2 Feb 2024Webinar

Sasha Havlicek: transparency is the ‘sine qua non’ solution to respond to the evolving threat landscape

ISD’s CEO and co-founder, Sasha Havlicek, joined an event, “Down the Rabbit Hole: How Social Media is Designed to Radicalize its Users,” hosted by Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media on 2 February, 2024.

The panel was moderated by Council for Responsible Social Media co-chair and former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Kerry Healey and it brought together experts in national security, technology and democracy to discuss the effect of social media on domestic and foreign extremism.

Sasha spoke alongside Farah Pandith, first Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Council for Responsible Social Media member and Adjunct Senior Fellow for the Council of Foreign Relations; and Michael Chertoff, National Council on Election Integrity member, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and former federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Sasha began by explaining the transformation in the threat landscape ISD has observed while working in this space for over a decade and a half: “We have seen an enormous transformation and a growth of that threat landscape. From a time when extremism and hate was characterized largely by disconnected, smaller fringe groups online to a time now when we see massive, interconnected online subcultures (…) able to translate online mobilization effectively into offline action. And ultimately what we’ve seen is the mainstreaming of extremism.”

Sasha then noted that “(…) online spikes that we identify and monitor in hate and extremism, track very clearly with offline spikes in both violence but also in polarization and threats to democracy that we see at various moments in various parts of the world.”

She then pointed to the four problems leading this transformation and augmentation of the threat landscape: 1. the failure of platforms to systematically enforce their own rules in respect to these threats; 2. algorithmic amplification of harmful content; 3. the hybridisation of the threat landscape; 4. the progressive shuttering of platform data access for the research community.

Sasha then discussed the impact Artificial Intelligence is having in the threat landscape. She emphasised how transparency is the “sine qua non” solution to respond to existing and arising challenges in the threat landscape.

“[transparency] is the single biggest thing we could ask for this year, (…) to show the spotlight of transparency on these systems and share that with both the public and with legislators will put us in good stead in terms of making the decisions and the changes that need to happen over time, and there will be also a motivator for the platforms to start to do things better themselves,” she said.