Linked: The Platform Challenge: Balancing Safety, Privacy and Freedom

Yes, this lecture from Alex Stamos is an hour long, but if you’re interested in the struggle we face when it comes to social media, misinformation, privacy and freedom, it’s worth your time.

A couple of points after watching it myself:

1. The balance he spends a lot of time talking about is real. For Facebook, Twitter, etc. to be successful eliminating misinformation and hate speech is going to require a serious limit on free speech, anonymity, and privacy. They need to know what is being posted, and by whom, at all times.
2. Alex kind of blows by the importance of anonymity, mentioning the fake names used on pamphlets in the American Colonies and then dropping it as irrelevant to today quickly. I’m not so sure. I think there are still plenty of situations where anonymity is important. Politically, in many countries, it is still illegal to question official positions. But, even beyond that, victims of sexual assault, child abuse, people with mental health issues, etc. often need anonymity to reach out to others online. We need to make sure there are still options for them to do that.
3. Regardless, we are in a lose-lose situation. By definition, any social media platform cannot be open, free, and perfectly safe. We are going to have to concede something, and people are not going to be happy with the choices, no matter which choices are made. And I’m not sure how a standard gets accepted by all of the various governments around the world. I’m not sure that is even possible.

The question is, do we value privacy and freedom of speech, or do we value safety? We don’t get to value them all, it doesn’t work that way.

What are your thoughts?

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