Web Summit Day Two snapshot

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What will the future bring for fake news, personal privacy, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, and more? Many speakers pulled no punches at Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon on Tuesday, but optimism about the industry’s ability to solve problems was the order of the day.

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Rebuilding trust

FleishmanHillard CEO John Saunders addressed the topic that is emerging as one of the hottest at this year’s Web Summit: fake news. It’s nothing new, he says, but it’s now much more prevalent and dangerous because of the way we consume information: we check our phones about 150 times a day; more than 2 billion of us use Facebook; Deepfake videos make it virtually impossible to know what’s real; and false news stories are 70% more likely to be shared on social media than legitimate ones. Here’s John’s Five-Point Plan to Fight Fake News:

  1. Embrace the views of others and acknowledge them in our own communications.
  2. Support true news content by reading and watching quality journalism—and being willing to pay for it.
  3. Call out fake news when we see it—and do so vocally and loudly.
  4. Find an authentic voice (with a clear sense of purpose and a well-considered point of view) and the courage to use it.
  5. Be alert and skeptical, but positive: the rapid dissemination of news can be beneficial when people are mobilized to act on issues like climate change, for example.

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Combatting disinformation

Former Cambridge Analytica research director and whistle-blower Christopher Wylie explains that information is the weaponry of today’s cultural wars, with algorithms as their targeting systems. Disinformation has real consequences—from government change to genocide. Using tactics developed for the military to use against terrorists, those vulnerable to disinformation can be targeted via social media and influenced to believe lies, spread them to others, and act. But regulation is possible. Professional standards work. Data scientists are building the future and must be required to consider the ethical and moral implications of their work.

 

Enabling control

Connectivity makes data helpful. The challenge is to innovate helpful products while giving users transparency and control over their data. Tamar Yehoshua, Google’s VP product management, outlined the four dimensions of GDPR (the EU data privacy regulations) guiding Google’s efforts: protect data from misuse and hijack; know where it is and how to access it; add flexible controls; and make these controls simple so users are empowered to choose what they share and how it is used. This choice must be front and center in products, she says; and products must be so helpful that users are willing to share their data to use them.

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Exploring crypto

Draper Associates founder Tim Draper sees crypto as a chance for humans to think globally; the best governments will be open and encourage people to explore this new world as traditional currencies die off. Garry Tan, co-founder and managing partner of Initialized Capital, agrees that crypto has the potential to take over how all goods and services are transacted. He is excited about the potential for crypto to decentralize tech power.

 

Peter Smith, co-founder and CEO of leading crypto wallet Blockchain, is seeing growth pick up, but cautions that the market is still tiny compared to the global financial system. The next couple of years have to be about building the infrastructure to onboard the next 100-200 million users, he says. There is a lack of orderly markets with high-quality matching engines.

 

All three agree that improving ease of use—for developers and users—is now crucial. People need a chance to try crypto*. And the industry needs to educate people about their choices and put them back in control of their money. (*Putting his money where his mouth is, Peter earlier announced crypto’s largest consumer giveaway: a US$125 million airdrop of Stellar Lumens (XLM) over the next few months, giving millions worldwide the chance to own and use crypto.)

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Embracing AI

We are at transition point today, says Samsung president Young Sohn: going from a world driven by oil to a world driven by data. And if data is the oil, then AI is the engine. He expects AI to disrupt everything: from publishing, to travel, to the way we serve our food. This is an opportunity for the entire tech sector. And because data is global, geography matters less. Companies can disrupt the world from anywhere as part of the right ecosystem. But with this opportunity comes responsibility, he warns: a responsibility to think about the ethics of what we are doing, to do the right thing, and to ensure that users retain control over their data.

 

Web Summit continues tomorrow with a focus on doing the impossible, achieving digital peace, building a fairer digital economy, and more. Plus, Hanson Robotics’ Sophia returns with a friend, Han from SingularityNET, to wonder when robots will surpass humans.

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