SXSW’s – this year, the conference itself feels a lot like a hangover.
It’s as if the coastal elites who attend each year finally woke up with a serious case of the Sunday scaries, realizing that the many apps, platforms, and doodads SXSW has launched and glorified over the years haven’t really made the world a better place. In fact, they’ve often come with wildly destructive and dangerous side effects. Sure, it all seemed like a good idea in 2013!
But now the party’s over. It’s time for the regret-filled cleanup.
speakers related how the very platforms that were meant to promote a marketplace of ideas online have become filthy junkyards of harassment and disinformation.
Yasmin Green, who leads an incubator within Alphabet called Jigsaw, focused her remarks on the rise of fake news, and even brought two propaganda publishers with her on stage to explain how, and why, they do what they do. For Jestin Coler, founder of the phony Denver Guardian, it was an all too easy way to turn a profit during the election.
“To be honest, my mortgage was due,” Coler said of what inspired him to write a bogus article claiming an FBI agent related to Hillary Clinton’s email investigation was found dead in a murder-suicide. That post was shared some 500,000 times just days before the election.
While prior years’ panels may have optimistically offered up more tech as the answer to what ails tech, this year was decidedly short on solutions.
There seemed to be, throughout the conference, a keen awareness of the limits human beings ought to place on the software that is very much eating the world.