A thing about writing a newsletter about technology and democracy during a global pandemic is that technology and democracy are no longer really at the forefront of everyone’s attention. The relationship between big platforms and the nations they operate in remains vitally important for all sorts of reasons, and I’ve argued that the platforms have been unusually proactive in their efforts to promote high-quality information sources. Still, these moves are a sideshow compared to the questions we’re all now asking. How many people will get COVID-19? How many people will die? Will our healthcare system be overwhelmed? How long will it take our economy to recover?
We won’t know the answers for weeks, but I’m starting to fear the worst. On Wednesday the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 had officially become a pandemic. A former director for the Centers for Disease Control now says that in the worst case scenario, more than 1 million Americans could die.
This piece by Tomas Pueyo argues persuasively that the United States is currently seeing exponential growth in the number of people contracting the disease, and that hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed. Pueyo’s back ground is in growth marketing, not in epidemiology. But by now we have seen enough outbreaks in enough countries to have a rough idea of how the disease spreads, and to understand the value of “social distancing” — that is, staying behind closed doors. So I want to recommend that everyone here reads that piece, and consider modifying your behavior if you’re still planning events or spending a lot of time in public.
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One risk of having the world pay attention to a single, all-consuming story is that less important but still urgent stories are missed along the way. One such unfolding story in our domain is the (deep breath) Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (“EARN IT”) Act, which was the subject of a Senate hearing on Wed...