Big Tech to Meet With the White House to Discuss Coronavirus

The Silicon Valley giants will be attending a meeting at the White House on Wednesday to discuss their response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Politico reports.

A representative for the Office of Science and Technology Policy told Politico that representatives from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Twitter would attend either in person or by video conference and that the meeting would be led by President Donald Trump’s chief technology officer, Michael Kratsios.

It was not clear from Politico’s report exactly what would be up for discussion, but the tech companies have already had to react to the outbreak.

Misinformation about the virus has erupted online: In one instance the French government stepped in to counter a fake claim circulating online that cocaine cured the virus. Other fake cures include marijuana, coconut oil, and bleach. Amazon has also announced it’s working with state attorneys general to fight a surge in price gouging on its platform after third-party sellers started jacking up the prices of items like face masks and hand sanitizer.

The companies have had to react to the virus on the home front as well. Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook have all asked their employees to work from home rather than come into their Seattle and Silicon Valley offices. In Amazon and Facebook’s case this was after workers at their Seattle offices tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Amazon has also taken the extraordinary step of announcing it won’t penalize its warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off during the month of March.

Microsoft has also told employees they could work in home; it has had two confirmed cases of the virus among its staff.

The virus poses a different threat to Apple, as the outbreak has put a huge dent in both its supply chain and consumer behavior. Stats issued by the Chinese government this week showed the phone giant sold just 500,000 iPhones in China last month, less than half of its usual figure.