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Technology

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Four Big Tech CEOs spent Wednesday being grilled — virtually — by House lawmakers, creating a first-ever spectacle that was by turns revealing and, inevitably, awkward.

An NPR investigation has found irregularities in the process by which the Trump administration awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a Pittsburgh company to collect key data about COVID-19 from the country's hospitals.

The contract is at the center of a controversy over the administration's decision to move that data reporting function from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which has tracked infection information for a range of illnesses for years — to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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For the first time, the titans of the world's most powerful tech companies appeared today before Congress - on videoconference, anyway. The heads of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google were there to answer questions about their enormous power and how they use it. Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, who's leading the House investigation into these companies, laid out the stakes.

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How big is too big? That's the question at the heart of a hearing on Capitol Hill today.

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The CEO of TikTok, the popular app for sharing short-form videos, is attacking Facebook for planning the launch of a "copycat" product, accusing the social media giant of trying to smear TikTok and put it out of business in the U.S.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

Are Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple "emperors of the online economy" that stifle competition and hurt consumers? Not surprisingly, the tech giants' chief executives told Congress: absolutely not. The concern that too much power is concentrated in too few companies is unfounded, they said Wednesday.

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All right. So executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, also Google are going to be facing lawmakers today.

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The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are set to testify before a House antitrust subcommittee Wednesday about whether their companies have too much power.

For Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, it will be his first appearance before Congress. He begins his prepared remarks with a personal story, as he often does in public appearances:

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

Twitter put a 12-hour restriction on Donald Trump Jr.'s account, saying the president's son put out a tweet that contained "misleading and potentially harmful" information about the coronavirus.

The news emerged after a person close to Trump Jr. — Republican political strategist Andrew Surabian — posted a screenshot showing what appeared to be a message to Trump Jr. alerting him of a temporary limit on his account based on the company's policy on spreading misinformation on COVID-19.

Wayne Banks is a middle school math teacher and principal in residence for KIPP charter schools. These days, like many teachers around the country, the 29-year-old is working from his apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

Banks has never been formally trained to teach online, but that hasn't stopped him from trying to make his classes as engaging and challenging as possible.

"I really took the opportunity in March to be like, 'I just have to figure this out.' [It was] a do or die for me," Banks says.

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Updated at 7:19 p.m. ET

Jeff Bezos is a man of many firsts. On Wednesday, he'll face a new one: his first appearance before Congress.

In a hearing via video with other major tech CEOs, lawmakers will grill Amazon's founder about the reach of his company, the rules it sets for workers and the power imbalance with other sellers on its platform.

Updated at 7:17 p.m. ET

Some of the world's most powerful CEOs are coming to Capitol Hill — virtually, of course — to answer one overarching question: Do the biggest technology companies use their reach and power to hurt competitors and help themselves?

Here's what you need to know:

Who: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google is letting its employees work from home for at least another year — a sign that the technology industry is expecting disruption from the coronavirus pandemic to linger for a long time.

The company had expected most employees to return to the office by the end of this year and has reopened some offices around the world.

Now, CEO Sundar Pichai has told staff by email: "To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don't need to be in the office."

Updated at 11:56 a.m. ET

With about 100 days left before the general election, officials are simultaneously trying to prepare for two very different types of voting, while facing two unprecedented threats to safety and security. It's a juggling act that has voters, political parties and officials anxious about how smoothly November's voting will go.

"Doubt is our enemy," U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said at a Senate hearing Wednesday on what Congress can do to ensure public confidence in this year's election results.

The recently created U.S. Space Force accused Russia on Thursday of testing an anti-satellite weapon from one of its satellites in orbit.

Updated 1:55 p.m. ET Tuesday

TikTok is contemplating ways to distance itself from its Chinese parent company as threats from Washington grow louder.

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In 1964, the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov speculated that within 50 years, we would all have robotic kitchens. They'd automatically brew our coffee, toast our bread and fry our bacon and eggs.

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Twitter said on Tuesday it has removed more than 7,000 accounts associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, a loose group of online provocateurs who support President Trump and spread absurd claims about forces supposedly attempting to topple the president.

Content associated with QAnon will be banned from the platform's trends section and tweets sharing links involving QAnon theories will be blocked, Twitter officials said.

The Justice Department announced charges Tuesday against two suspected Chinese hackers who allegedly targeted U.S. companies conducting COVID-19 research, part of what the government called long-running efforts to steal American trade secrets and intellectual property.

The 11-count indictment accuses the defendants, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, of conducting a hacking campaign that has targeted companies, nongovernmental organizations as well as Chinese dissidents and clergy in the United States and around the world.

So many of us do it: You get into bed, turn off the lights, and look at your phone to check Twitter one more time.

You see that coronavirus infections are up. Maybe your kids can't go back to school. The economy is cratering.

Still, you incessantly scroll though bottomless doom-and-gloom news for hours as you sink into a pool of despair.

Twitter says a total of 130 accounts were hacked in some fashion during a cybersecurity breach on Wednesday that affected some of its most prominent users, including Joe Biden and Kanye West.

Next week, lawyers for Facebook will be back in court, trying to convince a judge they should be allowed to settle a class action lawsuit that accuses the company of violating users' privacy.

Facebook agreed earlier this year to pay $550 million to settle the case, which claims that the tech giant illegally used facial-recognition technology in its "tag suggestions" service.

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