Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The industry's pre-coronavirus agenda isn't vanishing — but its priorities have already been reshuffled.

These agenda items have jumped to the top of the list:

Transforming healthcare. Tech has long viewed the healthcare sector as an over-regulated backwater resistant to digital transformation.

  • Clinical medical technology remains a highly specialized sub-industry, but Big Tech was already moving into personal fitness and medical record-keeping before the crisis.
  • Now, big companies are rushing to use their networks and devices to help solve immediate problems — as with Apple's and Google's surprise alliance to provide contact tracing tech via their rival smartphone platforms.
  • Longer-term, they're seeing opportunities in applying AI techniques to everything from personal wellness to disease control.

Distance learning and the digital divide. With schooling at all levels transformed for now into a remote experience, inequities in online access have moved from a long-term ethical concern to an immediate problem.

  • Rural communities don't always have the connections they need. Lower-income cities and neighborhoods lack the devices they need, for both instructors and students.

Network bandwidth and resilience. The shelter-in-place era has stressed networks in new and unplanned-for ways. So far they've held up well.

Misinformation and media polarization. Critics were already blaming big tech platforms for polarizing U.S. politics and spreading election-warping lies.

  • Now we're worried about bad information online that could cost people their lives — whether through discounting the threat of the coronavirus itself, or through buying into dubious or dangerous remedies.
  • So far, the platforms' efforts to clean up medical misinformation have been far more effective than their attempts to police political misinformation and misleading ads.

Meanwhile, these agenda items have lost some urgency:

Antitrust investigations and enforcement. The virus could slow but isn't scuttling efforts by the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, Congress and the states to investigate monopolistic practices by Big Tech.

Consumer privacy. Despite a cavalcade of data breaches and privacy-protection violations, the American public seems to remain ambivalent about the tradeoffs between protecting their personal information and supporting free, ad-supported internet services, telling survey takers that they care about the issue but rarely modifying their behavior.

  • Relatively tough privacy laws are in place now in both California and the EU, but Congress' effort to pass national rules now looks dead in the water until next year at the earliest.
  • A downturn in the ad market could further accelerate online ad overload and intrusive marketing practices, as revenue-starved publishers approve deals they'd previously have turned down.

Screen overload. Before the coronavirus, many Americans feared that too much time in front of screens was rotting our brains and atrophying our bodies.

  • Nothing about the current crisis actually offers a logical excuse for abandoning those fears.
  • But practically speaking, the demands of remote work, remote schooling, and stay-at-home edicts mean that, like it or not, our screens mediate more of our lives than ever before.

Read the rest of this report:

Go deeper

Updated 37 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. officials: Iran and Russia aim to interfere in election

Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information that can be used to undermine confidence in the U.S. election system, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced at a press conference Wednesday evening.

Why it matters: The revelation comes roughly two weeks before Election Day. Ratcliffe said Iran has sent threatening emails to Democratic voters this week in states across the U.S. and spread videos claiming that people can vote more than once.

Updated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court blocks Alabama curbside voting measure

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday evening blocked a lower court order that would have allowed voters to cast ballots curbside at Alabama polling places on Election Day.

Whit it matters: With less than two weeks until Election Day, the justices voted 5-3 to reinstate the curbside voting ban and overturn a lower court judge's ruling designed to protect people with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.