Misinformation, Internet Bandwidth & Hacking in the World of Coronavirus

Nicholas Thompson, Editor-in-chief of WIRED reflects on the state of technology in the world of COVID-19: Question one: In this new world of coronavirus, how vulnerable are we to the spread of misinformation and how do we combat it?

We are extremely vulnerable because we're hyperemotional. We're desperate for a cure. We're looking for any thread of optimism we can find, and so people are able to exploit that. What can we do about it? Well, the platforms have to take responsibility like they've never before. Journalists have to take responsibility. And the good news, platforms are taking strong actions, stronger than in the past.


With many people working from home, will there be an Internet bandwidth issue?

There already is in Europe. Netflix had to move from high definition streaming to standard definition streaming. Hasn't come to United States yet, and I think we'll be OK. One interesting side note, mobile bandwidth will be fine because everybody is at home using Wi-Fi, not their mobile phones.

Why does coronavirus set the stage for hacking?

Well, sort of for the same reasons it sets the stage for misinformation. We're desperate to find any bit of goodness out there, and it makes us susceptible. When your emotions are at a very high level, that's where hackers can take advantage of you.

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

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The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

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In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

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With large parts of the American economy shuttered because of coronavirus-related lockdowns, the number of people filing jobless claims in the US last week exceeded 3.2 million, by far the highest number on record. Here's a look at the historical context. The surge in jobless claims, which may be an undercount, is sure to cause a spike in the unemployment rate (which tells you the percent of work-ready people who are looking for a job). At last reading in February, unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. Economists warn that it could reach 5.5 percent in the near term. Even that would be far lower than the jobless rates recorded during previous economic crises such as the Great Depression or the Great Recession. Have a look.