The Week in Tech: Zuckerberg on Holocaust deniers, Google’s record fine and more

Hello and welcome to the Week in Tech, your weekly roundup of some of the top technology news stories from across the globe.

This week, Zuckerberg riled people up over his views on fake news, Google was hit with a record fine, Chinese phone company Huawei was revealed to be a potential security risk and a whole range of UK startups raised funding.

$14m for debugging tech

Firstly, Cambridge-based Undo closed a $14m (£10.63m) Series B round.

Undo develops debugging software for companies. It was founded by Greg Law and Julian Smith in 2005 and scored its first capital investment in 2012. This latest round was led by Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), a company builder which focuses on technology and healthcare.

New investors Global Brain Corporation – a Japanese venture capital fund – and Parkwalk Advisors also contributed to the round, alongside existing investors.

The money will support the development of the debugging tech, help to grow Undo’s software development team, and to expand its US operations.

Secret Escapes secures £52m

Also this week, luxury deal marketplace Secret Escapes raised £52m from Old Mutual Global Investors. The company will use the mammoth cash injection to firstly support the integration of the Slevomat Group – a travel deals and experiences company it acquired late last year.

Additionally, the money will be used to build in-house hotel and flight packaging across established markets.

Alex Saint, chief executive of Secret Escapes, commented: “We’re delighted to be joining the likes of The Hut Group and TransferWise in OMGI’s impressive UK small- and mid-cap equity portfolio, as we enter the next exciting stage of Secret Escapes’ growth. The support from OMGI will help us to inspire the world to escape with amazing hand-picked, discounted travel deals and innovative product developments.”

Exclusive: Whatsapp rival gets $1.2m

In news exclusive to UKTN, Guild landed $1.2m (£880,000) in Seed funding.

The money was raised in part by the two founders, Ashley Friedlein and Matthew O’Riordan, and 26 other investors. The round closed on SeedLegals.

London-based Guild has built a private professional messaging app which it hopes will replace Whatsapp for workers.

The company will use this funding round to develop the product and grow its sales and marketing attempts.

CEO Friedlein explained why they think Guild is fulfilling a purpose: “We think it is time professionals had a messaging app that is properly private, GDPR-compliant and designed just for work use. Research suggests there are already over half a billion people using WhatsApp for professional use and that’s the market Guild is going after.”

Exclusive: Ex Goldman Sachs banker raises £450,000

Also this week, an AI-driven PT company closed its second Seed round.

Anta Pattabiraman used to work as a banker at Goldman Sachs. The Indian-born entrepreneur was inspired for a career change when he suffered from a sports related injury and his personal trainer helped him to get back in shape after the injury. 

It was so useful that Pattabiraman decided that an affordable PT should be accessible to everyone.

This thought process led to the birth of Auro. Auro offers personalised workouts – using content from experienced world class instructors, motivating playlists and data science. The AI also learns and adapts based on activity level to help users to achieve their fitness goals.

CEO Anta Pattabiraman explained this further: “When you add all of the elements a PT brings including proven programming of the type you find in the top boutique studios in London, with curated music playlists, data driven personalisation and a vibrant fitness community you can be a part of, you have an engaging, personalised fitness solution in an app.”

This funding will be used to develop the product and grow the team.  

Other investments

Zuckerberg involved in Holocaust debate

Tech giants have been in the news once again this week – but not for the best reasons. In an explosive interview with Recode, Mark Zuckerberg argued that posts from Holocaust deniers should be allowed on Facebook.

The founder of Facebook said he did not believe such people should be removed from the site, because those posting are not “intentionally” getting their facts wrong.

The comment were made in response to questions about what Facebook was doing to combat fake news and sites, such as InfoWars, that promoted conspiracy theories.

In response, Zuckerberg referred to Holocaust deniers as an example. “I’m Jewish and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he told reporter Kara Swisher.

“I find it deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.

“Everyone gets things wrong and if we were taking down people’s accounts when they got a few things wrong, then that would be a hard world for giving people a voice and saying that you care about that.”

When asked again why pages such as InfoWars aren’t just taken off the platform, Zuckerberg said: “Look, as abhorrent as some of this content can be, I do think that it gets down to this principle of giving people a voice.”

The comments caused outrage, with Editor of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight Gerry Gable calling Zuckerberg “a spoilt teenager.”

Google hit with a €4.3bn fine

Also this week, the European Union slapped Google with a record-breaking €4.34bn (£3.9bn) fine over Android.

The European Commission decided to fine Google because it had used the mobile operating system to illegally “cement its dominant position” in search, it said.

Parent company Alphabet has said it plans to appeal. It now has 90 days to change its business practices or face further penalties of up to 5% of its average global daily turnover.

To put this into context however, Google’s cash reserves totalled nearly $103bn at the end of March – so this fine would be little more than spare change for the firm.

China’s Huawei could threat UK security

Chinese phone company Huawei could pose a risk to British phone and internet networks.

A report written by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), concluded that Huawei‘s broadband and mobile infrastructure could pose a threat to national security due to “shortcomings”.

The report read: “identification of shortcomings in Huawei’s engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management”.

National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill said work had started in February “to remediate the engineering process issues in other products that are deployed in the UK” by Huawei.

“Until this work is completed, the Oversight Board can offer only limited assurance due to the lack of the required end-to-end traceability from source code examined by HCSEC,” the report continued.

Cisco announces $100m investment into AI

Finally, this week the UK’s AI scene received another funding boost. Internet giant Cisco announced a $100m (£77m) deal that includes a new partnership with University College London (UCL), which will help to create one of the world’s largest AI research centres.

UCL provost Professor Michael Arthur said: “It’s wonderful to renew our partnership with Cisco and work together to upskill the UK in machine learning and artificial intelligence

“I’m particularly looking forward to opening the new AI Centre in the coming months to position us as a sector leader in computer science,” he added.

The AI Centre will house between 200 and 250 masters students and researchers, tasked with taking on some of the biggest AI industry challenges.