tv The Media Show BBC News November 2, 2021 1:30am-2:01am GMT
and has anything new been revealed this week? and whilst facebook might be facing difficulties in the real world, that hasn't stopped them investing heavily in an alternative reality future. so what exactly is the metaverse? and how soon before we're all living in it? well, joining me to discuss all of that is my panel of guests. nicola millard is a presenter, writer and principal innovation partner at bt. so nicola, what is a principal innovation partner and why does bt need one? good question, well, i used to be bt�*s futurologist and i got very tired of the crystal balljokes. i do have one, it doesn't work. but largely, my role, i'm part of bt�*s innovation team. so i'm here to innovate with and for our customers. very good, very good. lauren goode is senior writer at wired. lauren, you host the get wired podcast. what sort of thing does that cover? the get wired podcast, we highlight some of wired's most impactful stories and we kind of explore the intersection of technology and humanity. that's the best way i would describe it.
well, we'll hear a bit more from you and nicola slightly later on in the show. also with us today is madhumita murgia, european tech correspondent at the financial times. but i guess, madu, you have been spending a lot of your time following silicon valley at the moment. yes, that's right. we've been part of quite a big project looking - at several hundred documents i that were leaked from facebook, and so we've kind of, l it's been a team effort. we've all been looking - at them and analysing them together as a group. and last but definitely not least is emily birnbaum, tech lobbying reporter at politico. so, emily, let's start with you because as madu just said, facebook has been doing a lot of lobbying and pr this past week. we've heard whistle—blower former facebook employee frances haugen has been in the headlines for several weeks now over her leaked documents. she's had a series of media partnerships starting with the wall streetjournal. what did she do with them and who's she been working with since?
yeah, so she says that she first met the wall street journal reporter who she would work with to disclose the original tranche of documents, she says she's been working with him since december. so it was originally jack horwitz at the wall streetjournal. he came out with a series called the facebook files which essentially, you know, showed that in various ways facebook is aware it's been contributing to social harms and has done little to stop it. and ever since then it'sjust kind of been a whirlwind. haugen and her team decided it was time to get these documents out there to a broader audience, and she wanted to raise more attention around them. so her pr firm, bryson gillette, in the us, created this sort of ad hoc media consortium — 17 us publications, more in europe — that were all given a certain amount of time to pour over these thousands of documents, and this past week was when most of them published.
yes, well, we did invite facebook onto the programme but they weren't able to make it on. but i should say, wall street journal is a murdoch—owned paper and he's long been an outspoken critic of facebook. madu, your paper the financial times was also part of the consortium publishing stories this week, as was lauren goode�*s wired. how did it all work on the ground? how did it all come together? there's been, you know, - kind of an almost unprecedented collaboration and working j together of various media organisations. i wasn't involved from the very start, but colleagues of mine i were and then i came i in and i think that's true of other publications as well. we've had different reporters. coming in because there's been so many different aspects i to the stories that have been pouring out of these documents. we here at the ft, we see ourselves as a global- publication so we had - reporters in the middle east and south asia, all over. the world, looking at these documents to give some political context as welll and we obviously had people in the us and then we had i all of the other reporters i from other places as well.
