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This article was published on March 12, 2020

White House asks Silicon Valley for AI solutions to coronavirus

The government has also called on tech firms to collaborate on taking down social media hoaxes

White House asks Silicon Valley for AI solutions to coronavirus Image by: Diego Cambiaso
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

White House officials called on the tech sector to help combat the coronavirus with AI in a meeting with Silicon Valley heavyweights on Wednesday.

During the teleconference, US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios previewed a new database of coronavirus-related literature that the government plans to release in the coming days, and challenged the tech community to use AI to find insights from the data.

In a statement, Kratsios said:

Cutting edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort. Today’s meeting outlined an initial path forward and we intend to continue this important conversation.

The roughly two-hour call was attended by government officials and tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Twitter, and Cisco.

Read: Coronavirus domains 50% more likely to infect your system with malware

Two people familiar with the call told Politico that the White House had also asked the attendees to give the government any data they have that could help track and manage the virus. However, a spokesperson for the Office of Science and Technology Policy denied that request was made.

Some of the tech firms used the meeting as a chance to tout their technologies, such as Amazon, which suggested that its cloud-computing tools could help track traveler, the Washington Post reports.

Tackling disinformation

Also on the meeting’s agenda was the need to tackle misinformation about the virus spread online on social media, which can hamper responses to the outbreak.

Earlier this month, a US State Department agency compiled a report of roughly 2 million tweets peddling conspiracy theories about the virus, ranging from claims that it was developed as a bioweapon, to allegations that it was created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The government urged the tech sector to coordinate its efforts to tackle the problem by sharing information about hoaxes before they go viral, the Washington Post reports.

But the White House would be wise to first look within its own walls, where President Trump has created a catalog of false statements about the outbreak, such as calling the virus “a flu” and claiming that a vaccine is just around the corner.

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