Move over Slack — Space is a new project management platform for developers

While file sharing, time tracking, email integration, Gantt charts and budget management are usually some of the most requested features in the average project management platform, we still have a proliferation of tools taking a multiplicity of approaches to the problem of just managing something.

Most people in tech are by now familiar with Slack, Asana, Notion, Trello, Azure DevOps, GitLab and GitHub. But the sector is still booming. Last month, Microsoft Teams had more than 20 million active users, up from 13 million in July. Slack reported more than 10 million daily active users in the second quarter. Adobe just launched a collaboration tool, Notion is super hot, Frame.io raised $50 million and Microsoft has Fluid. Even WordPress is getting in on the act.

(When is someone going to make something for journalists? Oh, we’re poor. I forgot).

And yet. And yet… project management for developers remains a rising area for startups.

Now a new product has been launched to address this space. And how ironic is it that’s called Space?

Space is billed as an integrated team environment that provides a toolset that combines into a single platform messaging, team and project management, internal blogs, meeting scheduling and software development processes.

It’s now available for early users, who will get an Organization plan free of charge. This includes 25 GB storage per user, a monthly limit of 10,000 CI credits and 125 GB data transfer per user.

With Space, all the data a team needs to work is stored in one place, while software development tools (source code management, code review and browsing, continuous integration, delivery and deployment, package repositories, issue tracking, planning tools and project documentation) are integrated with communication and identity support.

The idea is that any workflow can be automated, from onboarding new employees to configuring rules for merging requests to CI/CD pipelines. You also can schedule meetings, projects, tasks, commits, code reviews, etc.

Space is a bootstrapped spin-out from JetBrains, the company behind Kotlin, a semi-official language of Android. While Java is the official language of Android development, it has a steep learning curve. When JetBrains created Kotlin, it was so successful that it became a secondary “official” Java language. So, in theory, they ought to know their stuff.

JetBrains CEO Maxim Shafirov says “Most digital collaboration environments are in fact a mixed bag of solutions tackling different problems, from development tools to task management ones. This leaves people switching tools and tabs, manually copying information, and generally losing time and creative flow. JetBrains Space is changing this — and thus changing the foundation of creative work, software development included.”

JetBrains Space is available through a subscription model with a freemium starting tier, while the paid plans start at $8 per active user per month. The ultimate goal for Space is to provide a unified company-wide platform expanded to a wider range of creative teams, including designers, marketers, sales, accounting and more.

Time will tell if Space takes off (LOL) and can start to put the heat on products like Slack. As a Slack hater, I do hope so.

GitGuardian raises $12M to help developers write more secure code and ‘fix’GitHub leaks

Data breaches that could cause millions of dollars in potential damages have been the bane of the life of many a company. What’s required is a great deal of real-time monitoring. The problem is that this world has become incredibly complex. A SANS Institute survey found half of company data breaches were the result of account or credential hacking.

GitGuardian has attempted to address this with a highly developer-centric cybersecurity solution.

It’s now attracted the attention of major investors, to the tune of a $12 million in Series A funding, led by Balderton Capital . Scott Chacon, co-founder of GitHub, and Solomon Hykes, founder of Docker also participated in the round.

The startup plans to use the investment from Balderton Capital to expand its customer base, predominantly in the US. Around 75% of its clients are currently based in the US, with the remainder being based in Europe, and the funding will continue to drive this expansion.

Built to uncover sensitive company information hiding in online repositories, GitGuardian says its real-time monitoring platform can address the data leaks issues. Modern enterprise software developers have to integrate multiple internal and third-party services. That means they need incredibly sensitive “secrets”, such as login details, API keys, and private cryptographic keys used to protect confidential systems and data.

GitGuardian’s systems detect thousands of credential leaks per day. The team originally built its launch platform with public GitHub in mind, however, GitGuardian is built as a private solution to monitor and notify on secrets that are inappropriately disseminated in internal systems as well, such as private code repositories or messaging systems.

Solomon Hykes, founder of Docker and investor at GitGuardian, said: “Securing your systems starts with securing your software development process. GitGuardian understands this, and they have built a pragmatic solution to an acute security problem. Their credentials monitoring system is a must-have for any serious organization”.

Do they have any competitors?

