Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Citizentube in Switzerland: Social Media Panel @ Davos

Olivia and I have just arrived here in Davos, where we're working with several panels of experts to bring your voice to the discussions taking place here. We just finished a panel on Social Media, moderated by Loic LeMeur and featuring Evan Williams of Twitter, Owen Van Natta of Myspace, Gina Bianchini of Ning and several others.

We were able to pose two of the Moderator questions to the group assembled, here they are:

Question 1:

"The net was supposed to free us, but with the world becoming increasingly influenced by hype (popular news is over-reported along with decline of journalism) and efficiency (internet shorthands and lack of grammar online), is society deteriorating?"
-- herenthere, NY


New media expert Jeff Jarvis believes strongly that society is not deteriorating as a result of the Internet. He believes that we need to have an inherent faith in the people. There are a lot of great things coming out including new models in journalism. He observed that when others gain control it breaks down old structures and it scares them and they complain. We need to believe in the power of the people to make things better.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch asks was journalism so great beforehand? He wonders how journalists managed to convince people in the past that journalism was a beacon of truth? It's not so great - he's seen it on the inside. So he thinks things are improving with more people involved now than ever before.

Question 2:

"How involved should corporations such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.. be in the Internet censorship laws that compromise access to their content, and don't they owe it to their users to try and ensure equal access worldwide?"
Racha M, Dubai School of Government


Randi Zuckerberg from Facebook commented on the fact that Facebook is playing an important role in social revolutions and that the site has been blocked in Iran and China among other places. She didn't comment specifically on Facebook's role, but said they'd seen an outpouring of support for Google's recent decision not to censor search results in China.

Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn observed that they don't encounter most of the censorship issues other sites do. He stressed the need to parse out cultural sensitivity vs. freedom of speech, etc. He said that most corporate entities try not to take on public conflicts, and in Silicon Valley especially the attitude is often build the product, be transparent about it, and go from there.

Evan Williams the CEO of Twitter said he'll stand up against censorship, but not sure how much good it does for Twitter to try to fight with governments trying to censor. They'll be as involved as they can be, but not sure how much of an effect they can have since they're talking with governments that are fundamentally against what Twitter is all about. The most productive way for them to fight censorship is not to engage with the government directly but rather by enabling technological hacks and solutions that allow users to circumvent censorship.


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