For an opening session focusing on eeeevil on the web, it proved to be rather quiet. I think everybody was knackered, thanks to the early start…
Laurent Haug of LIFT kicked things off by asking if there is a thirst for evil on the net?
“It’s another form of human expression – prone to human frailty like any other conduit,” said Chris Alden, CEO of Six Apart. The internet can have a distancing effect on communication and anonymity brings out the ruder aspects of human natures. “You have more interesting conversations when you have a sense of identity.”
Jaewoong Lee of Daum Communications pointed out that there are 14m Koreans using internet. 99% of young people use it for more than an hour a day. And the privacy problem is bigger for users, leading to very, very few people writing bad comments. Why? There’s a history of identity in each site, and that’s driven by the users not the government.
Dan Rose of Facebook got given something of a rough ride. The social network has been on the recieving end of some bad publicity around privacy issues of late. His response to behaviour concerns? “50% of users come every day – that’s true now and was true in the early days,” he said. “It’s not a social network, it’s 50k+ individual networks. and so people behave on Facebook as they would in real world.”
Michel Jaccard, the sole representative of the legal profession on the panel, proceeded to scare everyone a little by suggesting that it has been historically difficult to target people aggressive online. It’s much easier to go after the company hosting their attacks. So we should all shop our users if they’re causing trouble. Um, OK. That’s going to make communities feel comfortable. Mind you, as Haug pointed out, with many online companies co-operating with the Chinese government, the country is essentially china outsourcing its censorship!
So, what’s the solution? Simmering down a lot of vague discussion into a nice, rich idea stock, I come up with this: owning your identity online is valuable. If sites start building a reputation around a user, and their past actions are trackable, you start creating the same atmosphere of social consequence around online activity as you do in off-line relationship. This is another positive consequence of the shift towards adding social networking tools around all content on the web (and the attempts to make this information portable using tools like OpenID).
Overall, a weak panel. Despite some good people participating, the debate never really took off and the main points of an interesting issue were only addressed in a peripheral way. That’s why the first panel has been one of the last I’ve posted about.