Co-founder Jérémy Thomas told me: “We currently don’t have any direct competitors. This generally means that there’s no market, or the market is too small to be interesting. In our case, our fundraise proves we’ve put our hands on something huge. So the reason we don’t have competitors is because the problem we’re solving is counterintuitive at first sight. Ask any developer, they will say they would never hardcode any secret in public source code. However, humans make mistakes and when that happens, they can be extremely serious: it can take a single leaked credential to jeopardize an entire organization. To conclude, I’d say our real competitors so far are black hat hackers. Black hat activity is real on GitHub. For two years, we’ve been monitoring organized groups of hackers that exchange sensitive information they find on the platform. We are competing with them on speed of detection and scope of vulnerabilities covered.”

Facebook bowed to a Singapore government order to brand a news post as false

Facebook added a correction notice to a post by a fringe news site that Singapore’s government said contained false information. It’s the first time the government has tried to enforce a new law against ‘fake news’ outside its borders.

The post by fringe news site States Times Review (STR), contained “scurrilous accusations” according to the Singapore government.

The States Times Review post contained accusations about the arrest of an alleged whistleblower and election-rigging.

Singapore authorities had previously ordered STR editor Alex Tan to correct the post but the Australian citizen said he would “not comply with any order from a foreign government”.

Mr Tan, who was born in Singapore, said he was an Australian citizen living in Australia and was not subject to the law. In a follow-up post, he said he would “defy and resist every unjust law”. He also posted the article on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Docs and challenged the government to order corrections there as well.

On the note Facebook said it “is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information”. They then embedded the note at the bottom of the original post, which was not altered. Only social media users in Singapore could see the note.

In a statement Facebook said it had applied the label as required under the “fake news” law. The law, known as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation bill, came into effect in October.

According to Facebook’s “transparency report” it often blocks content that governments allege violate local laws, with nearly 18,000 cases globally in the year to June.

Facebook — which has its Asia headquarters in Singapore — said it hoped assurances that the law would not impact on free expression “will lead to a measured and transparent approach to implementation”.

Anyone who breaks the law could be fined heavily and face a prison sentence of up to five years. The law also bans the use of fake accounts or bots to spread fake news, with penalties of up to S$1m (£563,000, $733,700) and a jail term of up to 10 years.

Critics say the law’s reach gives Singapore’s government could jeopardize freedom of expression both in the city-state and outside its borders.

As the new year beckons European investors start moving into new roles

As the Holiday Season approaches, new jobs for players in the tech ecosystem beckon. And this is no less true for investors. Two notable moves have recently happened that are worthy of note in the European scene.

The first is that GR Capital, a pan-European VC, is opening an office in London and has lured Jason Ball, who, earlier this year, left Qualcomm Ventures where had been European Managing Director for over a decade. Bad spent ten years as a mentor at Seedcamp and individually invested in more than ten companies. He was understood to be looking for new challenges, either building a new fund or joining another – so now we have our answer as to what he decided.

Founded in 2016 by Roma Ivaniuk in Ukraine, GR Capital specializes in late-stage VC investments. It has over $70M under management and has invested in Lime, Azimo, WeFox, McMakler, Glovo and Meero among others. The fund has traditionally been known for investing in Eastern Europe, but with a London office and the extremely well-networked Ball under its belt, we should be hearing more from them on the wider European scene in future.

Ivaniuk said in a statement that the move “means we can now drive our pan-European business activities from the continent’s most important VC hub, London.”

Ball said “We see a huge opportunity here to connect the dots between West and East. The London ecosystem is an exciting offering for investors in Eastern Europe, which in turn presents unique R&D and growth opportunities for portfolio companies.”

Meanwhile, Jon Bradford was most recently a partner of Motive Partners and a UK investment pioneer — having founded the Springboard Accelerator that merged with Techstars to become Techstars London, as well as helping to co-found F6S and Tech.eu. But he is also on the move, now joining Dynamo Ventures as its newest partner.

Bradford will be joining Dynamo on a full-time basis having previously been an advisor who helped launch the debut fund. He has invested in over 100 startups over the last decade including Apiary, Hassle, Tray.io, Flitto (that recently IPO’ed in Korea), Sendbird and Chainalysis. Dynamo is a US-EU based seed fund focused on B2B startups in supply chain and mobility. It has invested in 20 startups across the US and overseas, investing in including Sennder (Berlin), Skupos, Stord, Gatik and LEAF Logistics.

