Peter Williams: Ardern fighting against the tide of online media

Opinion 14/05/2019

By Peter Williams, Magic Mornings host.

Winston Peters is acting PM because Jacinda Ardern is in Paris for this conference about how to keep violence off the internet.

I’m more than a bit skeptical that this will actually achieve anything for a few reasons.

The conference is only concentrating on social media from the western hemisphere and while Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and the like are hugely influential in the world that we know, there are platforms of a similar size based in China like WeChat which are not, and never have been part of this Paris conference.

Then there is the sheer size of the issue.

It’s extraordinary to realise that there are 3000 years worth of watching time uploaded to Facebook every day. There are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.

And so it goes on.

Yes there is AI, artificial intelligence which can, and apparently does already, block a lot of objectionable material getting on the net. And there are between 15,000 and 20,000 human moderators to help out the AI.

YouTube says 98 percent of violent extremism is already blocked, Facebook claimed it blocked virtually all the material from Al Qaeda and ISIS, and took down 83 percent of the stuff that did get uploaded.

But stuff still gets through.

This stuff will continue to get through because even AI can’t stop everything.

If these world leaders want to stop the Facebooks of the world from showing objectionable material, they’re going to have to rely on the good will of the companies themselves to do it by developing AI that is 100 percent objectionable violence proof.

I don’t know if that’s technologically possible.

But the biggest obstacle in the way of what the Paris meeting wants to achieve, or at least to start to achieve, is this thing called the dark net, a place our friend Al Gillespie, Professor of law at Waikato University, calls the evil twin of the normal internet, a deeply encrypted space which only the truly psychotic and the truly disturbed appear to inhabit.

People like Brenton Tarrant.

And until that problem can be cracked then all the words and the promises of cooperation in the world can come from the Paris meeting, but mad ideas and awful violence are still going to be seen and shared by people who will always remain a threat to society.

Fighting the dark net is the next frontier for cyber space policing.

You may wish to talk about what the Prime Minister is trying to achieve in Paris. She’s trying her best but politicians trying to halt the spread of 21st century technology is a bit like King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Mornings.