23 May 2024Paris

Sasha Havlicek speaks at VivaTech conference: Polarization or Conversation – Can We Still Fix Social Networks?

ISD’s CEO and co-founder, Sasha Havlicek, joined the Viva Technology Conference in Paris last week to share insights into how to solve the political and social polarisation we face today, enabled by social media’s “attention economy business model.

During the session ‘Polarization or Conversation: Can we still fix social networks?’ Sasha shared some of ISD’s insights into the ways in which social media platforms prioritise engagement to the detriment of safety, free speech and democracy: “You have a distorted speech environment in which the most sensationalist, the most extreme views tend to get hyper charged over other things. That’s a curated speech environment, in which essentially the business model, which is an attention economy business model […] dominates over safety or democracy….”

Addressing those in business and investment in the room, she said: “I think it will be good business for those of you investing in tech to invest in safety by design over time because people are starting to wake up to the real harms of this. […] We have to remember we are in a geopolitical contest right now. The very survival of liberal democracy is in question and the internet is the arena in which that battle is being played out. Authoritarian states are very well aware of that and invest heavily in shaping our information ecosystem in their image, and we must do the same. So, we need a vision for a democratic web. We all have a role to play here. In each of your companies don’t just think of digital literacy for kids… adults— continuous learning. How is this ecosystem evolving? We need to be doing this work. We can all contribute to that.”

Sasha added that technology needs to have the same safety thresholds as other industries. “When you develop a technology, a business, any form of business, you should be responsible for thinking through the risks to society, to safety, of your product. And essentially, it’s just asking of the tech sector the same set of requirements that we ask of almost I think every other sector that I can think of,” she said. 

Find the full recording of the panel session on the Viva Technology website.