May 12, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Today's Login covers both a return to the office and a return to "The Office."

It's also 1,430 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Benioff urges tech to build trust during pandemic

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Marc Benioff, long a critic of Facebook, says that tech CEOs should be held accountable during a health crisis for providing only truthful information.

The big picture: Giant tech firms were headed into what seemed like a time of heavier scrutiny and regulation before the pandemic hit. It remains to be seen what the environment will look like once we are past the coronavirus.

What he's saying: "Especially during a pandemic, companies need to be held responsible for providing the correct health information to their users," Benioff said, as part of an interview with "Axios on HBO". "And they should not allow or tolerate ... information that is not accurate or maybe that would deceive their users."

"I think CEOs should be held highly accountable for trust and truth."
— Marc Benioff

Context: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have struggled mightily amid a flood of misinformation on their platforms. Even with platforms tightening their policies and acting more aggressively, false information and conspiracy theories continue to spread.

  • If sophisticated tech can safely drive a car or provide search results, it should also be able to provide truthful information, Benioff said. He added that he gives tech leaders the same message behind closed doors.
  • "It's very simple," he said. Those leaders should "make trust your highest value. I want to make sure that when I'm on that service, that I can trust you. ... They've done a little bit better at times during this pandemic, but they can do even better still."

Separately, Benioff said corporate America is getting closer to a return to the office, but it won't be a return to normal.

  • When U.S. office workers do start going back to work, they will find a host of new policies and practices, ranging from appointments to ride an elevator to temperature checks and restrictions on movement throughout the office.

As for when he expects to be back in the office, Benioff said, "I hope that actually we're weeks away from that and not months away."

Context: In an April 26 tweet, Benioff laid out a series of steps necessary for a June 1 return to work, including the widespread availability of both antibody and viral testing.

  • Benioff said he didn't want to assign blame for slowness in testing in the U.S., noting he is "really in a mode of forgiveness."
  • He did note that Salesforce has seen different scenarios play out in different countries, citing South Korea in particular for having done "a great job."
  • "We should model what they've done," he said. "They're way ahead of us in terms of the testing infrastructure, their vision of integration, of how the testing works."

Yes, but: Benioff also acknowledged that societal norms play a role, too, and that the types of surveillance some countries conduct wouldn't work here.

  • "So you're going to have to pick and choose what the right things are for us," he said.
  • Human contact tracing rather than surveillance technology is likely to be the primary means of tracking the coronavirus' spread, Benioff said, with technology from Apple and Google playing perhaps a secondary role.
2. Americans hate cell phone contact tracing
Data: Ipsos/Axios survey, margin of error of ±3.4 percentage points; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In a best-case scenario, just half of Americans would participate in a voluntary coronavirus "contact tracing" program tracked with cell phones, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, Axios' Margaret Talev reports.

Why it matters: A strong contact tracing program — identifying people who have the virus and isolating those who have come into contact with them — is the key to letting other people get back to their lives, according to public health experts.

  • The findings underscore deep resistance to turning over sensitive health information and mistrust about how it could be used.
  • The only way to get even half of Americans to participate would be for public health officials to run the program, not the White House or tech or phone companies.
  • And significant participation is key for such a system to be effective.

What they're saying: "The whole concept of American democracy is about local control and civil liberties, individual liberties," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • "At the end of the day, I think there will be an American solution to contact tracing," but if the survey results are any guide, "it's not going to be a centralized authority saying, 'And now we're going to have contact tracing.'"
  • These findings come as tech companies develop software to try to halt the virus' spread and public health officials train thousands to conduct the tracing.

For more on how Americans are feeling about the pandemic, as well as our methodology, click here.

3. Twitter to flag borderline coronavirus tweets

Photo: Twitter

Twitter said Monday it will begin labeling coronavirus-related tweets that contain potentially misleading information but don't clearly violate company misinformation policies.

Why it matters: The move comes as Twitter and other platforms such as Facebook and YouTube struggle with a flood of misinformation, as we highlighted in Monday's Login.

How it works: Twitter said that it may post warning labels on tweets that post misleading information or disputed claims, though it will still remove those with false information and a severe likelihood of causing harm.

  • "These warnings will inform people that the information in the tweet conflicts with public health experts' guidance before they view it," Twitter said in a blog post.

Between the lines: The policy is similar to one Twitter has put in place for synthetic and manipulated media, as well as to a rarely used option Twitter has to label posts from elected officials and world leaders that would otherwise be taken down for violating the site's rules.

Meanwhile:

  • Michigan's governor called on Facebook to take stronger action against threats being made against her, some in private groups, ahead of a planned armed rally in Lansing.
  • Remember that One America News Network segment that we wrote about on Monday, the one that suggested the coronavirus was a giant conspiracy and that YouTube refused to take down? Well, as of Monday it was made private. As CNN's Brian Stelter reported in his newsletter, OANN pulled the video after sources told Stelter "that it was even too much for the far-right network."
4. "The Office" gets rebooted as a Slack chat
Giphy

Now, I love "The Office." I've seen every episode many, many times. So many times that, to be honest, I can now only watch it for a couple hours per day before I get a bit bored.

What's happening: I'm thrilled to report that a group is now turning each episode into a Slack chat. According to The Verge, the project began before the pandemic, but it seems like it was made for just this moment, when none of us are in the office and we all need more of "The Office."

Yes, but: My partner hates "The Office" and doesn't use Slack, so clearly this is not for everyone.

Bottom line: Bears. Beets. "Battlestar Galactica." (Plus threaded comments.)

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Twitter has added Stanford professor and former Google AI head Fei-Fei Li to its board of directors.
  • Former Google executive and CBS News and CNN science and technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg has joined Huawei as VP of Public Relations, based in New York.
  • Wellcome Leap, the innovation wing of health research charity the Wellcome Trust, announced its leadership team. Regina Dugan, a veteran of Facebook, Google and DARPA, will be CEO, while Jay Flatley, former CEO of Illumina, will chair the board.

ICYMI

  • Logitech reported earnings that exceeded guidance. Also, unlike many companies, some of which have withdrawn their 2020 outlook, Logitech said it still expects sales to grow by a mid-single-digit percentage during the coming year. (Logitech)
  • Venture capitalist Dave McClure is raising $10 million for a special purpose vehicle to buy out some limited partners in the first fund of 500 Startups, the firm he founded and led until resigning in 2017 due to sexual harassment allegations. (Axios)
  • Facebook is reportedly working to launch a new tech advocacy group called American Edge to push back on government scrutiny. (Washington Post)
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking to amend the PATRIOT Act to expand government surveillance powers, including expressly letting the FBI warrantlessly collect Americans' web browsing and search histories. (Daily Beast)
  • House lawmakers have introduced legislation to make it easier for some startups to access coronavirus relief loans. (Protocol)
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk is defying a shelter-in-place order and reopening his flagship factory in California, daring police to arrest him. (The Verge)
  • Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg blames the coronavirus pandemic for the streaming service's disappointing launch. (New York Times)
  • 9to5Mac has some exclusive details on what it says will be specs for Apple's upcoming over-ear AirPods. (9to5Mac)
6. After you Login

This fox is a paper thief.

Ina Fried

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