Rossum raises $4.5M to make OCR-like data entry many times more accurate

Every day, people slog over inputting date from invoices and other forms. So instead of using traditional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) extraction software, you could apply a new form of machine learning to documents to speed up the process. That’s the thinking behind Rossum’s technology, which uses ‘Cognitive Data Capture’ to teach computers to understand documents in the way humans do. It says its AI tool has been proven to extract data six times faster than at a human rate while saving companies up to 80% of the costs.

The company has now secured $4.5 million after one $1million pre-seed with Miton and StartupYard, followed by a second $3.5 million seed round, led by LocalGlobe out of London. Seedcamp also participated.

A number of Angels also took part: Elad Gil (Twitter’s former VP of strategy and investor in Airbnb, Square, and Pinterest); Michael Stoppelman (investor in Wish, Lyft and the former SVP of Engineering at Yelp); Vijay Pandurangan (investor and advisor for Wish and Get Room and former Director of Engineering at Twitter); and Ryan Petersen (founder and CEO Flexport and Import Genius).

Rossum’s software was built by its three founders, former AI PhD students Tomas Gogar, Petr Baudis and Tomas Tunys. Baudis’ work is credited in Google’s scientific paper on its historic AlphaGo AI victory in 2016.

Rather than replacing employees, Rossum’s aim is to speed up human operators, giving businesses more flexibility and reliability for their customers, and helping employees focus their attention on more complex tasks or tasks that require creativity. Rossum says its accuracy rates average at around 95% and for any data fields Rossum’s software can’t identify, it asks for feedback from a human worker. Each time it receives feedback, the software learns, improves and this accuracy increases.

Rossum’s product is already used by companies in every continent, including multiple Fortune 500 enterprises, such as Siemens.

Rossum’s current system is helping its clients chiefly process invoices and similar documents, like delivery notes. However, the technology can be used to process documents across many segments including accounting, logistics, insurance, real estate management, among others. It plans to use its investments to further develop this technology for multiple sectors, open a US office and continue its global expansion.

Rossum’s co-founder Tomas Gogar said: “Technology should make data entry easier and cheaper but businesses have become too reliant on using old systems that no longer meet their needs. Rossum solves these problems without complicated, clunky integrations; without teams of developers; and without high costs. ”

Reshma Sohoni from SeedCamp said: “Rossum’s technology is a game-changer for business. We’re excited to work with such a passionate and highly skilled team to bring the cost and time savings of its AI data-extraction tool to even more businesses.”

Kleiner Perkins joins $25.5M funding led by Blockchain Capital for Bison Trails

Kleiner Perkins has joined a $25.5 million Series A funding round for Bison Trails, a provider of blockchain protocols, which was led by Blockchain Capital to develop the firm’s infrastructure services.

Other participants included Coinbase Ventures, ConsenSys, A Capital, Collaborative Fund and Sound Ventures as new investors. Galaxy Digital and Initialized, as early backers, joined this latest round after participating in a $5.25 million seed round in March.

Bison Trails became one of the 21 founding members for Facebook’s Libra Association in October, boosting its somewhat flagging reputation as a global infrastructure service provider after high profile players like PayPal pulled out.

That makes Bison Trails the only blockchain infrastructure firm in the Libra project.

The New York-based startup helps customers deploy the participation nodes on any blockchain, without having to develop their own supporting technologies such as security, and serves more than 20 protocol projects.

In a statement, Kleiner Perkins investing partner Monica Desai said: “Bison Trails realized early that node infrastructure would become a bottleneck to blockchain adoption, which is why they created a decentralized, user-friendly solution.”

“When we started building Bison Trails, we wanted to bring transparency and ease to entrepreneurs bold enough to build in a decentralized ecosystem, investors wise enough to back a nascent market, and enterprises courageous enough to commit to a technological inevitability like blockchain technology and cryptocurrency,” said Joe Lallouz, CEO of Bison Trails. “We have become the easiest way to run infrastructure on multiple blockchains. And have helped the world’s leading protocols, companies and builders launch and manage secure, highly-available and geographically distributed nodes on blockchain networks.”

Article updated with correct total funding amount.

