White House seeks assistance from tech companies in fight against coronavirus

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The White House on Wednesday asked the tech industry’s top players to help the government in the fight against coronavirus, tapping the expertise of companies like Apple, Facebook and Amazon to help beat back falsehoods and use artificial intelligence to glean new insights into the fast-spreading virus. 

In a phone call, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios implored the companies to help out with an “all-hands-on-deck effort” to fight the new coronavirus.

“The White House’s top priority is ensuring the safety and health of the American people amid the COVID-19 outbreak,” Kratsios said in a statement. “Cutting edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort.”

According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, top tech trade groups and companies participated in the call, including Apple, Cisco, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, the Consumer Technology Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and others.

Representatives from multiple federal agencies also participated in the call, including the National Institutes of Health, Department of Labor, Department of Education and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

The meeting revolved around how the tech industry can better coordinate with the government to get out authoritative facts about the coronavirus while cracking down on the spread of bunk cures and conspiracy theories spreading online. 

Officials also discussed how artificial intelligence could “make it easier for medical researchers” to review data about the coronavirus, according to a readout. 

“With a critical mass of expert organizations, official government accounts, health professionals, and epidemiologists on Twitter, our goal is to elevate and amplify authoritative health information on our service,” a Twitter spokesman said after the meeting. Members of Twitter’s public policy team participated in the morning call, the company said.

“We appreciate the administration’s efforts to convene our government partners and industry peers as we work together to solve this global problem,” the spokesman added. “We’re committed to collaboration, which is key to protecting the public conversation around this critical public health issue.”

The tech industry is also playing a pivotal role as more U.S. companies pivot to telework, which relies on many of the video-conferencing and document-sharing tools offered by the large tech companies. 

“Today’s meeting outlined an initial path forward and we intend to continue this important conversation,” said Kratsios. 

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