February 28, 2021

Tech Industry

A first-grade teacher tries to teach classes from her living room in San Francisco in March. During the pandemic, access to quality broadband internet has been essential for keeping kids learning. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Americans are struggling to pay for internet during the pandemic. The stimulus bill delivers much-needed help.

Tucked inside the $900 billion Covid-19 stimulus bill are some pretty big broadband provisions aimed at getting more Americans the internet, at a time when connection is so pivotal in so many parts of everyday life.

The pandemic relief bill, passed by both houses of Congress at the start of the week, sets aside $7 billion in funding for broadband connectivity and infrastructure. That amount includes $3.2 billion for a $50-a-month emergency broadband benefit for low-income households and those that have suffered a significant loss of income in 2020, and a $75-a-month rebate for those living on tribal … Read the rest


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Our pick for December 2020 and January 2021 are Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir.

The Vox Book Club is linking to Bookshop.org to support local and independent booksellers.

Here’s how the Vox Book Club works: Every month, we pick a book. Throughout the month, we publish discussion posts containing thoughts and questions from Vox book critic Constance Grady, but we also have comments turned on and moderated so you can share your thoughts, too. Talk among yourselves! Post your opinions and questions! Or use our discussion posts as a jumping-off point for (socially distanced) discussions with your friends and family. And at the end of the month, we gather on Zoom for a virtual live discussion.

Our picks for December 2020 and January 2021 are Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, the first two volumes of the Locked Tomb trilogy. … Read the rest


There were more searches for terms like “misinformation” and “disinformation” in 2020 than in years past. | John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Neither the media nor fact-checkers controlled the online conversation surrounding “misinformation” this year.

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It was hard to avoid misinformation online in 2020. A pandemic and a polarized presidential election had the internet swirling with everything from false cures for Covid-19 to misleading claims of election fraud. But another reason you kept encountering misinformation is that people have been talking about it a lot more than they were last year.

It’s become common for people across the political spectrum — and even noted spreaders of misinformation — to invoke the term “misinformation” to try to discredit facts and narratives they don’t like. The term has become a shorthand for dismissing political opponents in the polarized war over truth that’s being fought online.

According to the misinformation-tracking firm Zignal … Read the rest


Apple, led by CEO Tim Cook, might finally be ready to produce its own line of cars. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Apple car, if there is one, could be on the road by 2024.

The long-rumored, long-dead Apple car may have been resurrected. Reuters reports that Apple is planning to start production of its own line of electric cars with pioneering battery technology in 2024. Apple has not confirmed the report, but investors took the news seriously enough to send Tesla’s already volatile stock into a dip.

Apple has been trying to get a car project rolling for years with little public success so far — which makes the prospect of it actually producing its own car by 2024 no sure thing. That said, building a new car line is a daunting process that will always take time, especially if the company behind it is hoping to incorporate … Read the rest


President Trump speaks before signing an executive order targeting social media platforms for perceived anti-conservative bias. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The confusion over what happens to Trump’s official White House Twitter accounts, briefly explained.

When Joe Biden becomes president on January 20, his administration will gain control of the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse Twitter accounts. But the combined 60 million followers of those accounts may not be going with them.

The transfer has become an issue between Twitter and the Biden transition team, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Biden team wants to keep the followers of those accounts, as was the case for the Obama-Trump transition. Four years ago, and dealing with this issue for the first time, the Obama administration made it a point to make the digital transition as smooth and seamless as possible. This time, Twitter has other ideas.

“The accounts will not … Read the rest


Dave Lacknauth, executive director of pharmacy services, Broward Health Medical Center, shows off a bottle containing the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine on December 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The debate about which workers should get the Covid-19 vaccine next, explained.

Uber has spent years and millions of dollars making sure its workers aren’t classified as such and insisting it’s not responsible for those people’s health care. Now the company is pushing for its “earners” — the word it uses to refer to its drivers and delivery people so as not to call them workers — to get priority access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

It’s hardly alone in lobbying public health officials and states to put its people near the top of the list.

Companies and industry groups from across the economy are undertaking efforts at the federal and state level to make the case that when … Read the rest


Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, recently testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. | Hannah McKay/Getty Images

The move comes as false rumors about Covid-19 vaccines are surging online.

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On Wednesday, Twitter announced that it will begin to take down Covid-19 vaccine misinformation starting next week. The company plans to remove false vaccine content that it considers “the most harmful,” and later on it will start labeling other posts that could be misleading.

“In the context of a global pandemic, vaccine misinformation presents a significant and growing public health challenge — and we all have a role to play,” the company said in a blog post. “We are focused on mitigating misleading information that presents the biggest potential harm to people’s health and wellbeing.”

Twitter’s announcement follows similar pledges from both Facebook and YouTube, which recently said they’ll remove false information related to Covid-19 vaccines. The announcement also comes … Read the rest


Content that spreads doubt about vaccines is easy to find online. | Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Posts that discourage and make fun of Covid-19 vaccination are racking up engagement.

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Social media companies like Facebook and YouTube have ramped up their policies against coronavirus misinformation and banned false claims about Covid-19 vaccines. But as distribution of the vaccines begin, online accounts are exploiting loopholes in new policies and successfully sharing misleading claims that attempt to discourage vaccination.

Throughout the pandemic, platforms have established and updated rules meant to curb false claims related to Covid-19. Between March and October, Facebook took down 12 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram, and it added fact-checking labels to another 167 million posts. But the rollout of an authorized Covid-19 vaccine has forced social media companies to adapt again, changing their approach to both Covid-19 misinformation and longstanding anti-vaccination content.

There are already … Read the rest


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Surveillance software for remote learning is drawing criticism from privacy advocates and lawmakers.

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As the fall semester began at the University of Nevada, Reno, psychology professor Mark Lescroart faced an increasingly common dilemma for teachers: How to prevent his newly remote students from cheating on the quizzes and exams he’d designed to be taken in class with supervision.

“I have been uncomfortable with the idea that cheating is pretty easy when you’re online,” Lescroart told Recode in October.

One possible solution his university provided was Proctorio, an online proctoring service that uses machine learning. But Lescroart didn’t like the prospect of third-party software recording and analyzing his students in their homes. Ultimately, he decided that violating their privacy was worse than leaving a potential cheater uncaught.

But many teachers around the country have come to a different conclusion. As online education has become the norm in the Covid-19 … Read the rest


Google is in the spotlight again. | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The search giant is facing lawsuits from attorneys general in most US states and the DOJ.

Two antitrust lawsuits have been filed against Google in two days. That makes a total of three antitrust cases against the search giant, including one filed in October by the Department of Justice.

This latest legal action filed Thursday by the attorneys general from 35 states accuses Google of using anti-competitive behavior to maintain its search and search advertising monopolies. The spate of lawsuits follows years of criticism from competitors, lawmakers, and activists about Google and other big tech companies like Facebook that have for years been accused of employing anti-competitive practices.

Each of the cases being brought against Google has a slightly different angle and is brought by a different group of states and governing bodies. The cases could last for … Read the rest