Hillicon Valley: Twitter targets coronavirus misinformation | Facebook bans sanitizer, virus test ads to prevent price gouging | DHS defines critical jobs during outbreak | Remote working apps surge

Hillicon Valley: Twitter targets coronavirus misinformation | Facebook bans sanitizer, virus test ads to prevent price gouging | DHS defines critical jobs during outbreak | Remote working apps surge

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Welcome! Follow cyber reporter Maggie Miller (@magmill95) and tech reporter Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) for more coverage.



CORONAVIRUS MISINFORMATION: Twitter is expanding its coronavirus misinformation policy to include a wider variety of content that could put people at risk of transmitting or contracting COVID-19.

Under the new rules announced Wednesday, Twitter will require users to take down posts that deny expert recommendations, promote fake treatments and prevention techniques, or misleadingly claim to be from authorities.

It will also take action against posts alleging that any particular group or nationality is more or less susceptible to coronavirus. 

In a blog post that includes an extended list of the content violating the new policy, Twitter also said it is adjusting how it locates posts and enforces rules.

The social media platform is increasing its use of machine learning and automation, although no permanent suspensions will be made using automated enforcement.

Read more here.



DECLINED: Twitter on Thursday denied a request by President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE's campaign to put a "manipulated media" warning tag on content spread by Democrats under the social media giant's new policy aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation.

According to emails reviewed by The Hill, the Trump campaign flagged new content on Twitter that it said had been deceptively edited to make it seem like the president had called the coronavirus a "hoax."

At issue is a new video that has been viewed millions of times featuring audio of Trump saying: "The coronavirus, this is their new hoax."

The Washington Post's fact checkers gave Four Pinocchios to a previous advertisement from former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' Should deficits matter any more? Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate MORE's campaign using the same audio.

Trump's full quote was: "Coronavirus. They're politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, 'How's President Trump doing?', 'Oh, nothing, nothing.' They have no clue, they don't have any clue ... And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that's been pretty amazing."

Read more here.


BANNED: Facebook will ban ads for certain high-demand products during the coronavirus pandemic as a measure to protect against price inflation, a company official said Thursday.

The social media platform will ban ads for hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 test kits in ads and commerce listings, Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern tweeted. 

"This is another step to help protect against inflated prices and predatory behavior we're seeing," he tweeted. 

"We'll be ramping up our automated enforcement for ads and commerce next week. If we see abuse around these products in organic posts, we'll remove those, too," he added. 

Read more here.


CRITICAL JOBS: The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cybersecurity agency on Thursday issued guidelines defining critical workers who the Trump administration is encouraging to maintain a "normal working schedule" during the coronavirus pandemic. 


The workers defined as critical by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) span a wide variety of fields, including those in the health care sector and those working in grocery stores and delivering food.

The CISA guidelines were developed in response to President Trump's "Coronavirus Guidance for America" published earlier this week. In the earlier guidance, Trump told those working in a "critical infrastructure industry" as defined by DHS that they had "a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule." 

CISA Director Christopher Krebs emphasized in the introduction to the new guidelines that they were not "a federal directive," and were "advisory in nature."

"As State and local communities consider COVID-19-related restrictions, CISA is offering this list to assist prioritizing activities related to continuity of operations and incident response, including the appropriate movement of critical infrastructure workers within and between jurisdictions," Krebs wrote. 

Read more here.


REMOTE WORKING APPS SURGE: Remote working software is seeing a surge in use as the spread of coronavirus moves many jobs and classes online.


Microsoft's Teams chat and conferencing app has gained more than 12 million daily users in the last seven days alone, a spokesperson for the company told The Hill on Thursday.

Teams now has 44 million daily users that have produced 900 million meeting and calling minutes each day of the week.

"It's very clear that enabling remote work is more important than ever, and that it will continue to have lasting value beyond the COVID-19 outbreak," Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

"We are committed to building the tools that help organizations, teams, and individuals stay productive and connected even when they need to work apart."

Remote conference service Zoom has also seen an uptick in usage as coronavirus has spread.

While the company declined to provide The Hill with specific figures on usage rates, it pointed to commentary from CEO Eric Yuan during a conference call on fourth quarter earnings earlier this month.

Read more here.



STAY IN SCHOOL: A group of Democratic senators on Thursday strongly urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure students taking classes at home due to the coronavirus have access to the internet.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Biden agenda, Trump impeachment trial dominate Klobuchar says Senate impeachment trial of former official is constitutional: 'We have precedent' MORE (D-Minn.), Gary PetersGary PetersSenate committee advances Biden's DHS pick despite Republican pushback The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Two Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots MORE (D-Mich.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTo protect our parks, hit pause on leasing Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence MORE (D-Mont.) emphasized the importance of K-12 students currently studying from home having access to the internet. 

"In an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, 41 states across the country -- including ours -- have closed their schools, and additional closures are expected," the senators wrote. "Meanwhile, nearly 12 million students still do not have access to the internet at home."

They emphasized that "as states temporarily close their schools and move to online instruction to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, the FCC must take action to expand internet availability and keep Americans informed."

The senators requested that the FCC create a "consumer-friendly web portal" to enable Americans to find Wi-Fi hot spots, contacts for telecommunications companies and information on federal assistance. They emphasized this was particularly important for students without stable access to the internet. 

Read more here.


EU VS. NETFLIX: The European Union is calling on Netflix and other streaming services to use standard definition when possible to ensure internet access for all.

The push comes as internet usage rises as people across the globe are encouraged to stay home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for the EU internal market, urged streaming services to opt for 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."

Read more here.


AMAZON WAREHOUSE CLOSED: Amazon is temporarily closing a New York delivery station after one of its workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

An Amazon spokesperson told The Hill on Thursday that the individual is now in quarantine and that the warehouse, DBK1, has enhanced its "daily deep cleaning" at the location as a precautionary measure.

"We've temporarily closed the Queens delivery station for additional sanitation and have sent associates home with full pay," the spokesperson said, adding that Amazon is following guidelines from local officials about the operations of its buildings.

The Atlantic first reported the development. It is unclear when the warehouse will reopen.

The coronavirus outbreak has gripped the U.S., causing mass closures of businesses and schools and forcing many to be asked to stay in their homes. Amazon announced earlier this week that it would suspend shipments of nonessential items to its warehouses in the United States and the United Kingdom because of shortages caused by the worldwide outbreak.

Read more here.


Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskShould deficits matter any more? SpaceX, Amazon spar over plans for satellites: report WhatsApp delays controversial privacy update MORE CHIPS IN: Tech billionaire Elon Musk offered to produce ventilators in the event of a shortage during the coronavirus outbreak.

"We will make ventilators if there is a shortage," Musk, the founder to Tesla, said on Twitter late Wednesday night.

Musk went on to indicate that he would direct that ventilators be sent to hospitals acutely affected by a potential shortage but that production would take time.

"Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?" he tweeted in response to a question from FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver.

Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: Dark humor 


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Prepare now for the second wave of coronavirus hacking



Russian hackers use stolen corporate email accounts to mask phishing attempts (CyberScoop / Shannon Vavra) 

How (not) to market yourself during a global pandemic (Protocol / Andie Coller) 

Government efforts to track virus through phone location data complicated by privacy concerns (Washington Post / Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell)