Really Going Viral

The Problem With #COVID-19 Data; Voting Tech and Long Waits; and much more.


This is civic tech: Buoy Health is partnering with the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Health Maps to add the CDC’s coronavirus guidelines into their existing AI chatbot to help people self-screen, Natalie Cantave reports for MassChallenge.org.

Updating on the civic tech conference calendar: the Internet Freedom Festival, which was due to take place April 20-24 in Spain, has just been canceled. And Personal Democracy Forum 2020, our annual flagship event, has been put on hiatus until the coronavirus crisis subsides.

Lots of Big Tech conferences are also canceling, including Google’s I/O developer conference, Facebook’s F8, the Game Developer Conference and the Mobile World Congress, as Tom Warren reports for The Verge.

Apply: The 2020 Roddenberry Prize, which splits $1M between four winners “offering game-changing and innovative solutions … for their work in one of the following fields: Education, Science, Environment, and Humanity” is now open for applications.

Viral information: CitizenLab’s Lotus Ruan, Jeffrey Knockel, and Masashi Crete-Nishihata report on how China’s censorship machine went to work blocking content about COVID-19 on social media platforms YY and Wechat from the earliest days of the epidemic.

World Health Organization coronavirus data, visualized by timeline and country, courtesy of Joel Selanikio, MD, a former CDC epidemiologist. The BBC News data visualizations are also pretty good.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted yesterday that the social network is going to make sure “everyone can access credible and accurate information,” working closely with government and global health authorities. He also says that the company is “focused on stopping hoaxes and harmful misinformation,” and per its community standards “it’s not okay to share something that puts people in danger.” He adds, “So we’re removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations. We’re also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation — for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease.” So, for those of us keeping score, political misinformation that is inaccurate and/or that can put people in danger is an expression of free speech and the public should be free to judge for itself what to believe or share, but information about coronavirus is something he will take editorial responsibility for controlling. Got it.

Meanwhile, Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp is a key vector for the spread of coronavirus misinformation, Tony Romm reports for The Washington Post.

In the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal explains why the official coronavirus numbers are wrong.

Tech and democracy: New touch-screen voting machines malfunctioned and network problems interfered with electronic poll books in Los Angeles Country, leading to long waiting times for voters there on Tuesday, Neena Satija, Joseph Marks and Isaac Stanley-Becker report for the Los Angeles Times. Some voting centers completely shut down.

As this wait-time map (scroll down) from Travis County, Texas shows, voters there also experienced very long waits before voting on Tuesday.

End times: What, exactly, is non-essential travel?

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