems seek election security funds in stimulus package

Hillicon Valley: Senators press Amazon over workplace safety amid outbreak | Lyft expands to deliveries | Dems seek election security funds in stimulus package
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

 

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SENATORS PRESS AMAZON ON WORKPLACES: A group of senators sent a letter to Amazon Friday pressing the online retailer about workplace safety at its distribution facilities amid the spread of coronavirus.

The letter to CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation MORE closely follows the first reported case of the novel coronavirus among Amazon employees, which was at a New York warehouse that has since closed.

"Any failure of Amazon to keep its workers safe does not just put their employees at risk, it puts the entire country at risk," Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker 'outs' Cruz as vegan; Cruz jokingly decries 'scurrilous attack' Why Latinos should oppose Barrett confirmation Judiciary Committee sets vote on Barrett's nomination for next week MORE (D-N.J.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report MORE (D-N.J.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night Georgia senator mocks Harris's name before Trump rally: 'Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know' MORE (I-Vt.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Mnuchin says he and Pelosi have agreed to restart coronavirus stimulus talks Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE (D-Ohio) wrote in the letter.

"Americans who are taking every precaution... might risk getting infected with COVID-19 because of Amazon's decision to prioritize efficiency and profits over the safety and well-being of its workforce."

The lawmakers pointed to reports in BuzzFeed News detailing shortages of disinfecting supplies, continued crowded meetings and strict write-up policies that would disincentivize proper sanitary habits.

"It is our understanding that if a warehouse employee coughs or sneezes, they can either take the time to wash their hands and risk being written up for falling short of their shipping expectations, or meet their shipping expectations and put themselves and their colleagues at risk," the senators wrote.

Amazon pushes back: A spokesperson for Amazon told The Hill that the claims in the lawmakers's letter are "unfounded."

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"Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it is not easy as supplies are limited, but we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable," they said in a statement.

"We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances.”

Read more on the senators' concerns here.

 

LYFT EXPANDS DELIVERY: Lyft announced Friday it is expanding its services to include delivery of medical supplies and food to vulnerable populations as coronavirus spreads.

The ride-share giant is partnering with governments and healthcare providers for contactless delivery of medical supplies and test kits.

Additionally, Lyft drivers will be able to pick up meals for distribution to seniors and children who previously received reduced price lunch. This program will begin in the Bay Area, but Lyft is planning to scale it up.

Lyft previously announced it would be stopping shared rides to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read more on the changes at Lyft here.

 

SENATORS CALL FOR ELECTION SECURITY STIMULUS: Democratic Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night Washington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote Supreme Court battle turns into 2020 proxy war MORE (Minn.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Sunday shows - Trump Michigan rally grabs the spotlight Democratic Delaware senator says he is open to expanding the Supreme Court MORE (Del.) urged the leaders of the House and Senate on Friday to include election security funding in an upcoming coronavirus funding package. 

"As Congress prepares additional legislation to protect the American people from COVID-19 and provide financial relief, we also must protect our elections," Klobuchar and Coons wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts The 2016 and 2020 Senate votes are about the same thing: constitutionalist judges Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking MORE (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate MORE (R-Calif.). 

"Americans are facing unprecedented disruptions to their daily lives, and we need to make sure that in the midst of this pandemic people do not lose their ability to vote," the senators emphasized.

Klobuchar, the lead Democrat on the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, and Coons highlighted a report released by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice that called on Congress to appropriate around $2 billion to states to allow the November elections to go forward following the coronavirus pandemic. 

The senators noted that this amount would be around 0.2 percent of the more than $1 trillion supplemental appropriations package that Congress is considering to provide aid to Americans and businesses in the midst of the national crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus. 

The money would be used to fund printing mail-in ballots, purchase cleaning supplies for polling sites, and to recruit and train election workers. 

Read more here.

 

GOP LAWMAKERS CALL FOR CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY TWITTER BAN: Two Republican lawmakers on Friday called on Twitter to ban the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from its platform following a surge in Chinese misinformation around the coronavirus. 

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseCornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' RNC chairwoman: Republicans should realize distancing themselves from Trump 'is hurting themselves in the long run' The Memo: Trump's second-term chances fade MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherGovernment watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems MORE (R-Wis.) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey strongly urging him to remove the CCP from the platform, and to block access to Twitter for any other foreign officials that ban the use of Twitter in their countries. 

"While the coronavirus pandemic is afflicting families, governments, and markets around the world, the Chinese Communist Party is waging a massive propaganda campaign to rewrite the history of COVID-19 and whitewash the Party's lies to the Chinese people and the world," Gallagher and Sasse wrote. 

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Twitter is blocked in China, Iran, and North Korea, but according to the lawmakers the CCP spreads misinformation on the platform outside of China, an issue Gallagher and Sasse heavily criticized.

"By banning Twitter in China, the Chinese Communist Party is keeping its citizens in the dark," they wrote. "By putting propaganda on Twitter, the Chinese Communist Party is lying to the rest of the world."

The lawmakers asked that Dorsey respond to several questions around how Twitter decides which officials are allowed to access the platform, how Twitter views tweets from the CCP and how Twitter rationalizes allowing the CCP to tweet out misinformation. 

Read more on their letter here.

 

IRELAND REVIEWING 3D PRINTED VENTILATOR: Health officials in Ireland are set to review a prototype 3D-printed ventilator next week created by an open-source hardware project started to address shortages driven by the spread of coronavirus.

"We have six prototypes that are ready to be manufactured and tested with validation by the [Health Service Executive] likely from next week," Colin Keogh, a 3D printing expert at University College Dublin and an early member of the Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies project, told The Irish Times.

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While Ireland is not currently facing a shortage of the ventilators, which are often needed to treat COVID-19 cases, getting approval from the country's regulatory body could lead to deployment elsewhere down the road.

"Developed countries may be able to cope with COVID-19, but emerging nations may find it that much harder to overcome," Keogh said. "So our overarching goal is to develop a functional medical device that will be certified for use in extreme emergencies."

Other countries are facing ventilator shortages already.

Read more here.

 

YOUTUBE, NETFLIX REDUCE STREAM QUALITY: Netflix and YouTube have announced that they would be reducing their quality of streaming in Europe to lessen the strain on the continent's internet capabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The moves comes after European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton, who oversees the EU internal market, implored streaming services to switch all streams to standard definition in a Wednesday tweet. 

"To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome," Breton tweeted. "Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure Internet access for all, let's #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary."

YouTube said on Friday that it would be switching to standard definition in Europe for the next 30 days.

"We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience," YouTube said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: "Let's circle back"

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Broadband network expansion has to tackle digital privacy protection

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

'We're all going to get sick eventually': Amazon workers are struggling to provide for a nation in quarantine (Verge / Josh Dzieza)

Working from home can make people more productive. Just not during a pandemic. (Recode / Rani Molla)

How the major conferences are adapting due to coronavirus (Protocol / Sofie Kodner) 

The Coder and the Dictator (New York Times / Nathaniel Popper and Ana Vanessa Herrero)