Thursday, June 7, 2007

Craig Newmark on Digital Social Responsiblity

Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark (his blog cnewmark is here) just finished speaking on "Digital Social Responsibility: Searching for Ethics on the Internet" this afternoon at the Japan Society in New York City. Dan Rosenblum and his team at the Japan Society put together this event as part of their corporate program's Tech Epoch series. New York Times correspondent Brad Stone was moderating. Policy Innovations got to listen to Newmark's insightful comments.

Newmark's main theme was that his business has worked on the basis of shared values, specifically trust, in the U.S. society. The biggest problem at craigslist? "Misinformation gangs" spreading lies about political candidates. The reason this problem is more serious than spamming, housing scams, etc. is because billions of dollars are at stake.

I paraphrase some more of Newmark's highlights here:
  • Craigslist works based on trust and universal values in the U.S.--these are based on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Abrahamic religions). It works on the premise that most people treat people the way they would like to be treated. There are few bad guys but they are noisier than their numbers would suggest.
  • The company's moral imperative is to work with the victims of scams and the police to catch the bad guys. But you have to balance this effort with the privacy rights of bad guys. Sometimes we have to operate on an internal moral compass or what "feels right."
  • Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are pioneers in speaking truth to power, helping the health of our democracy. Another pioneer is blogger and writer Dan Gillmore. While craigslist is for the now, wikipedia is for the ages--it allows history to be written by all people, not just the victors of history.
  • The Internet started with Johannes Gutenberg and the "blogger" Martin Luther came up with the first killer app. known as the Reformation.
  • While Tim O'Reilly advocates an ethical code of conduct for bloggers, Craig agrees that bloggers should at least disclose their affiliations. (Devin says: I agree with the code that anonymous postings should be avoided. As O'Reilly puts it, "When people are anonymous, they will often let themselves say or do things that they would never do when they are identified.")
  • The Web can help remind us where society is supposed to be going and it can help to expose crimes like corruption. (The Internet can help create a more ethical society.)
  • Not sure what web 3.0 means but it has something to do with collaborative filtering and trustworthiness metrics. Finally, he joked despite its emergence, Craig is disappointed we still don't fly around with jet packs.

No comments: