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Tech companies and the online fight against COVID-19

The unprecedented events the world is experiencing demand far-reaching, comprehensive and swift measures. Not only to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19, but also to ensure the continuity of essential economic activities so that together we can overcome this period.

While governments around the world and Europe are deploying aggressive containment strategies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are keen to contribute their fair share to the fight. Tech companies have a big role to play.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19 millions of people have been ordered to work from home, testing and challenging the safety and speed of our online networks. Besides preventing the collapse of online systems due to the increased traffic, one of the biggest challenges of platforms during this crisis is combating disinformation and illegal content, as content moderators are sent home.

The European Commission had called upon tech companies to downgrade the streaming quality on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to free bandwidth for the healthcare sector and distance learning for students, who are now dependent on online sources.

Other popular platforms have implemented measures to ease the strain on the internet. Netflix, for example, complied with EU Commissioner Thierry Breton’s request to reduce the streaming quality in Europe. In fact, in a statement the streaming platform said it would reduce bit rates across Europe for 30 days.

Platforms have leveraged artificial intelligence to police disinformation and illegal content and Facebook, Twitter and Google have said that they will rely more on algorithms to stop the spread of fake news now that human moderators are teleworking to stop the spread of COVID-19. The platforms did warn that the reliance on such automated systems may lead to “some limitations” and Youtube already admitted more videos may be removed that may not in fact violate the platform’s policies.

However, in a statement about the situation Youtube said: “As we do this, users and creators may see increased video removals, including some videos that may not violate policies. We won’t issue strikes on this content except in cases where we have high confidence that it’s violative. If creators think that their content was removed in error, they can appeal the decision and our teams will take a look.”


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