with Tonya Riley

The Trump administration today unveiled a $1 billion initiative it says is focused on maintaining U.S. dominance as a global technology leader. 

An influx of cash for research in quantum and artificial intelligence is designed to help build more powerful computers and other tools for processing information, which could accelerate research and other scientific developments –- a goal that has taken on new significance amid a global race to develop a vaccine and treatments for coronavirus

The announcement is a shot across the bow in the broader tech race with China – and seems positioned to be a feather in Trump's cap during the week of the Republican National Convention. 

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser who is speaking at the convention this week, credited Trump with this “defining achievement as we continue to shape and prepare this great Nation for excellence in the industries of the future.” 

A significant chunk of the funding which includes $300 million in contributions from academia and industry will go toward establishing new centers focused on research in quantum within five of the Department of Energy labs.  The administration is also awarding $140 million toward seven National Science Foundation-led institutes focused on artificial intelligence, which will be housed at colleges including the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The investments will be deployed over the next five years. 

China has made significant investments in these fields, raising questions about the United States's ability to retain its technological edge. 

The Trump administration is not viewed as science friendly and has made major cuts to science research. But it has continued to prioritize quantum and artificial intelligence as a national security issue, as China names these fields as priorities in its own research initiatives. 

However, the Trump administration’s investment pales in comparison to the investments that China says it has made. The country announced a $10 billion investment in one of the largest quantum labs, and it has made some achievements in the field, such as the first quantum satellite. Academics however have questioned media reports about this and concluded the Chinese government isn't likely dramatically outspending the United States in artificial intelligence.  

“As the 12 new Institutes demonstrate, the United States will continue to lead in AI and QIS thanks to an innovation ecosystem that is the envy of the world,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios told me. “We will succeed because the federal government partners with private-sector and academic leaders from all across the country to accelerate foundational research and promote free-market innovation and commercialization.”

An administration official said that today's announcement is just part of a broader research and development investment in these technologies. The person said the administration is on track to double its spending on quantum and artificial intelligence in two years. 

The private sector in the United States has also been heavily investing in these technologies – with venture capitalists and large tech companies pouring billions into technology in the fields. 

The research institutes will bring together government, academia and the private sector. 

Several prominent tech companies – including IBM, Intel and Microsoft and startups – are participating in the initiative. Their involvement underscores the pressure on U.S. companies to also maintain a competitive edge over competitors around the world. There will be plans in place to transfer technologies from the center to industry. 

IBM will be a partner in three of the five quantum centers at the Department of Energy labs. Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, told me the initiative is an “important development” and it was very positive that different companies, universities and the government were all coming together. 

“I will continue to advocate that the aggregate level of investment increases in science and technology in general in the United States by the federal government,” he said. 

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First Lady Melania Trump fired off against “mean and manipulative” social media at the convention. 

She expressed sympathy with parents who are trying to navigate the digital world for their children.

“Just like me, I know many of you watch how mean and manipulative social media can be … I’m sure many of you are looking for answers how to talk to your children about the downside of technology, she said.

It was one of several jabs against tech companies during the second night of the convention.

Tiffany Trump also slammed the effects of social media on society.

People must recognize that our thoughts, opinions, and even the choice of who we vote for are being manipulated and invisibly coerced by the media and tech giants, she said.

“Rather than allowing Americans the right to form our own beliefs, this misinformation system keeps people mentally enslaved to the ideas they deem correct. This has fostered unnecessary fear and divisiveness among us. Why are so many in the media, in technology, even in our own government, so invested in promoting a biased and fabricated view?” she said.

Tiffany, the youngest of Trump's adult children, is a recent graduate of Georgetown Law, where she was reportedly co-president of the Cyberlaw Society. She does not have an official White House role.

Correction: This article has been updated to make clear that Tiffany is the youngest of Trump's adult children, not the youngest. 

The RNC pulled one speaker for tweeting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories before the event began.

Mary Ann Mendoza, a member of the Women for Trump Campaign board, shared a thread of tweets promoting conspiracy theories about a Jewish plot to control the world, Colby Itkowitz reports.

“My apologies for not paying attention to the intent of the whole message. That does not reflect my feelings or personal thoughts whatsoever,” Mendoza wrote after reporters picked up the tweets.

