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White House enlists Apple, tech companies in fight against coronavirus pandemic

In response to growing concerns over the fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic, the White House on Wednesday asked Apple and a handful of other tech companies to police their respective platforms for misinformation and assist in ongoing government efforts to corral the virus.

The Trump administration in a conference call asked major tech players to coordinate efforts to identify and remove potentially harmful content, reports Politico.

While not specified in the report, tech companies are on the lookout for misinformation and other media that could negatively impact an official response to the pandemic.

Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter were on the call, according to the report.

In addition to monitoring their own platforms, tech companies were asked to lend a hand in domestic efforts to stop or manage the spread of the virus. For example, the White House intends to release a database of research associated with the coronavirus and asked tech firms to help medical researchers analyze the information using artificial intelligence, the report said.

"Cutting edge technology companies and major online platforms will play a critical role in this all-hands-on-deck effort," U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said in a statement. "Today's meeting outlined an initial path forward and we intend to continue this important conversation."

For its part, Apple is reportedly restricting distribution of COVID-19 apps to those developed by recognized health agencies and institutions. Other apps, even those that scrape data from sources like the World Health Organization, are being rejected on the basis of a new App Store guideline that requires apps associated "highly-regulated" fields to be submitted by a "legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer."

Apple this week launched a special section in its News app dedicated to providing up-to-date coverage of COVID-19, with sources ranging from CNN to The Wall Street Journal.