Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID

Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

 

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EVERYONE'S ON FACEBOOK: Facebook has seen a huge spike in usage as the coronavirus pandemic has hit most parts of the world, the company announced Tuesday.

"The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day," Alex Schultz and Jay Parikh, two Facebook vice presidents, wrote in a blog post.

The social media giant shared that in the countries hardest hit by the virus, total messaging has increased more than 50 percent over the last month.

Voice and video calling have also doubled in those places, the company said.

In Italy in particular, which has nearly 70,000 confirmed cases, Facebook reported that time spent on the platform has gone up 70 percent.

In addition, calls with three or more participants have gone up over 1,000 percent in the last month.

Read more here.

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THE ELECTION MUST GO ON: Democrats and election security advocates are insisting that funds for mail-in and absentee voting be included in a massive economic stimulus package to ensure the November elections proceed smoothly.

The GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic House are split on how much federal funding to provide to states as Election Day draws near.

Senate Republicans have included $140 million in their coronavirus supplemental bill, while the competing House version calls for $4 billion to boost voting by mail and other measures to ensure elections this year are not interrupted.

For Senate Democrats, the GOP proposal is not nearly enough.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (Minn.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (Ore.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate includes 0M for mail-in voting in coronavirus spending deal Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Democrats press for more stimulus funding to boost mail-in voting MORE (Del.) are leading the charge in the Senate to boost funding, calling for $2 billion in election funding Monday.

Coons argued immediate action was needed "to address the threat that COVID-19 poses to our elections this fall."

"Senators Klobuchar, Wyden, and I are calling on Congress to include funding to expand vote by mail and early voting in the third stimulus package, so Americans across the country can access the ballot box in November," Coons said in a statement. "No American should have to choose between their health and their right to vote."

But over in the House, Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisTrump says election proposals in coronavirus stimulus bill would hurt Republican chances Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Democrats press for more stimulus funding to boost mail-in voting MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, called the $4 billion amount a "dangerous ploy to federalize elections."

He also took issue with language in the House bill that would require 15 days of early voting in all states and mandates states offer same-day voter registration.

The $2 billion sought by Democratic senators is the same amount recommended last week in a study by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

The bulk of the funds would go toward ensuring all citizens have the option for mail-in voting, along with hiring poll workers, boosting absentee ballots, and ensuring in-person polling places are clean and safe.

Klobuchar told reporters during a press call Monday that the funding needed to be included in the stimulus package because of the "unprecedented disruptions" Americans are already facing due to coronavirus.

"Many election officials have expressed concern regarding how this public health emergency will affect upcoming elections," Klobuchar said. "We must take critical steps to provide states with resources to expand early voting and ensure that every American who wants to vote by mail gets a ballot sent to their door."

Read more here.

 

DEADLINE EXTENDED: President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE on Monday said the federal government will delay requirements for Americans to obtain a Real ID to travel, citing the coronavirus.

Trump told reporters at the White House that he was postponing the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline in order to alleviate crowding at local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices.

"At a time when we're asking Americans to maintain social distancing, we do not want to require people to go with their local DMV," Trump said. "We will be announcing the new deadline very soon."

The law's implementation plan previously stipulated that on Oct. 1, 2020, people will need Real ID-compliant identification in order to board commercial flights, enter federal buildings or gain access to American nuclear plants.

Three Democratic chairmen of relevant House committees sent a letter last week to the Department of Homeland Security asking for the implementation of the Real ID Act to be delayed, citing the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

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'PUTIN'S CHEF' IN HOT WATER: The bipartisan leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday strongly urged the European Union to sanction a close associate of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Guidance on masks is coming MORE over what they say are ongoing efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

In a letter to Stavros Lambrinidis, the head of the Delegation of the EU to the U.S., committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference Democrats press Pompeo to help Americans stranded abroad amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.), ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets China sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (R-Texas), and almost a dozen other committee members pressed for the EU to impose sanctions on Yevgeniy Prigozhin.

Prigozhin, who is known as "Putin's chef" due to the Kremlin's use of his catering service for official functions, was indicted by former Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE due to his efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. 

Prigozhin is the leader and main source of funding behind Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA), the troll farm that spread misinformation in the run up to 2016 U.S. presidential elections designed to favor the campaign of now President Trump. The IRA was also indicted by Mueller. 

Prigozhin has been linked to the mercenary organization The Wagner Group, which was sanctioned by the U.S. due to its support of Russian forces in Ukraine. 

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"We must thwart his malign global activities done at Putin's behest and ongoing efforts to interfere in the domestic politics of democracies on both sides of the Atlantic," the House members wrote of Prigozhin. "By working together and coordinating our sanctions policies against common adversaries, we can present a united front that stands for our shared values and deters further Russian attempts to subvert Western democracy."

Read more here

 

SHUT IT DOWN: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Tuesday said that the United States missed its opportunity to control the outbreak of the novel coronavirus without a shutdown, arguing that the government did not "act fast enough" to avoid this. 

"We need to shut down so that the worst case that was happening in [Wuhan, China] or Northern Italy, that we avoid that," Gates said in an interview on the TED Connects program, referring to regions hit particularly hard by the virus.

Asked about suggestions being floated in the U.S. about relaxing social distancing measures to avoid severe economic damage, Gates said that there is "no middle ground" between the virus and the cost to businesses. 

"It's very tough to say to people, 'Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there's maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is what really counts,'" Gates said, adding that a shutdown may need to remain in place for six to 10 weeks. 

Read more here.

 

Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskTesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says Space enterprises, both NASA and commercial, fall prey to the coronavirus pandemic Dyson designs new ventilator, will produce 15,000 to fight coronavirus MORE STEPS IN: Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday announced that the electric car company had bought hundreds of ventilators, a medical device crucial to combating severe cases of the coronavirus, from China and shipped them to the U.S.

"China had an oversupply, so we bought 1255 FDA-approved ResMed, Philips & Medtronic ventilators on Friday night & airshipped them to LA," Musk tweeted late Monday night.

The move by Tesla comes as different manufacturing industries, including automakers, are pitching in to help fight against COVID-19. Along with personal protective equipment like masks and gowns, ventilators are a product many hospitals around the U.S. have said are in dire shortage.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomTesting struggles emerge as key hurdle to reopening country Social distancing works, but resistance prompts worries of growing crisis Newsom announces partnership with FEMA to find shelter for most vulnerable homeless populations MORE (D) confirmed Tuesday that Musk had given California, one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19, 1,000 ventilators.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Think about your choices

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: How to unlock telemedicine on such a large scale

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

As Businesses Close, WeWork Tries to Lure Workers Back (New York Times / Peter Eavis)

YouTube is reducing its default video quality to standard definition for the next month (Verge / Julia Alexander)

Hackers Are Taking Over Twitter Accounts to Advertise Face Masks (Motherboard / Joseph Cox)

Smartphone data reveal which Americans are social distancing (and not) (Washington Post / Geoffrey A. Fowler)