Sharding, scalability, decentralization – You name it, we’ve got it on the EC stage in Berlin

Sharding and scalability. Transactions per second.  Crypto-ecosystems. The decentralized web. These are the voyages of the Starship Blockchain, on it’s 5-year mission to seek out… Ok, you get the drift! But as you can tell, there remain many, many issues to tease out of this burgeoning new tech world, one we will be unpacking at Techcrunch Disrupt Berlin this December.

There are still a lot of issues to deal with. The current version of Ethereum can only handle a dozen transactions per second. “Sharding” or spreading the load via partitioning should lead to a drastic increase in performance, but the question is how to do it? Ethereum 2.0 still remains a moving target. There is even a growing “Ethereum killer” community. And while all this goes on, high-minded organizations like the Web3 Foundation are trying to foster the development of a user-friendly crypto-ecosystem and decentralized web.

Who on earth would take all this on? TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin of course, and in particular our Extra Crunch stage.

Since we launched Extra Crunch, our premium content service for those readers who like to hold TechCrunch close and cuddle it at night, we’ve been running a premium EC stage at our TechCrunch Disrupt conferences, and this will be no less true in Berlin.

Given Berlin is a hotbed of blockchain startups and development, it would be utterly remiss of us not to cover this subject, but the Extra Crunch stage gives us some extra (oh yeah!) bandwidth to do deep-dives for attendees to get under this skin of this rapidly expanding aspect of the tech industry.

We’re excited to be joined by three amazing speakers to pore over the latest development in the blockchain world.

Justin Drake (Ethereum)
Justin studied mathematics at Cambridge University. He was a Bitcoin entrepreneur from 2014 to 2017 and is now an Ethereum 2.0 researcher.

Justin is going to cover off where Ethereum 2.0 is at right now as someone who has been working on sharding and scalability and supporting the Ethereum ecosystem to enable these new use cases.

With the current version of Ethereum only able to handle a dozen transactions per second, sharding will be crucial, but Ethereum 2.0 is a moving target and remains a large-scale experiment of distributed development.

If the community gets it right, Ethereum 2.0 could transform the Ethereum blockchain into a sort of “world computer” that can execute instructions across a network of servers all around the world. On the EC stage Justin will also be talking about building a blockchain startup on the Extra Crunch Stage with other blockchain experts. If anyone know, he knows how important it is to build a community of developers and researchers around your blockchain project.

Ash Eagan (Accomplice VC)
A World Economic Forum Global Shaper and advisor at ConsenSys’ Tachyon Accelerator, Ash Eagan has backed a number of headline companies in the space including Bison Trails, Coda, CoinList, Dapper Labs, Near, Simplex, and Torus. Before Accomplice, he co-launched ConsenSys’ venture arm and started his career at Converge VC in Boston.

Egan has previously highlighted the ongoing innovations within the “Ethereum killer” community and how it “expands the sandbox” but he also believes that for mass adoption of crypto on social networks to take off, users will need to be monetized via advertisements and referrals.

Ashley Tyson (Web3 Foundation)
Ashley Tyson is the Director of Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Web3 Foundation. She spends her time aligning diverse teams working on decentralized systems and supporting blockchain ecosystem initiatives like Ethereum Community Fund and ETHPrize.

Prior to Web3 Foundation, Ashley co-founded DEFCAD, a censorship-resistant search engine for 3D printable files. She deeply understands the need for a decentralized web, beginning her career in NYC at one of the first social media-focused agencies, where she helped multinational corporations build Web 2.0 strategies around consumer data acquisition for use in marketing initiatives.

Disrupt Berlin runs December 11 and December 12. Tickets are available here!

The man behind Bezos’ next lunar guidance system talks future tech

Draper, the MIT spin-off engineering lab, is famed for developing the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer (not Draper Esprit, I hasten to add). Ken Gabriel, President and CEO, also recently made a major announcement. Blue Origin has now partnered with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to build elements of the company’s human-rated lunar lander, and Draper will lead the development of the lander’s avionics and guidance systems, with an aim to be ready to land a crew on the moon by 2024.

“While Blue Origin is the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin is building the ascent stage, Northrop Grumman is building the transfer element and Draper is doing the GNC (guidance, navigation and control),” Blue Origin CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said, announcing the move at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington. Blue Origin is competing for a NASA contract to develop a crewed lunar lander, or Human Landing System, for the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the surface of the moon by the end of 2024.

