YouTube slashes video quality across UK and Europe to tackle coronavirus lockdown binge-watching
Pressure on internet providers is soaring as the coronavirus outbreak rages across the world, and tech firms are resorting to new measures to tackle the crisis.
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UK networks have had significant outages in recent days – and insiders have reported huge spikes in traffic.
Daytime internet usage is up significantly, as people self-isolate and seek out the latest news, advice and distractions from the pandemic.
As a result, Google has decided that YouTube will default all videos on YouTube to standard definition.
According to YouTube, this will ensure maximum bandwidth availability in the UK and Europe.
The measures will be in place for 30 days initially, in co-operation with governments.
And the good news is that it's still possible to manually adjust the video quality if you do need higher streaming.
But making lower-quality videos the default should relieve major stress on networks.
"People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times," a YouTube spokesperson told The Sun.
"While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.
"Following the meeting between Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, YouTube's CEO, Susan Wojcicki, and Commissioner Breton we are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the EU to Standard Definition.
"We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience."
Netflix recently made a similar move, slashing streaming quality throughout Europe to reduce network strain.
Youtube has also pledged to roll out a campaign across Europe that encourages people to follow official health guidance and stay home.
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Tech firms are currently racing to roll out new tools, measures and advice to help reduce the impact of coronavirus outbreak globally.
This week, Snapchat rushed out a mental health tool to tackle potentially widespread anxiety.
Facebook will be delivering "vetted" coronavirus info to the top of News Feeds daily.
And Facebook-owned WhatsApp launched its own COVID-19 "info hub".
The chat app also donated $1million to fact-checking organisations around the world – in a bid to tackle coronavirus fake news.
This week, Facebook announced that it would give away $100million to help small businesses survive the outbreak.
The money will be shared across 30,000 organisations in more than 30 countries where Facebook employees live and work.
Some of the fund will be delivered directly as cash grants.
And some of it will be provided as advertising credits to use on Facebook's gargantuan ad platform.
Facebook's Business Hub is also available for all businesses to access.
It was previously a resource for Facebook employees and health experts, but has now been opened up to the wider woreld.
And Facebook has pledged to create new "virtual training" to support businesses operating during the coronavirus outbreak.
And this week, Facebook teamed up with rival tech giants Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit to crack down on coronavirus scams and fake news.
It came as The Sun revealed how coronavirus scams and COVID-19 conspiracy theories have been spreading like wildfire.
Hackers and scammers are preying on the confusion and interest in coronavirus online.
Pressure is ramping up for tech firms to do more.
In a joint statement, they wrote: "We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts.
"We're helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms.
"And sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.
"We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe."
Earlier this week, Twitter created a brand new handwashing emoji to help fight germs during the coronavirus pandemic.
The emoji is backed by the World Health Organisation – and shows how social media is becoming a tool to tackle the outbreak.
Any Twitter user can trigger the emoji by using any one of four hashtags.
They are: #handwashing, #SafeHands, #HandWashChallenge and #WashYourHands.
The #SafeHands campaign is backed by the WHO, which has been working overtime to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebrevesus, the WHO director general, praised the emoji while sharing a video of himself washing his hands.
In a tweet, Dr Tedros wrote: "Thank you Twitter for such a nice addition to our #SafeHands challenge!
"We @WHO love it and hope the challenge will generate videos as creative as the new #HandWashing emoji!"
COVID-19 originated in the city of Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has since travelled rapidly across the globe.
People can spread the virus to each other through close contact or bodily fluids.
An infection causes flu-like symptoms and is thought to kill around 1% to 3.4% cases – largely the elderly or people with pre-existing conditions.
The virus has killed more than 10,000 individuals worldwide, according to an estimate from Johns Hopkins University.
In other news, Instagram has banned dangerous, reckless and insensitive coronavirus filters.
Criminals are taking advantage of the Covid-19 outbreak by sending scam emails claiming to be from the WHO.
And, we debunked some of the most outrageous coronavirus conspiracy theories.
What else do you think tech firms should be doing to help tackle the coronavirus crisis? Let us know in the comments!
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