Situational awareness: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with senators last night at a dinner arranged by Sen. Mark Warner, and continues private meetings on the Hill today. (The Washington Post)
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Former President Obama speaks with Splunk CEO Douglas Merritt on Wednesday. Photo: Splunk
In a rare public appearance in San Francisco yesterday, Barack Obama, who credits data for helping him win the presidency, argued that tech can still be a force for good in government — if we use it the right way.
He also took a few shots at President Trump, suggesting that what a president needs is lots of access to unvarnished facts and to be surrounded by diverse viewpoints and people committed to government service, rather than profits or fame.
"The other thing that is helpful is not watching TV or reading social media."
Why it matters: Obama, who remains highly popular in the Bay Area, has largely stayed out of U.S. politics since leaving office and has limited his criticisms of his successor.
The big picture: Obama's speech at a customer event for data analytics vendor Splunk came just hours after Trump held a fundraiser in Silicon Valley.
Yes, but: Before it can make use of all that data, the federal government still has to improve its technology, Obama said.
And, in other cases, technology has worsened existing social problems. He pointed to the role social media has played in dividing society as people surround themselves with voices with whom they agree.
Meanwhile: DJ Patil, who was the first-ever U.S. chief data scientist under Obama, and other notables released their Council on Foreign Relations' national security assessment Wednesday highlighting the challenges facing the U.S. technology sector if it fails to properly invest for the future.
Automattic CEO and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg in 2014. Photo: Auby Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE via Getty Images
Automattic Inc., the parent company of web publishing platform WordPress.com, announced on Thursday that it raised a $300 million as a part of a Series D round from Salesforce Ventures, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
The investment puts Automattic's valuation at $3 billion post-funding.
Why it matters: "A website for everyone" is the cry of a bygone tech era, but businesses and many individuals still want to set up their own websites, and WordPress remains the dominant tool in the field.
Details: The raise brings Automattic's total amount raised to $491 million in funding over 4 rounds. Salesforce Ventures joins Insight, Tiger Global, and True Ventures as an investor in the company.
Be smart: WordPress is an open-source software platform that's owned by a non-profit group called The WordPress Foundation. The foundation works to ensure that WordPress remains a free, open-sourced platform that's accessible for anyone to contribute to, mostly by improving its code.
Between the lines: Automattic makes most of its money by selling subscriptions to software services that are related to the WordPress platform, like WooCommerce, an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress; Jetpack, a customization and security plugin for WordPress; and enterprise WordPress for businesses.
The big picture: In August, Automattic purchased Tumblr from Verizon for less than $3 million, a fraction of what it was worth when Yahoo bought it for $1.1 billion in 2013 (Verizon later acquired Yahoo).
The bottom line: The raise doesn't seem to be related to Automattic's recent acquisition of Tumblr.
Editor‘s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount of total funds raised over four rounds and to clarify that Yahoo, not Verizon, purchased Tumblr for $1.1 billion.
At an MIT conference on Wednesday, a journalist pointedly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin whether he would interfere again in U.S. elections. Putin demurred.
What's happening: The world leader was actually a glitchy deepfake, Kaveh Waddell reports. His face was a real-time AI-generated mask that made a performer look like Putin on screen — but because the mask stopped at the forehead, this was Putin with a fresh head of hair.
The big picture: The stunt was a snapshot of the current state of deepfakes, a fast-improving technology that has stirred up concern for its potential to disrupt elections and business — but that also holds creative promise.
The details: Putin's Wednesday cameo — portrayed by MIT Technology Review editor-in-chief Gideon Lichfield, who also played himself as the interviewer — was the work of Hao Li, a USC professor and founder of a deepfake-producing startup called Pinscreen.
In an interview with MIT Tech Review, Li says the technology is only getting better. "Our guess that in 2 to 3 years, it's going to be perfect," he told reporter Patrick Howell O'Neill. "There will be no way to tell if it's real or not, so we have to take a different approach.”
Customers have to wait another day to buy the latest iPhones, but starting today they can update existing phones to the latest operating system.
Why it matters: iOS 13 won't magically add a third camera to the back of your phone, but it will deliver other features found on the latest iPhones, including dark mode, Sign in with Apple and improved maps and photos. And unlike the new iPhones, it's free (as long as you have an iPhone 6s or later).
Yes, but: Several features originally announced for iOS 13 have been pushed back until later this fall, including the ability to support playing music or a video to multiple pairs of AirPods.
Pro tip: It can sometimes take hours to download the update when it's first made available. Your phone has survived without iOS 13 for months. You can wait another few hours.
It's amazing what this Japanese artist can do with a couple of wires and an AA battery.