TechCrunch sat down to chat with Gabriel, who previously he co-founded Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, to tlak about what he sees coming up in the future for the most advanced technologies. Prior to this, he was Deputy and Acting Director of the famed DARPA in the U.S. Department of Defense. During his tenure, DARPA advanced capabilities in hypersonics, offensive and defensive cyber, and big data analytics for intelligence and national security.

Backed by Serena Williams and Usain Bolt, Let’s Do This raises $15M from EQT

Back in September, endurance events marketplace Let’s Do This (a YC alumni) raised a $5m seed round from a number of US investors, including Olypmic star Usain Bolt and tennis star Serena Williams. As much as I’d like to get excited, this is slightly par for the course for a lot of sports-oriented startups which catch the eye of a celebrity. Not that they are without merit, of course.

Suffice it to say, their sports stars, plus a strong push to get funding from Silicon Valley has landed the startup with a $15m Series A round led by European/US VC EQT, with participation of the previous investors including Trulia founder Pete Flint, YCombinator, alongside, yes, you guessed it, Usain Bolt and Serena Williams .

The platform lists 30,000 races of all distances and disciplines and claims to be the largest marketplace for endurance events in the world, offering key information about the races and exclusive booking perks for members such as free cancellation protection. It recently agreed a partnership with Hearst to power all race listings across Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health in the US and the UK.

The startup is set to expand its team of sport enthusiasts across its San Francisco and London offices. The company was founded by University of Cambridge graduates Alex Rose and Sam Browne – both passionate runners and cyclists who had experienced the arduous process of discovering and entering events firsthand.

The Let’s Do This algorithm uses data points from fitness tracking, race history, social connections and more, to personalize race recommendations. Part of the marketing story is that people are 12.5 times more likely to develop a fitness habit after 12 months from signing up to a race than from joining a gym.

Serena Williams, the 22 time Grand Slam Champion, commented: “I’ve seen first-hand the incredible impact these events can have on making people fitter, healthier and happier. I love that Let’s Do This is not only making events like these more accessible but also helping to support athletes of all different fitness levels. Women are especially less likely to participate in marathons and obstacle races, so it’s really important there’s a platform encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and make a positive difference in their lives.”

Usain Bolt said in a statement: “Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to inspire people to follow their dreams, get off the couch and get exercising… It’s a really natural fit with what I care about and what I believe in, so I am very happy to be supporting their mission to inspire more people to have epic experiences.”

Founder Sam Browne says the quick fundraising has come about in part because “The market’s big, affluent and we’re already the dominant marketplace in it.”

Exclusive: Tony Blair on regulating Big Tech, Facebook, Russia, China and Brexit

As history tells us, the break-up of “Big Oil” and “Big Telco” in the past led to more competition and innovation. What to do in the era of “Big Tech?” Living in 2019, we know more than ever before about how Big Tech, particularly in the shape of Facebook, Twitter and Google — as the prime arbiters of information and social media online — have shaped and affected politics today. At the same time, we’re about to face several huge sea-changes in the global system, not least of which will be the next U.S. election, Brexit, the rise of China and challenges of the climate crisis.

Speaking at Web Summit in Lisbon this week, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair brought out a new report from the Institute which bears his name to address the turmoil of Western politics from the prism of the backlash against globalisation after the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the rise of populist movements and the effects technology is having on society, politicians and policymakers.

A policy framework designed for the offline world may have served many people well for many decades, but in an age of exponential technology, is it fit for purpose?

Platform companies like Facebook, aggregators like Google, Amazon and Uber have, says the Institute, stripped traditional gatekeepers of their power, delivered real progress for consumers and businesses and increased many freedoms. But they have also brought significant economic upheaval and heightened cultural pressures, along with huge unknowns about the future. The tech wolf has also now concentrated power in the hands of a relatively small number of companies that “all too often wield it clumsily and without sufficient legitimacy.”

This comes at a time when the West’s lead on technology is “facing a clear and present challenge from determined Russian aggression and a concerted push from China to take a global lead in AI.”

Blair’s Institute makes it plain in its new report (“A New Deal for Big Tech: Next-Generation Regulation Fit for the Internet Age”) that the current set of regulations designed for legacy industries is “a poor fit for the pace and scale of the Internet” and a new approach, based on stronger accountability coupled with more freedom to innovate, might be the best way to align private incentives with the public interest.

