Mar 15, 2019

The real tech regulators

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Media exposés and boycotts from big-name advertisers are doing what government regulators haven't: They're forcing the country's biggest tech companies to change their products, policies and strategies.

  • Why it matters: Despite an onslaught of hearings and statements from Washington, virtually no regulation has actually passed to significantly address privacy practices.
  • The early 2020 conversation includes a call to "break up" big tech — led by Elizabeth Warren's proposal targeting Google, Facebook and Amazon. But the proclamations have yet to be backed up by any concrete action.

Driving the news: Nearly every major tech company (YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc.) has changed its policies over the past two weeks to address anti-vaccination content that's littered those platforms. Those changes have been made almost entirely in response to media reports uncovering that conspiratorial content.

  • Facebook's privacy pivot announcement last week follows a barrage of bad headlines over the way Facebook treats user data.
  • Facebook's privacy efforts have significantly increased since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year. The data misuse, which was made public by media reports, forced Facebook to eventually end relationships with third-party data brokers and improve privacy transparency policies.
  • YouTube, one of Facebook's biggest video rivals, announced a massive change two weeks ago to disable comments on all videos of children under the age of 18. The move came after a damning media story was published by Wired about ways YouTube comments are used as a part of child exploitation rings.

Advertisers from major corporations have continued to boycott big tech firms that aren't doing enough to moderate content and comments.

When it comes to law enforcement, even when authorities do take action against companies that break rules, it's often in response to media reports uncovering the dangerous practices in the first place.

Be smart: These efforts have moved the needle, especially on issues like privacy, but it will take government action to create a culture where consumer privacy and safety is a forethought, not an afterthought.

  • Such transformations have happened around the world, particularly in Europe, where lawmakers have passed sweeping regulations to address some of these concerns, especially around data.

What's next: The biggest platforms, with power bigger than some governments around the world, will continue to be covered with increasing scrutiny by the press.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 4,000

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

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 4,000 people in the U.S. — with over 1,000 deaths reported in New York City, per Johns Hopkins. The number of deaths are still much lower than those reported in Italy, Spain and China.

Of note: President Trump said Tuesday it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 860,181 — Total deaths: 42,354 — Total recoveries: 178,359.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 189,633 — Total deaths: 4,081 — Total recoveries: 7,136.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1. A federal judge on Tuesday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 10 detained immigrants who are at risk from COVID-19.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  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.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: UN warns of recession with "no parallel" to recent past

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 859,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 43 mins ago - Health