so kind of on the ground there's beenjoint calls l and we've all been tryingl to understand what these documents are saying as a group but then trying to go away - and figure out what our own stories are and which bits i we want to highlight. so a big, big global movement. but emily, who was leading this, someone had to be leading it, surely? yeah, well, the ap actually took a lot of the sort of leadership from the journalists and sort of, like, corralling everyone into a slack group which was called "apparently we're a consortium now". and there was a lot of stuff around the branding of the documents, around the embargo time that was decided by the journalists, but also
obviously there has been a lot of coordination with her pr firm and working with her pr firm on, you know, can we get that document, or her firm arranged a series of briefings with her. so it has been really notably sprawling and quite well manicured effort to, you know, undertake this pretty huge project. so that's the consortium and how it worked. and as you said there's a pr firm behind it. but madu, what were the big headlines that came out this week? because we did learn some new stuff, didn't we? oh, yeah. i think we tried to look at it as bands or areas of things| that came out of one of the big things is, i what a major language problem facebook has globally, - and this is an interest- of ours, again, as a global news organisation. languages spoken by huge swathes of the world — - arabic, hindi, urdu, . pashto in afghanistan, these are huge numbers - of facebook users and theyjust don't have enough in—countryl language support moderators. so much, much of the - misinformation, hate speech and, you know, other types of harmful content - are just falling -
through the cracks. in most of the world outside of the us, and in fact - there was a number of one of the documents that said the company allocated 87%| of its budget for developing its misinformation detection i algorithms to the us in 2020. versus 13% to the entire rest of the world. - so i think for me, i that was kind of one of the big takeaways. another was the fact| that they don't really understand how their| own algorithms work. there were documents _ in there that showed that women were shown less politicali content compared to men but they didn't . really know why. they also said that almostj certainly there were major systemic biases based -
on the race of different users and they felt that people who share frequently- are often shown more - in the news feed rankings and that tends to correlate to race, so certain races. are prioritised over others in terms of their speech . being amplified. but again, they didn't really know what that bias lookedl like or how to fix it. well, you mentioned hate speech, we weren't able to get facebook onto the programme, but they have released statements this week in relation to the criticisms coming their way. with regards to hate speech, they did say that they've built teams with expertise on issues such as human rights, hate speech, misinformation, polarisation, and that they do have industry—leading processes for reviewing and prioritising countries with the highest risk of off—line harm and violence. but if we go back to the mechanics of how this all worked, emily, it has been a very slick operation in terms of how it's come together. who's backing frances haugen? i did some reporting this past week, got into some
of the money behind her. to be clear, there is absolutely no indication about anything about this was inauthentic or inorganic. she was working at facebook, she has been clear that she spent a long time preparing to bring documents out of the company, but as soon as she went public, she revealed her identity on a 60 minutes episode that was one of the most widely watched episodes in the show�*s history. that's when a lot of people came out of the woodwork to help and support her. so the whole time she's been working with an organisation called whistleblower aid. they have said that since going forward with her they have attracted attention from a lot of big donors, and they're now able to pay for a lot of her expenses. and beyond that, pierre omidyar, he is the founder of ebay, has come out and offered a lot of support for her.
he is a billionaire, he has spent a lot of recent years bankrolling anti—big tech efforts. he has given millions of dollars overall to advocacy groups and digital rights groups in this space. so basically his philanthropic group, luminate, is running her government and press relations in europe. he previously did give some money to whistleblower aid and he has pledged that he is going to continue to support her in many different ways, including travel expenses, including amplifying her message through a lot of his big organisations. so he's only one of many. just to clarify, omidyar has not said publicly that he or his organisations are backing haugen. i think a blog post from one of his organisations commented on supporting tech whistleblowers, but they don't specifically comment on this case. but emily, what have facebook said in response to the slew
of stories? because they keep coming and coming and coming. yeah, so, facebook has taken a very defensive posture in response to a lot of this. i've spoken to a lot of people this week who say companies in crisis have choices that they can make. they can either make structural change, they can apologise. facebook has chosen that will not be their approach, they say, "we are proud of what we've done, we are a company that tries to do good. we have invested more in trust and safety than our rivals. and we're being mischaracterised in the press." mark zuckerberg on an earnings call earlier this week said that all of this amounts to basically a co—ordinated smear campaign. and he's worried that it will actually dis—incentivise some kind of similar research in the future. as this negative press continues, maybe they'll take a different tack, but for now they're not going to apologise
