Web3 Tackles the Digital Quagmire: A Deep Dive into the Panel on Hate Speech and Misinformation

“In today’s digital age, misinformation and hate speech are as ubiquitous as smartphones,” Yasir Khan, Editor in Chief of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, declared as he opened the panel discussion hosted by Web3 on September 13, 2023. The panel featured a diverse group of experts, each bringing a unique perspective to the table.

What is Web3?
“Web3 is not just a technological shift; it’s a paradigm shift,” Yasir Khan emphasized. “It’s still in its infancy, but it has the potential to be a game-changer in addressing hate speech and misinformation.”

The Digital Battlefield
“We’re not just talking about hate speech; we’re talking about a life-and-death issue,” Khan asserted. “Misinformation and hate speech online have a direct impact on the access to life-saving information and services by displaced people around the world.”

The Ice Cream Activist
Jessie MacNeil-Brown, head of social mission and activism for Ben and Jerry’s in Europe, was candid. “We’re an activist brand, and we’ve felt the heat,” she said. “Someone on the far right picked up one of our messages in France, and it led to a pile-on. It got so bad that someone even turned up at an employee’s house.”

The Humanitarian Perspective
Gisella Lomax of UNHCR was forthright. “Online harms are causing direct harm to refugees, asylum seekers, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people,” she stated. “We need a multi-pronged approach—understanding the problem, developing tools to respond, and focusing on prevention.”

The Voice of Experience
Nadine Tunasi, a refugee and activist, spoke from the heart. “The impact on the mental well-being that hate speech has on refugees and asylum seekers is significant,” she said. “We’re not just statistics; we’re human beings.”

The UN’s Strategy on Hate Speech
The United Nations has a comprehensive strategy and plan of action on hate speech. Launched on June 18, 2019, by Secretary-General António Guterres, the strategy aims to tackle hate speech at both global and national levels. “Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech,” Guterres noted. “It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous.”

The strategy focuses on two main objectives: addressing the root causes and drivers of hate speech, and responding to the impact of hate speech on societies. “As effective action must be supported by better knowledge, the strategy calls for coordinated data collection and research,” Guterres added.

What Can We Do?
“We all have a role to play,” said Khan. “Report hate speech, educate, support organizations, lobby for change, and be mindful.”

“In a world where hate can spread faster than a wildfire, it’s crucial to remember that we all have a role to play in dousing the flames,” Gisella Lomax concluded. “We need to do better. And indeed, we must.”

Call to Action
Contact your elected officials and demand action on this issue. You can also get involved in the fight against hate speech and misinformation by supporting organizations that are working to address this problem.

Participants in ‘Web3 – Tackling Hate Speech and Misinformation’ with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s, Freedom from Torture and UNHCR on Wednesday 13th September:

Yasir Khan: Editor-In-Chief, Thomson Reuters Foundation. An award-winning journalist, editor, podcaster and documentary filmmaker, Yasir leads the Foundation’s digital news platform Context covering the impacts of climate, socio-economic inequality and technology on societies around the world.

Jessie MacNeil-Brown: Head of Social Mission & Activism Europe, Ben & Jerry’s. Jessie is a specialist with a strong track record of designing and delivering initiatives that inspire the public and drive long term sustainable change. She has experience in both corporate & NGO sectors. Her work is currently focused on advancing and protecting the rights of those with refugee experience. Jessie has previously worked for IKEA, The Body Shop and Amnesty International.

Nadine Tunasi: Survivor Speak Out Coordinator, Freedom from Torture.  A member of One Strong Voice network and Coordinator of the Survivor Speak Out group, Nadine is a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gisella Lomax: Senior Advisor on Information Integrity (Misinformation, Disinformation and Hate Speech), UNHCR. Gisella leads UNHCR’s new capacity to address the harmful impact of mis and disinformation, and hate speech on digital platforms. Gisella started her career as a journalist, reporting for national and international media organisations.  She joined the United Nations in 2011, a time of global disruption to the information ecosystem driven primarily by social media.

She has served in various digital and comms strategy roles across the UN, including Head of Social Media for UNHCR, where she saw up front the harm misinformation and disinformation can levy on people who are forced to flee.

A marriage made in heaven? NFTs and the Metaverse

The Web3 Wave event at the Biltmore Mayfair wasn’t just talk—it was where next-gen innovation took center stage, shaping the digital future in real-time. Among the plethora of sessions, “The Future of Interactivity: NFT Integration in the Metaverse” chaired by Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, stood out.

Des Agyekumhene, founder of Cohort, began with a compelling assertion. “NFTs have revolutionized the music industry, turning easily duplicated digital files into prized assets,” he proclaimed. He showcased a music event where NFTs were intertwined with albums, offering attendees an unparalleled, immersive experience. “The main beauty about NFTs is to ascribe value to digital creations. Before, digital files like JPEGs had no monetary worth. Now, with blockchain, they do,” he emphasized.

Jonscott Turco, a visiting professor and executive coach, introduced a behavioral angle. He urged organizations and leaders to confront their unease with innovations. “NFTs aren’t a fleeting trend; they’re reshaping our interaction with media and entertainment. Embrace this shift,” he insisted. “We have an opportunity to reimagine how this will influence our daily lives and professions,” he elaborated.

Charlotte Meyer, an expert in government affairs and policies, grounded the conversation. “The UK’s recent Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 is pivotal for NFT regulation,” she highlighted. She stressed the importance of not only embracing new technology but also sculpting the legal landscape for the impending digital era. “The digital shift isn’t solely technological; it’s about establishing supportive legal and regulatory frameworks,” she said. She also noted the regulatory ambiguity surrounding NFTs, especially in Europe where clear guidelines are scant.

Benjamin Whitby, transitioning from a background in quantum physics to coding and regulation, brought a unique perspective to the panel. He emphasized the importance of tools within ecosystems, noting the overwhelmingly positive feedback they’ve received. “It’s still such a fundamental tool within ecosystems. But the teams are getting into some amazing feedback and they’re loving the data,” he remarked.

Whitby also highlighted the sophisticated nature of their collaborations, stating, “We work with very sophisticated users. We’re not just kind of a buy-and-hold type organisation.” He expressed confidence in the current maturity of the technology, foreseeing its potential integration with various government channels. And he also consistently stressed the importance of returning to the fundamentals, asserting, “You have to get back to the fundamentals.”

In crypto PR mode!

Looking ahead, the fusion of NFTs in the metaverse will redefine our digital engagements. The session underscored the vast potential of NFTs and the challenges accompanying them. As the metaverse burgeons, NFTs will be instrumental in its evolution. Every industry, from music to real estate, has the potential for radical transformation. Listening to the panel speakers it’s clear the future beckons a world where every interaction is valuable, creativity is acknowledged, and the digital seamlessly intertwines with the tangible. The horizon of this new era is upon us, and it’s an exciting journey we’re all part of.

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