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Microsoft’s Brad Smith is trying to restore public faith in Big Tech
Smith has assumed the role of unofficial global ambassador for the tech industry

INSIDE A SUNNY CONFERENCE ROOM ON THE Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., a small team of employees is describing how technology can save the world. From technology. Microsoft’s Digital Diplomacy unit consists of two dozen policy experts who work on everything from the ethical use of artificial intelligence to protecting the 2020 presidential election from foreign cyberinterference. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, sits in the middle of the table, sipping coffee from a mug bearing the name of his hometown, Appleton, Wis.

The group updates Smith on a tech-industry initiative co-founded by Microsoft to combat terrorist messaging on the Internet. Smith pushes for more ideas. “We need something that will create a new mold,” he says. A few minutes later, he gets a demo of Election-Guard, a new encrypted voting system developed by Microsoft’s engineers. “How close are we to getting a state to pilot this?” When he’s told the technology may be tested in local elections early next year, Smith pounds his fist and leaps out of his chair in excitement. He floats the possibility of deploying ElectionGuard in states holding presidential caucuses, many of which already use a Microsoft program to record and track results. “We’ve got to start early and move fast,” he says.

Smith’s sense of urgency comes from experience. At 60, he is Microsoft’s longest-serving executive, the institutional bridge between the company’s current leadership and its legendary co-founder Bill Gates. His tenure as the company’s top legal officer spans the software giant’s bruising antitrust battles with the U.S. government two decades ago and its resurgence as a cloud-computing force, which this year helped Microsoft vault past Apple and Amazon as the most valuable company in the world. “He’s someone who’s been through a lot of different ups and

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