November 13 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Microsoft Official Blog An update on our AI for Health program
We launched our AI for Health program in January to use artificial intelligence (AI) and data to help improve the health of people and communities worldwide. Shortly thereafter, Covid-19 hit us head on and became a global health pandemic that upended the lives of people, communities and economies around the world. Recognizing the global impact of this disease, we mobilized AI for Health in April to focus on helping those on the front lines of Covid-19 research.

Healio AI-generated score could predict prognosis of outpatients with COVID-19
A novel artificial intelligence-generated score can predict the prognosis of patients who present with COVID-19 in the outpatient setting, according to results from a single-center study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The prediction model, which can be implemented in electronic health records, was created by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and validated prospectively. The investigators named it the COVID-19 acuity (CoVA) score.

Politico Russia, North Korea trying to hack coronavirus researchers, Microsoft says
Coronavirus research and potential vaccines have become a major target of nation-state hackers during the pandemic. Russian and North Korean government operatives have attempted to breach seven high-profile companies developing coronavirus vaccines and treatments and have succeeded on several occasions, Microsoft said Friday.


Microsoft Official Blog Building new bridges: Our thoughts on the U.S. election
In 2016, as the United States emerged from a close and contentious national election, we published a blog on the need to find new ways for the country to move forward together. As we reflected that year on the election of Donald Trump, we started with a straightforward proposition, saying: “Every president-elect deserves our congratulations, best wishes and support for the country as a whole. The peaceful transition of power has been an enduring and vital part of our democracy for over two centuries, and it remains so today.”

Wall Street Journal Artificial Intelligence Shows Potential to Gauge Voter Sentiment
In the months leading up to Election Day, pollsters placed voters under the microscope, parsing data from telephone surveys and past voting trends to determine probable outcomes. By Tuesday evening, as results veered from predictions, it was the pollsters’ turn under the microscope. There are alternative ways of assessing sentiment, though. Some technology experts say artificial intelligence, used increasingly by companies to gauge customer sentiment, could hold promise for better understanding the electorate.

WIRED One Clear Message From Voters This Election? More Privacy
As the most important outcome of the 2020 election remains in flux, voters in California and Michigan approved new privacy laws Tuesday: California’s Prop 24, which extends provisions of a 2018 privacy law, and Michigan’s Prop 2, which consolidates piecemeal orders into a requirement for police to seek search warrants before seizing electronic data.

Associated Press Post-election vote tallying raises fresh security concerns
Election Day came and went without any overt signs of foreign interference affecting the vote, but that doesn’t mean the risk has faded. A prolonged vote-tallying period in swing states raises the prospect of multiple security concerns, including foreign or domestic disinformation campaigns that could sow doubt in the process as well as actual digital manipulation of vote tabulation. Even so, there have been no indications of any foreign activity that could alter the vote count or stop votes from being tallied.


Reuters House Democrats urge U.S. FTC, FCC to halt work on controversial items
Senior Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday demanded Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Federal Trade Commission Chairman (FTC) Joseph Simons halt work on all partisan or controversial items in light of last week’s presidential election results.

Cyberscoop US seizes more domains with ties to suspected Iranian influence campaign
The U.S. Department of Justice’s actions against alleged Iranian influence campaigns continued this week with the seizure of 27 internet domains, including four that the feds say were targeted directly at U.S. audiences. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unlawfully used the domains in operations to “covertly influence” opinions in the U.S. and elsewhere, the department said in an announcement Wednesday.

VentureBeat Microsoft and OpenAI propose automating U.S. tech export controls
Microsoft and OpenAI, the AI research lab in which Microsoft has invested over $1 billion, today submitted a document to the U.S. government describing how a “digitally transformed” export controls system might work and the benefits it could provide. The organizations suggest that their proposed solutions could bring commercial benefits to users, as well as a more powerful, dynamic, and targeted method for controlling U.S. exports of fundamental technologies.

New York Times Biden Is Expected to Keep Scrutiny of Tech Front and Center
The tech industry had it easy under President Barack Obama. Regulators brought no major charges, executives rotated in and out of the administration, and efforts to strengthen privacy laws fizzled out. The industry will have it much harder under president-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Bipartisan support to restrain its power has grown sharply during the Trump administration, and shows no signs of going away as Democrats regain control of the White House.

