Oct 10, 2017

Big tech's Russia problem goes well beyond Russia

Illustration: Sam Jayne / Axios

Several months ago we first discussed the prospect of anti-trust action against technology giants. Pressure seemed to be coming from the right, in terms of Trump Administration animosity toward Silicon Valley antagonists. It also seemed to be coming from the left, in terms of income inequality and growing recognition that this generation's Masters of the Universe don't work on Wall Street. Some was just under the aegis of "I know it when I see it," in terms of everything from Facebook's relationship to media to Amazon's relationship with consumers.

The tech execs I spoke with mostly shrugged their shoulders, and then one more time for de-emphasis once Steve Bannon left the West Wing. But those sentiments are shifting, and it has nothing to do with mergers or market share.

What changed: Facebook's acknowledgment that Russian agents purchased ads around last year's election is a bit like stealing a car and then accidentally rear-ending a cop. Russia may be the initial bump, but it's liable to spark all sorts of other inquiries into big tech business models and products — with each new hearing or interview increasing D.C. knowledge of how Silicon Valley and its satellites actually work. Oh, and now it looks like Google might have done something similar.

Even if the Russia/social media story fades into oblivion, it could create regulatory ripples in everything from privacy to antitrust.

Bottom line: "This piqued the interest of people who didn't really care about so-called big tech before," says a senior D.C. rep of a major West Coast tech company. "Now they have reason to take out their magnifying glasses."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 65,691 — Total deaths: 30,438 — Total recoveries: 139,263.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 119,748 — Total deaths: 1,991 — Total recoveries: 921.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers financial relief.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Infant dies after testing positive for coronavirus in Chicago

Hospital staff working inside a COVID-19 screening tent in Chicago on March 26. Photo: Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An infant less than one year old died in Chicago, Illinois after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the state health department said on Saturday.

Why it matters: The death would mark the first reported infant mortality from COVID-19 in the U.S. The fatality rate for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is highest among those over 85 years old, per the CDC.

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

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