Blair is calling for a “new generation of regulator” that can take an international outlook, have technical expertise comparable with the big tech companies and be fluent in the same fundamentals of “Big Tech.”

But how? How is all this going to operate? What are Blair’s views on Russia, disinformation on Facebook and Twitter, and whether tech will have an effect on the outcome of Brexit?

TechCrunch sat down with Mr Blair for the following, exclusive, interview.

 

Mike Butcher (MB): You’ve released this new report into regulating Big Tech. Do you want to outline its main thrust?

Tony Blair (TB): Essentially what we’re saying is: there’s no way “big tech” is going to avoid regulation, and regulation that will treat them almost like public utilities because of their power, their reach and their impact. But the question is about getting the right form of regulation. So what we’re trying to do is to make sure that it’s the kind of regulation of big tech that recognizes that [big tech has] actually brought enormous benefits to people, but at the same time protects people, whether it’s on issues around privacy, competition [and] making sure that consumers get adequate access — all of those types of things — and translate this into a set of proper principles. What I say to the big tech companies is that even though you may not want to have a lot to do with politics, as you can see — and I’ve been saying this for several years to them — it’s going to come your way. Because you’re just too powerful not to be under some system of objective regulation, and you can’t just regulate yourselves.

MB: On that note, many big tech companies have actually called for regulation, but do you think that’s a “sop” to governments in order to allow them to build even bigger monopolies? Because then everybody will have to be regulated, including smaller companies?

TB: I think the whole point about regulation is that it can be bad or it can be good. So you really want to make sure that the regulation you’re introducing is not an imposition on the companies for providing the service they do, but it is giving people proper protection and it’s recognizing, as I say, the power that these companies have. People won’t find it acceptable that things continue without proper regulation. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg comes out in favor of regulation… I mean, I think that’s good. But the question is what type of regulation. And there, obviously, he and Facebook should have an input. But they can’t decide that. That’s — in the end — got to be decided by policymakers. And one thing my institute — which Chris [Chris Yiu, executive director, Technology and Public Policy] heads up, which is based in London but has strong links in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the world — is to say there needs to be a dialogue between what I call the “change-makers” and the policy-makers that leads to good policy.

MB: But national governments making policy on their own surely isn’t going to address the issue, given Big Tech is global? What institutions can address this? Some sort of supranational body?

TB: Well, I think, ultimately, on certain issues you’ll need a global agreement. For example cybersecurity, I think we’ll, for sure, need that.

MB: There’s no “United Nations Declaration” for arms control on cybersecurity for instance.

TB: The one thing I’m noticing about cyber, even in the last year… the number of people I meet whose companies have been subject to actual attacks… In the end, if every country is going to want to protect its business and every country will recognize ultimately that if the big players don’t come together and agree some rules then… I mean, it’s just anarchy.

In regards to regulation, I would like to see Europe and America create a new transatlantic partnership around regulation. This is one of the reasons I’m so opposed to Brexit… You are taking Britain out of that conversation with Europe at the very time that it needs to be in it.

MB: The pace of change at this point is now exponential. The rise of AI, quantum computing etc. Politicians have known about the rapid, changing nature of technology for a number of years. What do you think has been stopping them from grappling with the subject?

TB: It’s partly generational. It’s partly because politicians don’t often understand the technology. It is actually technical. It requires hard work. Some of it is like rocket science. It’s not easy. So that’s part of the problem. And the other problem is that I think the change-makers — the tech developers — their basic attitude, often, to government, is just to just “keep away from it.” And I completely get it. But it’s not sensible. They’ve got to engage with government today, and that’s why we’re trying, through the Institute, to establish that dialogue. And you know, if that doesn’t happen, you’ll find, as we did during the 19th-century industrial revolution, how long it took politics to catch up with the fact that the world was being revolutionized. It took decades to catch up. For a long time, society was subject to one change, and politics was still debating things that were from a different era. I mean, if you look at British politics today, with this debate where, on one side is Brexit, one on the other side is — basically — who spends more money in the next Parliament… we could have had this debate at any point in the last 30 years. It’s got no relevance, really, to how the world’s changing.

MB: Are you concerned about how social media has enabled populism?