NPR How Will Tech Policy Change In The Biden White House? Here’s What You Need To Know
Like the man he’s set to replace, President-elect Joe Biden doesn’t plan to play nice with Silicon Valley. He has promised to go hard on Big Tech, both taking Facebook to task for not doing enough to curb disinformation and backing the repeal of a law that has long protected the technology industry. “The era of permissionless innovation is over,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies tech policy.


Microsoft Official Blog Closing the digital divide in K-12 education: A call to action
For millions of students around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a seismic shift in the way they study, socialize and receive a formal education. In fact, we know that more than 1.6 billion students globally have experienced a disruption to the traditional learning experience. Unfortunately, we also know that the impact of this disruption will be borne disproportionately by the world’s most vulnerable learners.

Reuters Google says it will not file motion to dismiss U.S. lawsuit
Alphabet’s Google said on Friday it would not file a motion to dismiss a U.S. government lawsuit filed last month but would fight it in federal court. The U.S. Justice Department sued the $1 trillion search and advertising giant in October, accusing it of illegally using its market muscle to hobble rivals in the biggest challenge to the power and influence of Big Tech in decades.

Wall Street Journal Private 5G Networks Are Bringing Bandwidth Where Carriers Aren’t
In the hills of southwestern Wisconsin, atop grain elevators and silos, a small team of technicians is assembling a next-generation wireless 5G network piece by piece. They work for a rural broadband company, not a telecom giant, and their mission is bringing connectivity to homes that otherwise wouldn’t have it, rather than helping people max out the speeds on their new $1,000 phones. David Bangert, the 51-year-old founder of WiConnect Wireless, still lives on the farm where he grew up, just outside of Ithaca, Wis. His company has nine employees and serves broadband internet to 1,400 rural households in seven counties.

Fortune T-Mobile will extend fast 5G service nationwide in 2021, pressuring rivals
T-Mobile will offer nearly nationwide coverage on its super-fast 5G network by the end of 2021, company executives said on Thursday, a move that could pressure rivals Verizon and AT&T to keep pace. At the end of next year, the network will blanket an area where 200 million people live, the company promised. Previously, it had said that its network, which is currently available to 30 million people, would expand to a potential market of 100 million people by the end of 2020.

PCMag From Painfully Slow to Lightning Fast: SpaceX’s Starlink Makes Rural Internet Usable
Nickolas Friedrich lives in central Montana, where his local broadband connectivity hasn’t been good. Every month, he pays about $120 for a measly 0.8Mbps download speed from the only DSL provider in town. And his connection can freeze up when too many neighbors are on the service at once. As a result, streaming videos isn’t really possible.


The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on Biden Transition and Tech Policy
    “Don’t bother building the transition team,” Donald Trump reportedly told Chris Christie whom he assigned to head that effort, “you and I can leave the victory party two hours early and learn everything we need to know to run the federal government.” Now, four years later, that attitude has delivered to President-elect Biden’s transition team perhaps the most arduous task ever faced by such an effort. Confronting the Biden transition are five existential crises. The pandemic is surging. The economy is stalling. Social justice is faltering. Climate change is on a rampage. And the government that is essential to dealing with each of these problems has been hollowed out by four years of constant attacks. (TechTank – Transitioning tech policy in an existential crisisNovember 9, 2020)

Cato Institute

  • Blog on Content Moderation
    Many Americans will remember 2020 as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump v. Biden presidential election campaigns. As COVID-19 spread and the election came closer, millions of Americans took to online platforms to express their opinions, theories, and stories and to seek information. Platforms were put in the unenviable position of developing content moderation policies related to the pandemic and election season, trying to halt the spread of potentially life‐​threatening medical misinformation and political conspiracy theories. These efforts made “Big Tech” content moderation one of the most discussed legislative issues of the year. (Cato at Liberty – A Year of Content Moderation and Section 230, November 2, 2020)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on California’s Privacy Legislation
    California’s Proposition 24, which amended the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), passed on Tuesday, forcing businesses that have already struggled to comply with the CCPA’s onerous and costly obligations to start over with a new set of even more burdensome rules. Notably, it removed one of the CCPA’s only positive, common-sense provisions: its 30-day notice and cure period, which gives businesses a grace period to avoid penalties if they fix violations within 30 days. (ITIF Blog – Proposition 24 Took Away the Only Good Thing in California’s Privacy Legislation, November 4, 2020)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.