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Coronavirus Roundup: Contact Tracing Gold Rush, Tech Companies’ Misinformation Criteria, Additional Telelearning Funds

Elijah Labby

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Photo of Sen. Charles Schumer by U.S. Customs and Border Protection used with permission

May 12, 2020 — As the United States turns its focus to reopening, tech companies are looking at the opportunities for contact-tracing technology as the next tech gold rush, CNBC reported.

Contact-tracing technology, as seen in South Korea, would use GPS technology to tell users if they have come within a certain distance of an infected person.

Large tech companies such as Apple and Google are developing their versions of such technology, trying to tap into what one analyst says could be a $4.3 billion market.

Such technology could hasten the return from quarantine for millions of Americans. Still, the privacy issues associated with publicly tracking the locations of millions are not hard to imagine and could lead to lawsuits that would stall such a rollout.

Tech companies’ misinformation criteria challenging to implement 

While coronavirus misinformation continues to spread, tech companies’ policies on false claims are undergoing a stress test. Companies such as Twitter and Facebook have stated that they will remove deceptive information about the coronavirus from their websites, Axios reported.

However, the coronavirus’s relative newness and the lack of conclusive findings on its contraction, spread, and remediation can make it difficult to conclude which claims are nefarious and which are merely misguided.

Videos such as One America News Network’s “Deep State, China use COVID-19 for population control: Soros, Clintons, Gates suspected of Beijing-WHO cover-up to seize COVID-19 cure, undo U.S. Constitution” can be challenging to categorize.

The video's claims are unproven and conspiratorial, but do not meet YouTube’s guidelines for misinformation, which state that a video must be “technically manipulated or doctored in a way that misleads users and may pose a serious risk of egregious harm.”

Democratic senators propose additional funding for K-12 telelearning

Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., on Wednesday introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act, which would provide increased internet functionality and telelearning technology for displaced students in an attempt to narrow the digital educational divide.

The bill met with support from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, among others.

The legislation is the Senate partner of a bill introduced in the House last week by Congresswoman Grace Meng, D-N.Y., but increases the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion, citing the growing expected length of the crisis.

“It’s time to level the playing field for all students, including those from rural communities, low income families, immigrants, and families of color, which is why we’re proposing major legislation to immediately give the schools and libraries the tools they need to offer hotspots or Wi-Fi capable devices to help students connect, communicate and excel during this challenging time,” Sen. Schumer said.

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