🎬 Tonight's "Axios on HBO" returns with interviews with Vice President Mike Pence (clip) and Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as my interview with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on what it will take for corporate America to return to work. Plus we explore the bioethics of contact tracing.
Meanwhile, today's Login is 1,562 words, a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The major online platforms' long struggle to cope with floods of misinformation has reached a new pitch of urgency during the coronavirus pandemic — just as the fight has become harder than ever.
Driving the news: In the most recent controversy, One America News Network — a small rival to Fox News that is President Trump's current favorite — aired a segment Friday, also posted on YouTube, that makes conspiracy-theory-style connections between China, the "deep state," George Soros, Bill Gates, and the Clintons.
The big picture: Although Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have gotten better at spotting and stopping coordinated information warfare (disinformation), they still struggle with false claims spread by people who sincerely believe them (misinformation).
Yes, but: Two factors have thrown a wrench into the platforms' efforts to stem the coronavirus misinformation tide.
Details: Three recent examples that have challenges the platforms' policy, each with different outcomes:
1. The One America News Network segment was titled "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."
2. President Trump's discussion at an April 23 press conference about whether it might make sense to fight the virus by using disinfectant or UV light on patients posed thorny challenges for the social media platforms.
3. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly spoken out in opposition to accepted health guidelines — even those from Brazilian authorities — regarding social distancing and other measures. In that case, Facebook and YouTube removed some of Bolsonaro's videos.
The bottom line: Prominent people are spreading dangerous misinformation about the virus. And it's having real-world impact.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Snapchat and Twilio are both announcing new efforts Monday to provide support for people affected by domestic violence and mental health concerns in response to a swell in demand during the COVID-19 outbreak, Axios can exclusively report.
Why it matters: Online services and crisis lines are being asked to shoulder a greater share of the burden of responding to people's needs at a moment when other types of direct service are harder to access.
Driving the news:
Context: Twilio, a digital phone services provider whose tech powers many of the nation's crisis hotlines, said it has seen usage by such services increase 20% since the pandemic began, with volume more than doubling at some hotlines, such as Crisis Text Line.
What they're saying:
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
The biometric ID company CLEAR is introducing a new product that will link personal health data to verified IDs to help businesses screen employees for COVID-19 as they return to work, Axios' Brian Walsh scooped yesterday.
Why it matters: Before businesses can effectively reopen, workers and customers need to be assured that they're unlikely to encounter coronavirus infections. Linking COVID-19 to IDs could make that easier, but to be fully effective, it requires a more vigorous and reliable testing regimen, as well as public acceptance of a new level of tech-enabled health surveillance.
How it works: The company will roll out the product, called "Health Pass by CLEAR," in the week ahead.
Background: CLEAR is best known for its airport service. Members pay up to $179 a year and hand over biometric data — fingerprints, iris and facial scans — that is then linked to their official ID.
My thought bubble: For CLEAR, it is a product also born of necessity, given that its core business relies on heavy travelers, many of whom are staying put these days and may think twice before renewing a product that is most valuable when one is flying frequently. Many startups are being forced to pivot as their original business is less needed or less viable in the coronavirus era.
What's next: CLEAR says it is in conversations with potential business partners including restaurateur Danny Meyer and the New York Mets, as well as Las Vegas' COVID-19 recovery task force.
But, but, but: Services like Health Pass will need to prove their effectiveness and will carry risks to personal privacy.
Microsoft has added a feature to Office 365 designed to prevent runaway email threads initiated when someone clicks "reply-all" to a lengthy list of recipients. Inevitably others reply, then people start replying "unsubscribe," and it takes off from there.
Why it matters: In addition to annoying many, such threads put enormous strain on corporate e-mail systems, sometimes taking them offline.
My thought bubble: These email outbursts were kind of fun, too, especially in recent years when they've been few and far between.
I'm certainly not advocating hoarding, but this is a pretty good use of excess peanut butter jars.