Yesterday at SXSW, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new plan to immediately reduce Russian-sponsored disinformation nearly Ukraine, and promised to hire a blue-ribbon panel of experts to find ways that Facebook’southward proprietary algorithm can promote freedom and democracy across the globe. “It is time to selection a side,” Zuckerberg said to the thanks of the crowd.
Yeah, no. That did
From a virtual perch at the Austin, Texas, tech conference, the Meta CEO instead discussed how the metaverse is “the next evolution of the internet” and promised to always “make the choice that helps people connect the best.”
Perhaps information technology’ll exist a fashion connexion. FUBU CEO and
host Daymond John interviewed Zuckerberg, and the two agreed that virtual clothing will be a big market and that users should be able to accept an NFT sweater from one metaverse platform to some other.
“Think about how much time yous spend on a video briefing; you intendance about the clothes yous wear,” Zuckerberg said (somewhat ironically, given his own wardobe). “If people spend time in the metaverse, they volition care about that, likewise.”
There’s a revenue angle there, of course. That’s correct: NFTs are coming to Instagram.
Every bit is SXSW tradition, Zuckerberg took questions from the crowd, although they were all “anonymous” and posed through the briefing’s app. They included scorchers similar: What is the timeline for the metaverse? (It is hither now! Also, 2-three years. Perchance longer.) What are the technical obstacles to building the metaverse? (There are lots!)
Among the topics that did NOT come upwards in the hour-long talk: disinformation, elections, privacy, transparency, surveillance, Myanmar, monopolies, whistleblowers, Section 230, body image problems, or the Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación.
Zuckerberg likewise referred to Facebook as “the about popular social network in the earth.” He is counting users, not user sentiment. And he had some good lines about how the metaverse could convalesce geographic economic inequities and assistance humanity truly leverage its talents. He credits Facebook’southward success to the fact that they “care more than” than competitors. But throughout his talk, I kept thinking of the conversation on that same stage earlier in the mean solar day.
How to Stand Upward to a Dictator
The Philippine authorities did non allow Maria Ressa to attend SXSW in person, so she spoke via Zoom. The journalist, founder of Rappler and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, currently has 7 charges pending confronting her and needs court permission to exit the country. Her opposition to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and coverage of his policies are the source of these charges, but Ressa had harsh words for the tech companies that enable him.
“Facebook and YouTube, these two helped splinter and polarize,” Ressa said. “Their algorithms were exploited past misinformation outfits.”
The relatively straightforward process of misinformation has been supercharged by firms similar Facebook and YouTube. Digital technologies can create a prevarication, micro-target it to individuals based on their personal data, and then customize it for maximum engagement. The platforms were designed to do merely this, merely for advertising. Unfortunately, the line between advertising and misinformation is ane that tech companies are loath to draw.
“Our brains are being DDoS attacked,” Ressa said. “We cannot fight our biology.”
Ressa wants Facebook to pick a side. She doesn’t purchase that Facebook and YouTube are neutral platforms carrying bits of content. “What tech claims is neutral has get a mortiferous game for power and money,” Ressa said.
In the US, these companies are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Deed, which reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
I have mixed feelings about Section 230. Every bit a new publisher of a newsletter that includes a commenting system, I do non want to be responsible for what people mail. For that thing, I don’t call back Substack should be responsible for every crackpot who jumps on its platform. Simply I think content moderation is a straw human being in this argument. The real problems are the algorithms that control the distribution of content. The ones built to advantage engagement above all else and leverage our personal information to micro-target the states advertizement nauseam. Facebook’south choices are absolutely encoded in these algorithms. Can information technology be held responsible for them?
Non at this SXSW. Part of existence the most pop social network in the earth is being the largest purveyor of news in the world. At the very least that should hateful engaging with these issues in public spaces like SXSW. The metaverse is going to be really absurd, but we have real bug to solve right now. Clearly, Facebook has some responsibleness for them.
To be fair, Zuckerberg did start his talk with an acknowledgment that he was thinking a lot about the people of Ukraine. “We have teams working across the company to make sure our services remain bachelor,” he said.
Here is an thought. Perhaps don’t?
Dan Costa is the former Editor-in-Chief of PCMag.com. His Substack newsletter
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