WASHINGTON – The White House on Wednesday sought new help from Amazon, Google and other tech giants in the fight against coronavirus, hoping that Silicon Valley might augment the government’s efforts to track the outbreak, disseminate accurate information and assist Americans who are out of work or school.
The requests came during a roughly two-hour meeting among top Trump administration aides, leading federal health authorities and representatives from companies including Cisco, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter. Washington seeks to leverage the tech industry’s powerful tools to connect workers and analyze data to stop an outbreak that’s infected more than 1,000 people in the United States.
Three participants described the meeting on the condition of anonymity because the session was private. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Most tech companies in attendance either did not respond or declined to comment.
White House officials urged the tech industry to coordinate their efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories on major social media sites, including by swapping intelligence about harmful hoaxes before they go viral, the three sources said.
While the Trump administration did not single out any company, or fault the industry for its behavior, its requests for better coordination came weeks after an unpublished State Department report found that millions of tweets peddled falsehoods about the deadly outbreak abroad. The Washington Post first reported on the document last month.
“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,” Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said in a statement.
Top White House aides – led by Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios – also said U.S. officials would soon make available more research about coronavirus, which he encouraged tech companies to analyze, according to the three participants. The hope, U.S. officials said, is that Silicon Valley might put its powerful artificial intelligence technologies to use in understanding and mapping the spread of the disease.
And companies pitched their own technologies: Amazon, for example, said its cloud-computing tools could help federal authorities in complicated tasks such as tracking travelers. Microsoft explained how it’s offered collaboration software to public-health authorities, and IBM and others pointed out how AI could help predict the spread of disease.