TB: Yes, I think social media is a revolutionary phenomenon and it’s revolutionized everything, including politics. And we’ve got to work out ways of dealing with that because it is rupturing politics in a serious way.

The problem is that political leaders are always trying to “step out in front,” but not so much that they lose touch with their people. So that’s a calibration, all the time, between leadership and listening. If the “listening” part of it becomes “instrumentalized” through social media, then the risk is that politicians just lose their compass. They don’t know where they’re going, they are just buffeted by waves of opinion. And then, if you’re not careful, what happens is that the people who rise to the top in those circumstances are the people who ride that.

MB: Should Twitter shut down Trump’s account?

TB: Well how’s that going to help? I mean, honestly, I don’t think that’s relevant.

MB: Facebook has said it’s going to be changing its policy on political advertising, and won’t be regulating disinformation on political ads. What’s your opinion on that?

TB: My opinion is that it’s very hard, if you’re Facebook, to stop people having political ads. But, to me, the the whole concept that Facebook is “self patrolling” as to what should come on the internet or not, is an indication of why you need proper regulation. The decision as to whether something’s fit for consumption or not shouldn’t be left to a few thousand people employed by Facebook, you know, sitting and looking at crazy stuff on Facebook all day. I mean, this is to me just a further indication of why you’ve got to put everything within a proper system of regulation. Otherwise, it’s not actually fair to ask the company to do that. How can they decide what is a political ad or not? But someone should.

MB: What do you think of Twitter’s decision not to take any political advertising?

TB: In some ways I understand that, and in some ways I welcome that, but I think Facebook’s in a slightly different position just in terms of scale, right?

MB: China is deploying technology in its society at a huge, exponential rate, in terms of things like facial recognition and the surveillance of its population. Its ability to hoover-up all this data is effectively giving it enormous power to create, possibly, the next, powerful AI, because the more data you have the more you can improve an AI. Do you think that the Western approach, with its tradition of more democratic institutions that have moved more slowly than a command-and-control system, means that we are effectively going to be left behind by political systems that err towards the more dictatorial?

TB: Well I think there’s a huge debate that’s going to go on about China, more generally, in the West, which is what I call the debate about whether you “decouple.” Do you accept that there’s two systems that are going to remain very distinct, also in technology? This is part of what underpins the Huawei debate regarding 5G. Or do you try to get to what Henry Kissinger calls a form of “cooperative competition?” Now, I prefer the latter, not the former course, because I think decoupling is very difficult. But, what that means, in my view, is that the West has got to get its act together, because otherwise China will achieve superiority in AI and, in some regards, it already is. If you think of all the devices that we use in the West that are Chinese… You can see this with [the rise of] TikTok, for instance.

MB: The U.K. general election is now on and people are using technology to “get out the vote.” There is a lot of talk about “tactical voting” and lots of tactical voting recommendation websites appearing. Do you favour any particular approach?

TB: So, here’s where technology obviously has a beneficial purpose. If people decide that they want to vote tactically — and I completely understand that because of Brexit being mixed up [in the election], and frankly, dissatisfaction with both main parties — then web sites that tell you how to do that intelligently and provide the information, then… great. You’ve got ones from Best For Britain, People’s Vote, Gina Miller has one and there are others. Yeah, fine, people should look at them I think.

MB: Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has been prevented by Number 10 from releasing its intelligence report and it allegedly contains information about how Russia affected British politics and society using technological means in the last few years. What are your concerns about Russia’s incursion into U.K. politics using technology?

TB: I think this is not just a Russian question, although there’s been a lot of focus on what Russia has done. You’ve got to put all of this out on the table and I think, again, Western governments should be cooperating together to say… if there is outside interference — and I don’t really know the scale of it because you’ve got to go into the detail — how people are influencing media, how people are using techniques to try and influence voters, from the outside, trying to destabilize your politics… all of it should be out in the open. Because that’s the best way of stopping it, and then you can take action against people who are doing it. But this is another reason why I think this is a slightly different form of cybersecurity, if you like, but it’s somewhat akin to it. Because, in the end, if you’ve got people, for example, changing their votes — particularly in tight-run elections — changing their votes on the basis of misinformation that’s coming from a foreign government that’s deliberately trying to destabilize your politics, then at least you should know about it. Now, this is going to be a big big issue for the future.