Mendoza had shared similar conspiracy theories about a wealthy Jewish family in the past. Mendoza had also previously been suspended from Twitter and from Facebook for posts violating standards on hate speech.

YouTube doubled its video removals during the pandemic.

Removals in the most sensitive categories – including violent extremism and content that could jeopardize child safety – nearly tripled, Protocol's Issie Lapowsky reports. The company attributed the increase to a more aggressive approach of “potential over-enforcement” and accepting a lower level of accuracy for removals flagged by its technology. 

But comparing YouTube's results with Facebook, which also sent human moderators home in March, shows automated systems across the industry have room to improve. 

Removals of child sexual abuse material fell in Facebook's second quarter. Conversely, Facebook saw more removals of hate speech than YouTube. YouTube said it maintained its appeals process to account for over-removals, whereas Facebook suspended it's for the most sensitive categories.  

The comparison between the two social media giants isn't one to one. Each platform has slightly different definitions of categories.

“And yet, the two reports still illustrate an important point about how the covid-19 era has affected what people see — and don't — online,” Issie writes. “Facebook and YouTube often get lumped together as two social networks filled with the same filth, both using a combination of AI and low-wage contractors to rid problematic posts from their platforms. But over the last six months, these two companies have taken two different approaches to the same problem, and they have yielded dramatically different outcomes.”

Palantir included a loud message for critics in its filing to go public. 

Chief executive Alex Karp took a jab at competitors who rely on selling and mining data and advertising for rebuking controversial government contracts, Ari Levy at CNBC reports

“Software projects with our nation’s defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace," Karp wrote in a letter in the filing. "The slogans and marketing of many of the Valley’s largest technology firms attempt to obscure this simple fact.” 

Palantir, which was co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, has accrued more than $1.5 billion in federal contracts with agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thiel was a prominent Trump supporter and member of Trump's transition team in 2016, but he has since reportedly distanced himself from the president. 

Last year, the company had nearly $580 million in losses.

The filing also outlines Palantir's clear stance against working with China, saying it could hurt the company's growth long-term. 

“We do not consider any sales opportunities with the Chinese communist party, do not host our platforms in China, and impose limitations on access to our platforms in China in order to protect our intellectual property, to promote respect for and defend privacy and civil liberties protections, and to promote data security,” the filing says. 

Lawmakers have slammed tech companies including Apple and Google for their relationships with China in the past. 

The digital race to 2020

The Trump campaign is using influencer-led attacks to drum up support from Black voters.  

Speakers during the first night of the Republican National Convention took a more moderate tack than Black influencers online who have used extreme tactics to fight against the president's Black critics, Isaac Stanley-Becker reports

Conservative commentators such as Candace Owens, who wields a network of Facebook pages, have popularized anti-Democratic sentiments like leaving the “Democratic plantation.” The attacks against Democrats alleging the political suppression of Black Americans have grown more explicit since Kamala Harris, who is Black and Asian American, was named to the ticket. 

A viral video from Kimberly Klacik, a Black Republican running for Congress in Maryland, who spoke on opening night, called Harris a prop. Conservative influencers and Trump supporters Diamond and Silk popularized a meme attacking Harris for marrying a white man. These attacks have spread beyond conservative online corners to more fringe groups as well, Isaac reports.

Having Black voices spread the message is key to spreading "misinformation and hate" as a legitimate critique of Democrats, said Andre Banks, a co-founder of Win Black/Pa’lante, a group combating disinformation targeting Black and Latino communities. “No White person,” Banks said, could deliver similar messages without “experiencing harmful side effects.”

Workforce report

Gig worker activists are asking Instacart to provide relief to workers affected by natural disasters.

Workers are bringing demands in light of raging wildfires in California, Megan Rose Dickey at TechCrunch reports. Gig Workers Collective, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of workers at companies including Lyft and Instacart, is calling the delivery company to pay a disaster rate equal to average daily pay as long as operations are shut down. The group also wants Instacart to commit to shutting down operations in markets where a state of emergency or evacuation has been issued. 

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Before you log off

Stephen Colbert reminds us of this great moment in RNC history: