Image: Nellie Bowles of the New York Times interviews a panel including Melissa Tidwell of Reddit, Juniper Downs of YouTube, and Monika Bikert of Facebook. (Photo by Rabbi Ruth Adar, taken in San Francisco on 11/13/17) 

I know if I wait to rewrite this, I’m not going to get around to posting it. Therefore what you are getting are my slightly-edited notes from the ADL Conference “Never is Now” which I attended in San Francisco yesterday. This is the first of three posts.

Jonathan Greenblatt gave the keynote.

Nellie Bowles from the New York Times interviewed a panel of representatives from Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube. Fascinating stuff, beginning with the fact that gradually dawned on me: all of them are attorneys, judging from their bios.  All chose their words carefully, and talked about what the companies have done to rein in hate speech on their platforms.

Unfortunately, the answers all came out sounding to me like “not as much as one might hope.” It’s clear to me that the profit motive is alive and well in Silicon Valley and tends to crowd out other concerns. Ms. Bowles kept pressing them with different versions of the question, “Are you going to hire editorial staff to make judgments about the stuff that goes up, and its provenance?” and the answer was always, “Let me tell you about this cool tech thing we are doing.” Unfortunately, that’s where they’d lose me. Either I couldn’t follow enough of what they were talking about, or they really haven’t made all that much headway in dealing with these difficult issues.

On the other hand, it was great to see a panel all made up of powerful, intelligent women, and I did feel they personally take the issues very seriously.

The ADL announced the establishment of a new Center for Technology and Society to combat the growing problem of hate speech and harassment online. Funded by the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic investment firm created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. I think this is a very promising development.

(More about the conference in my next post.)


 

 

 

Advertisements