Tech

Telegram blocked in Iran as the government orders telecoms to cut off access

As Moscow erupts in protests over its own ban, Iran’s judiciary has just ordered the nation’s telecommunications providers to block Telegram . According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency stated that the decision was issued via a court ruling in Tehran. An estimated 40 million Iranians — half of the country’s population — use Telegram to communicate. “Considering various complaints against Telegram social networking app by Iranian citizens, and based on the demand of security organisations for confronting the illegal activities of Telegram, the judiciary has banned its usage in Iran,” Iranian state TV reported, according to Reuters. As of Monday, Telegram appears to still be functioning in the country following the court order. When the ban is executed, the pop...

DARPA is funding new tech that can identify manipulated videos and ‘deepfakes’

The Menlo Park-based nonprofit research group SRI International has been awarded three contracts by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to wage war on the newest front in fake news. Specifically, DARPA’s Media Forensics program is developing tools capable of identifying when videos and photos have been meaningfully altered from their original state in order to misrepresent their content. The most infamous form of this kind of content is the category called “deepfakes” — usually pornographic video that superimposes a celebrity or public figure’s likeness into a compromising scene. Though software that makes that makes deepfakes possible is inexpensive and easy to use, existing video analysis tools aren’t yet up to the task of identifying what’s real and what’s b...

Twitter announces new video partnerships with NBCUniversal and ESPN

Twitter is hosting its Digital Content NewFronts tonight, where it’s unveiling 30 renewals and new content deals — the company says that’s nearly twice as many as it announced last year. Those include partnerships with the big players in media — starting with NBCUniversal, which will be sharing live video and clips from properties including NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo. Twitter also announced some of the shows it will be airing as part of the ESPN deal announced earlier today: SportsCenter Live (a Twitter version of the network’s flagship) and Fantasy Focus Live (a live stream of the fantasy sports podcast). Plus, the company said it’s expanding its existing partnership with Viacom with shows like Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room, BET Breaks and MTV News. During the NewFronts event, ...

Video: Larry Harvey and JP Barlow on Burning Man and tech culture

Larry Harvey, founder of the counterculture festival Burning Man, passed away this weekend. He was 70. Harvey created a movement and contributed to the flowering both of counter-culture and, ultimately, of tech culture. Both he and John Perry Barlow, who also passed in February this year after a long period of ill health, were huge advocates of free speech. Barlow wrote lyrics for the Grateful Dead, and then became a digital rights activist in later life. In 2013 I caught up with both of them and recorded a joint 24-minute interview, just a short walk from the venue for the Le Web London conference. Amid the street noise and the traffic, they discussed some of the intellectual underpinnings of startup entrepreneurship and its parallels with Burning Man, in what might have been their first-...

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits Facebook due to privacy intrusions

“It is time for me to move on . . . I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee,” WhatsApp co-founder, CEO and Facebook board member Jan Koum wrote today. The announcement followed shortly after The Washington Post reported that Koum would leave due to disagreements with Facebook management about WhatsApp user data privacy and weakened encryption. Koum obscured that motive in his note that says, “I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly commented on Koum’s Facebook post about his departure, writing “Jan: I will miss working so closely with you. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for...

Covee uses blockchain to allow experts worldwide to collaborate

Solving complex data-driven problems requires a lot of teamwork. But, of course, teamwork is typically restricted to companies where everyone is working under the same roof. While distributed teams have become commonplace in tech startups, taking that to the next level by linking up disparate groups of people all working on the same problem (but not in the same company) has been all but impossible. However, in theory, you could use a blockchain to do such a thing, where the work generated was constantly accounted for on-chain. That’s in theory. In practice, there’s now a startup that claims to have come up with this model. And it’s raised funding. Covee, a startup out of Berlin, has raised a modest €1.35 million in a round led by LocalGlobe in London, with Atlantic Labs in Berlin and a sel...

Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan joins the speakers at TechCrunch’s first blockchain event

Boom, boom, boom! We’re announcing another big name for our upcoming blockchain event in Zug, Switzerland, on July 6 after Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan joined the line-up. The event — TC: Sessions Blockchain — will be TechCrunch’s first show dedicated to blockchain, it takes place in the world’s “Crypto Valley” and we’ll be joined by a host of top names. Some of those include Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, Roham Gharegozlou, the founder of smash-hit blockchain game CryptoKitties, Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the Hyperledger Project, and OmiseGo CEO Jun Hasegawa. Don’t miss it! Tickets are priced at 495 Swiss Francs — or around $500 — and they’re available from the event website here. Fresh from announcing Buterin’s participation, we’re excited to host Srinivasan, who is ano...

Blue Origin’s New Shepard skims space in successful 8th test launch

Blue Origin conducted the 8th launch of its New Shepard sub-orbital rocket and crew capsule today out in Texas, and things couldn’t have gone better for the growing space tourism company. The rocket ascended into a cloudless sky, reaching a max velocity of about 2,200 MPH, and delivered its capsule to the edge of space, where its occupant, “Mannquin Skywalker,” will have had a lovely view of the Earth. New Shepard isn’t meant to deliver things into orbit, of course; Blue Origin has a different purpose and technology from the likes of SpaceX, focusing on giving people a quick, safe lift into space followed by a period of weightlessness and a pleasant descent. That’s what was demonstrated today, and you can watch the whole thing live in the video below — the pre-launch coverage starts about ...

Burning Man’s Larry Harvey passes after opening tech’s imagination

Larry Harvey normalized the abnormal, expanding the boundaries of what creators could attempt. That’s why there’s a special bond between Silicon Valley and Black Rock City, the desert settlement where Burning Man transpires. Both ditch “what are we supposed to do?” for “what can we do?”. Both encourage risky expression that appears insane to outsiders. And by establishing an open canvas just a few hours’ caravan from San Francisco, Harvey helped entrepreneurs come back freshly invigorated to make change. Harvey passed away this weekend at age 70. But the sub-culture he convened and the infrastructure he built to support it will stretch that canvas to the dusty horizon year after year. Google’s SkyBox Imaging satellites demonstrated the power of frequent aerial imagery by making this GIF th...

Update: Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop partners with backer DP World to launch logistics startup

Updat: This post has been updated to indicate that DP World invested in 2016. The firm is based in the UAE. Virgin Hyperloop One and DP World are launching a new joint venture, DP World Cargospeed, two years after the high-speed transportation technology developer tapped the UAE-based shipping company in a $50 million financing. The company’s stated goal is to deliver palletized cargo more efficiently by combining super high-speed promise of hyperloop transportation with new logistics technologies to accelerate deliveries along Virgin Hyperloop One’s planned routes between Mumbai and Pune in India; in Saudi Arabia, and in the United Arab Emirates. Announced with much fanfare and in the presence of Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and Virgin Hyperloop chairman Richard Branson, the new company is ba...

Black Founders Matter wants to raise $10 million to fund black-led startups

A few months ago, Marceau Michel met up with a fellow entrepreneur, Kathryn Brown of ScoutSavvy, to discuss their triumphs and tribulations of their time in the tech industry. That’s when the two discovered they were running into the same issue: lack of funding. Unfortunately, Michel, an African-American founder, is not alone. Just one percent of venture-backed companies are led by black founders. In an attempt to address this problem, Michel is looking to engage the public to help in an area where traditional investors seem to lack the willingness. “A lot of lip service is given to diversity and inclusion but the actual practicability of it lacks,” he told me. With Black Founders Matter, the goal is to bring the tenacity of the Black Lives Matter movement to the startup industry. “If ther...

How the digital economy shapes American cities

Brooks Rainwater Contributor More posts by this contributor Do cities still want a sharing economy? As tech startups surge in cities, inclusive economic growth must be a priority Christopher Hooton Contributor From home- and ride-sharing apps to TV and movie streaming subscriptions to social media platforms – Internet companies have transformed our lives. Today the internet sector contributes approximately $1 trillion, or 6 percent of GDP, to the national economy, as well as 3 million jobs and 231,000 businesses. These digital economy jobs and businesses are thriving in almost every city — and in metro areas across the country. The truth is undeniable: cities are shaping the next chapter in America’s history, and the digital economy is a driving force. While venture capital in the tech ind...