How tech companies are ramping up efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic

Their efforts didn’t always go smoothly.


March 16, 2020

As the markets plunged again on Monday and the government warned people to avoid gathering in groups of 10+, big tech companies were ramping up their efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Those efforts hit a few speed bumps. Here’s a quick recap.

Let’s start in Google’s corner

Verily, the life-sciences division of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), launched a much-talked-about site for coronavirus screening and information, focused on 2 counties in the San Francisco Bay area.

The website’s launch was rocky from the beginning. Last Friday, President Trump ignited confusion by vastly overselling a Google site focused on the virus. 

A Verily portal did go live on Sunday evening, but it quickly ran into problems, and by Monday it said it could no longer schedule new appointments. Google’s CEO said a separate national site, with best practices and other resources, would go live Monday night, but the company ended up delaying it.

Meanwhile, over at Planet YouTube…

… Google said it would increase its reliance on automated systems to moderate content (the work is typically done by thousands of humans).

The company warned that users could see “increased video removals, including some videos that may not violate policies.”

And finally, at the White House

A task force of Silicon Valley’s tech giants is accelerating efforts to solve problems caused by the virus. Forty-five people took part in a meeting with White House officials, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Elsewhere: 

  • OpenAI’s Sam Altman is looking for virus-related startups to fund. 
  • Amazon is hiring 100k more workers to support booming demand for deliveries. 
  • Microsoft launched a coronavirus tracker. 
  • Makeup and perfume factories are pivoting to hand sanitizer
  • Alibaba’s founder is sending test kits and masks to the US. 
  • 24k coronavirus-related research papers now reside in 1 place.

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