COVID-19–known the world over by its more colloquial name “coronavirus”–has drawn societies together like few things in recent memory. Age-old political rivalries have been laid to rest, religious figures of nearly every sect agree on something, and the world’s leaders have put almost everything else on a back burner in an attempt to lead their nations through the crisis.
That kind of mass response is not without its repercussions, and nowhere have they been felt more than the financial sector. As mass quarantines or lockdowns went into effect across the globe, stock markets plummeted by many tens of percentages, workers were laid off in droves, and imports and exports from many countries were slowed or stopped. One sector stayed online, though–literally and figuratively.
With sizable chunks of the world forbidden to leave their houses, internet usage has exploded; people are turning to the web for everything from supplies and entertainment to the latest news and regulations regarding the virus. In an impressive departure from the stereotypical corporate indifference, many companies have actually shown considerable awareness of their role in the modern world, taking realistic and concrete steps to help the public stay safe.
Leading the way in this is Amazon, an online retailer of everything–or at least, as close to everything as they can get. Amazon’s value to a society of enforced shut-ins is obvious and incredible, delivering much-needed supplies to people no longer allowed to go and get them on their own. Amazon has found itself responding on a number of fronts: Cutting physical contact between supply chain and customer, keeping their own workers safe, and minimizing impact on their physical retail locations are just some of their contributions to the effort. Its main influence by far has been stopping price gougers from capitalizing on growing scarcities of basic products or protective gear; Amazon’s status as a worldwide retailer gives it the economic power to help set prices and keep other sellers from taking advantage.
Twitter has long been the leading platform of “free speech” and that has become dangerous–people take to the web with unsupported and ill-informed notions about the coronavirus, leading others to follow dangerously unsafe practices without getting proper medical advice. At some point, though, Twitter decided to start drawing a line; certain dangerously false statements are now flagged with a “get-the-facts” link to put users in the way of accurate, reliable information, simultaneously promoting accounts from verified medical experts who have been leading the search for a cure since the crisis began.
Of course, you can’t discuss big tech without mentioning Google. The search giant has aggressively promoted health alerts, putting red flags atop nearly every search that links to latest statistics and instructions for the searcher’s region. Google maps now warns users away from healthcare offices and towards testing centers if they are experiencing symptoms. YouTube (a subsidiary of Google) videos begin with short but vital informative pieces on what is safe and what is not.
The overarching message from these and so many more online entities has been the same: We’re in this together and everyone needs to do everything they can to help one another. While you shouldn’t believe everything you read online, this message can likely be taken at face value.