This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here you can register three times a week.
America’s tech companies could have done more to keep Americans informed about the coronavirus and to help people and businesses that have gotten into trouble. But they were also crucial trendsetters in protecting their employees and the rest of us from the virus.
Over the past year, some high profile tech companies closed their corporate offices relatively early when the coronavirus outbreaks began in the United States, and they continued to pay many hourly workers who could not do their work remotely. These actions by companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter have likely helped save lives in the Bay Area and perhaps beyond.
Now, many of the same tech companies – along with schools and universities, healthcare facilities, and some state employers in the United States – have begun getting vaccine mandates for employees, resumption of masking requirements, delayed office reopenings, or vaccinations in the workplace to slow down the latest wave of infections .
America’s tech companies that deserve criticism for abusing their power should also receive credit for using their power to take decisive action in response to virus risks.
These steps helped other organizations follow her. And in some cases, tech companies have responded to health threats faster and communicated about them more effectively than government or local politicians.
I understand readers may disagree on whether employers should require vaccinations or other health measures. I also understand that technology companies have many advantages over other employers, including workers who can do most of their work outside of the office. Companies that make cars or planes, serve food, or run hospitals don’t have these luxuries.
And tech companies based in left-wing parts of the United States, including the Bay Area and Seattle, are less likely to encounter backlash from employees or local politicians for demanding vaccinations. Having infinite dollars also gives tech companies the freedom to do what they think is best.
July 30, 2021 at 1:59 p.m. ET
But other wealthy companies have mostly not been as visible as big employers were supposed to be helping in the country’s pandemic response.
Technology companies cannot and should not replace effective government. Private-sector and US government collaboration has been instrumental in developing and delivering highly effective vaccines, and it was federal government actions that significantly reduced poverty in America during times of crisis.
It is fair to worry that tech superpowers and other private corporations are having too much influence. But in this case, tech companies have been exercising their power to make us all a little safer.
Understand the state of vaccine mandates in the United States
Before we go …
A MeToo bill in video games: Many employees at the video game company Activision Blizzard are protesting what they call routine workplace harassment and unfair pay for women. The video game industry has traditionally dismissed claims of sexism and abuse of women, but now a “critical mass of its own workers in the industry are suggesting that they will no longer tolerate such behavior,” write my colleagues Kellen Browning and Mike Isaac.
Related: Women on Google complained about abuse from their bosses. They were offered psychological counseling and in at least one case the company asked for access to an employee’s medical records, report Alisha Haridasani Gupta and Ruchika Tulshyan.
America’s drivers are the unsuspecting guinea pigs: New York Times editor-in-chief Greg Bensinger said Tesla is putting everyone at risk by overestimating the capabilities of driver assistance technologies in the company’s cars.
We can’t just blame internet companies: It is a mistake to overestimate the impact of online misinformation on anti-vaccine beliefs in the United States, says a Wired writer. There is also a risk that the public and the news media will use “misinformation” as an overly broad term to refer to posts that are not objectively incorrect but contain selected statistics or misleading interpretations of facts.
Watch the Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee’s family burst out with joy as she won a gold medal.
We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you would like to learn from us. You can reach us at email@example.com.
If you have not yet received this newsletter in your inbox, please register here. You can also read previous On Tech columns.