Preview: Is the internet really broken?
Last year James Brindle wrote an article “Something is wrong on the internet”, pointing out some uncomfortable examples of online algorithms going awry. The part that gained most attention highlighted the disturbing trend of thousands of YouTube videos containing favourite kids characters in inappropriate, disturbing and dangerous situations.
Parents, producers and the tabloid press were understandably up-in-arms about how this could have happened. But was this a one-off error; an out-of-control algorithm; or was it symbolic of something more fundamental being amiss not on the YouTube platform, but with the internet as a whole?
The commercial realities and sheer scale of the modern internet mean that human oversight of every piece of content is literally impossible. Yet the opaque algorithms that monitor this content on our behalf, making decisions about what is appropriate or not to show to kids, lack some of the basic human qualities and common sense you or I would use when making these decisions.
The dream was to remove gatekeepers and allow anyone to be a publisher. However, creators who follow the strict compliance rules and protocols of the offline world are still competing for the same audiences as those who produce shocking and reckless content. The platforms’ magic algorithms have real world commercial, ethical and child safety impacts.
Never afraid to push the big questions, on Wednesday we’re asking “Is the internet really broken?”. We’ve put together a great panel to discuss this intricate web of the connection between algorithms, child safety and commercial realities. With experts in data science, online marketing, ethics and the realities of regulation, we’re going to try and figure out whether the internet really IS broken, and if so – how on earth do with fix it?