Mark your calendars for June 16th when we’ll host our next #BrusselsCalling with tech journalists looking at how the tech industry has been impacted by COVID-19. We will share more details on our stellar line-up next week!

Tech Team

Will tech companies support protesters offline too? [Wired] 

It’s hard to find a major global event from the past five years that hasn’t been caused, impacted, or documented by technology. 2020 first had COVID-19 and now it has protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George FloydThe video of his death spread rapidly, as did worldwide solidarity protests. The tech era combined with COVID-19 confinement meant much of the support for the movement was published online on social media. Tech companies posted about demanding change and supporting protestors. Some critics argue that these companies’ online solidarity posts ring hollow, even as some tech giants pledged millions to (often unnamed) organisations to fight racismIn 2017, tech companies put huge amounts of capital into fighting Trump’s Muslim travel ban and abandoned his economic council in droves. Hopefully this time these companies will again take their online support of this movement offline too. 

NYC WIFI stands take up new protest role [TechCrunch] 

And here is one example of how tech infrastructure can show support in the offline world too. In New York City, connectivity towers from LinkNYC kiosks have been displaying the names of the victims of police brutality instead of NYC tourism tips. They started the initiative with the #BlackoutTuesday movement but will continue to run the names on their almost 2000 kiosks for the week. The black screens with the names of these victims in bold white text is a display of solidarity but also constant reminder of the damage that has already been done. 

Telecom engineers – unsung essential workers [The Verge] 

When you hear ‘essential workers’ you probably think of doctors, nurses, or grocery store workers – not the telecoms engineers tasked with ensuring all the internet cables and masts in your neighbourhood are functioning so you can work remotely and watch Netflix. The jobs of these engineers have never been more essential, or more dangerous. The false conspiracy theories that 5G is the real cause of COVID-19 which have been spreading since the start of the pandemic and they are putting telecoms engineers in danger of harassmenteven physical harm while on the jobWhile most of Europe is hoping to move towards the recovery phase of the pandemic, it seems like these dangerous 5G conspiracy theories may stick around for much longer. Let’s hope not 

Pandemic? What pandemic? [The Atlantic] 

If you want to pretend that the last three months didn’t happen, there is a new Facebook group out there for you. Join a virtual bar where COVID-19 doesn’t exist. Whether it is shouting across a crowded venue at your friend to get you another beer or holding a bathroom stall door for the person in front of you – all these things are done virtually in a role-playing group on Facebook. People feel it’s a short getaway to pre-pandemic life, down to the pretty mundane things like holding someone else’s beer. You know where to go when nostalgia hits you! 

In case you haven’t had enough… 

SpaceX’s historic launch gives Europe pause for thought (Euractiv) 

Trump Is Doing All of This for Zuckerberg (The Atlantic) 

Tech Is Global. Right? (The New York Times) 

America is awash in cameras, a double-edged sword for protesters and police (The Washington Post)