COVID-19 Used As Pretext To Crack Down On Internet Freedom

Internet freedom has declined for the 10th consecutive year as governments around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic as a “cover” to expand online surveillance, crack down on dissent, and build new technological systems to control society, Freedom House says in a new report.

The Washington-based human rights watchdog’s annual Freedom Of The Net report, released on October 14, said the authorities in dozens of countries have cited COVID-19 “to justify expanded surveillance powers and the deployment of new technologies that were once seen as too intrusive.”

As a result, Internet freedom has worsened in 26 of the 65 countries covered by the report, while only 22 registered gains.

And just 20 percent of the estimated 3.8 billion people using the Internet live in countries with a free Internet, according to the democracy research group.

Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, India, Ecuador, and Nigeria suffered the largest declines during the coverage period — between June 2019 and May 2020. Internet freedom worsened in the United States for the fourth consecutive year.

“The pandemic is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the Internet is becoming less and less free,” Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz.

“Without adequate safeguards for privacy and the rule of law, these technologies can be easily repurposed for political repression.”

Freedom On The Net measures the level of Internet freedom in 65 countries, based on 21 indicators pertaining to obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. Each country receives a numerical score from 100 to 0 that serves as the basis for an Internet-freedom-status designation of “free,” “partly free,” or “not free.”

China was the worst-ranked country for the sixth consecutive year.

The report said authorities “combined low- and high-tech tools not only to manage the outbreak of the coronavirus, but also

More than 1,000 UK startups ‘collapsed’ due to COVID-19

Cars and cyclists pass through the Silicon Roundabout area, a technology cluster of high-tech companies located in Shoreditch and St. Lukes in East London. (Credit: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)
Cars and cyclists pass through the Silicon Roundabout area, a technology cluster of high-tech companies located in Shoreditch and St. Lukes in East London. Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images

More than 1,000 of the UK’s high-growth businesses have filed for administration, liquidation or dissolution since lockdown began, according to new research released today by Plexal and Beauhurst.

During this period, September brought a record number of filings — the highest monthly figure in 10 years – as the full impact of COVID-19 started to be revealed. 273 fast-growth companies filed for administration, liquidation or dissolution in that month alone, out of a total of 1,067 since the beginning of lockdown. That’s a 181% month-on-month increase compared with August.

While government schemes provided “valuable support to cash-strapped early stage companies struggling from the COVID-19 crisis,” said the researchers, “the sharp rise in startup deaths highlights the fading preservative effect of government support schemes.”

“Government initiatives alone are not sufficient to support startups most in need of funding and cash flow in the current economic climate,” said Andrew Roughan, managing director of Plexal. “It’s these businesses that will provide the innovation and jobs that will drive the UK’s economic recovery, and they need our urgent support.”

Earlier this year, the UK government announced a £1.25bn ($1.53bn) package of support for startups and tech businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK startups get £1.25bn COVID-19 support from government

A new £500m investment fund was set aside for high-growth startups, while £750m of grants and loans for startups doing research and development were also handed out.

The fund provides convertible debt to startups, so if they can’t pay it back, it turns into equity. To date, the government has lent over £720m to more than 700 startups.

The Treasury

COVID-19 testing site at Alliant Energy Center reopens, long lines reported

Coronavirus graphic

MADISON, Wis. — The COVID-19 testing site at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison temporarily closed Tuesday afternoon.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office tweeted about the closure around 1 p.m. citing a computer issue.

About an hour later, the agency sent another tweet saying the computer system was up and running again, but slowly.

Testing resumed with the computer system back up, but long lines were reported.

Dane County deputies are allowing people to park and wait if they choose, the post said.

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E-Commerce In The Age Of Covid-19 Part One: Advances In Merchant Software

This article is the first article of a three-part series on e-commerce addressing the merchant experience, improving consumer experience, and the next generation of technology

Covid-19’s impact on American retailers has been massive — not just in terms of lost income or jobs, but also the accelerated rise in e-commerce volume. Online retail, which had previously taken more than a decade to reach 16%, leapfrogged to 27% in the 2 months following the onset of Covid. Experts forecast this growth will only continue, magnifying the opportunity for e-commerce but also the challenges ahead.

For merchants, the rapid shift from in-store to online has made an e-commerce platform a business necessity. Retailers that had previously sat on the sidelines are now forced to reckon with a new reality. Meanwhile, those that already had strong web platforms are quickly working to improve them. Regardless of their prior embrace of the stage of e-commerce, all retailers now recognize that a dynamic online presence is critical to survival. They also recognize that shifting toward online comes with new complications.

That’s where software companies have an important role to play. This year has seen a surge of new software offerings aimed at modernizing, expanding and fixing shortcomings in merchants’ online platforms. Even though e-commerce technology remains a work in progress, the pace of progress has been brisk.

Take fraud for example, which becomes more complex and more prevalent as shoppers are no longer physically present at checkout. Credit card fraud is easier to execute online than in a store, making it a serious pain point for retail. And a costly one, at that. Merchants are responsible for fraud prevention and have to deal with the ultimate compromise of taking on more risk or tightening controls with the consequence of turning away paying customers. Fraud eats

German Amazon workers are striking on Prime Day after it scrapped their COVID-19 bonus payments



Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images


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Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

  • German Amazon workers are striking during the company’s Prime Day, a two-day discount event.
  • Workers at seven Amazon warehouses in cities including Leipzig and Koblenz are striking in shifts to avoid large crowds.
  • Amazon staff have been working “without adequate protection” during the pandemic, and the company has scrapped its coronavirus bonus, German trade union Verdi said.
  • An Amazon spokesman told Business Insider that the strikes will have no impact on its deliveries in Germany.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

German staff at Amazon are striking during the e-commerce giant’s annual Prime Day event on Tuesday and Wednesday over pay and conditions in its warehouses since the outbreak of the pandemic.

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Workers at seven Amazon warehouses in cities including Leipzig and Koblenz are striking in shifts to avoid large crowds.

The country’s second-largest union, Verdi, said it was organizing the strike because staff have been working “without adequate protection,” and haven’t been compensated for the additional stress of working during the pandemic.

An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the strikes will not impact its deliveries in Germany, the company’s second-biggest market after the US.

The company already offers “excellent pay, benefits, and opportunities for career growth,” they added, with a safe working environment that is “set up to help them succeed.”

The company told Reuters that most employees in Germany were working as normal.

Orhan Akman, Verdi’s retail representative, pointed out that at the end of May, the company scrapped a coronavirus bonus of 2 euros ($2.36) an hour, just two months after it was introduced. 

Amazon can “certainly” afford to pay staff the bonus, Akman claimed, because it doesn’t face the same problems that are causing bricks and mortar retailers to fold during the