when they are being attacked. i'm aware that three of my panel all come from papers that were part of this consortium, but madu, surely facebook do have a point here. i mean, isn't this a case of the old media, ie the newspapers, going after new media? facebook is still the new kid on the block, they're not even 20 years old yet? it's hard to call them - the new kid on the block when you look at the scale of, i you know, even if we don't call it harm, the scale - of impact, that we see in terms of who they touch globally _ so i'm not quite sure we even have a quarter of that reach . even at the consortium - with 17 news organisations. but i would say that we've discussed this internally . and we've reported it- in our piece today as well which says — there were good faith efforts from facebook . researchers to try and wrangle with ways to solve some -
of these really extremely thorny issues _ like ethnic violence - and civil war, gender issues, religious inflammatory materiah _ and in each context and in each country, this is so complex - and so different and unique. and the company's basedl in silicon valley in the us. they don't have that sense of context in every- single country. so there were efforts to try| and understand this better. but i think what's clear from the documents is that these| efforts have been. stymied internally. that even when researchers were saying, here, look, i there are problems that. we're trying to show you, that things weren't done about it. - i've spoken to sophie zhang i whos' another whistle—blower who came out a few months ago and she'd uncovered _ several instances - of political manipulation on the platform, in placesl like honduras for example. she found that it was really . difficult to get anyone to take
any action and it just sort of fizzled out _ unless she did - something about it. so there is an internal lack of, or kind of an internal. apathy even though there have been good—faith efforts - from researchers within - the company to understand what's going on better. facebook would say that their technology is having a big impact in reducing how much hate speech people see on their platform. they said that they use their technology to proactively detect it, route it to reviewers and they do remove it when it violates their policies. lauren goode, senior writer at wired, your twitter profile says you are a lover of plot twists. so what have you made of this drama? can it get any worse for facebook? i think we have yet to see the plot twists from this. i don't believe this bodes well for facebook, but i don't know how much impact we'll be seeing right away. as emily mentioned, facebook just reported the third quarter earnings a couple of days ago, the company is, shockingly, still making money. any concerns, i think, about slowing revenue came from this side of targeted advertising because there's been changes that apple made
to its operative system on phones where it's limiting some of the targeted advertising that people see on a platform like facebook because consumers can now opt out. and so facebook warned of that. we also know that facebook has some real concerns, or should have real concerns, about whether or not younger users are glomming on to its services the way that perhaps some of us elders have done. so i think there are other concerns that facebook may have. i think when it comes to the facebook files, or the facebook papers, one of the employees that was cited in the document said they don't believe that history is going to look that kindly on facebook. i do believe that history is starting to happen now. history is happening now, but i think it's still going to be a little while before we see the long—term impact of the reaction to these papers. we willjust have to sit back and see how the plot unfolds, but whilst that is the facebook�*s problems in the real world, they are also making big
moves into an alternative world — the metaverse. this is a concept that it keeps cropping up, big tech keep telling us about the future — facebook have announced 10,000 newjobs working just on this. but, lauren, what is the metaverse? people listening at home will be going, meta what? what is the metaverse? i believe it depends on who you ask. if you think about the word universe meaning like a single universe, the metaverse is supposed to somehow transcend that. the most consistent description i've heard from different people is that's a kind of successor to the mobile internet. the way that 20 something years ago, we were experiencing the internet primarily through the web, now we all have mobile phones, smartphones in our hands, and the metaverse will be some next level or next layer of that. where there is this kind of pervasive connectivity in our lives. which may sound thrilling to some people but may be alarming to others.
where we feel a sense of presence with the people around us. right now, as we are doing this radio and video presentation, we are on zoom, looking at each other on 2d flat screens and in some kind of metaverse world perhaps we would feel a little bit more present with each other as we interact and move from space to space. nicola millard, principal innovation partner at bt, this does sound all just a bit dystopian, doesn't it? it is true that the metaverse did come from dystopian science fiction, i'm a massive science fiction geek as well as a social scientist. i'm interested in how technology and people interact but snow crash is the origin of the metaverse and to be honest i tend to describe it as the 3d internet. and it's notjust the digital bit, i think there is the intersection with the real world that we need to think about as well. typically, people do think of the metaverse as a snow crash, readyplayer one,
the ultimate dystopian vision would be the matrix as well. this is the problem, it's all the science geeks pushing us toward this new future? i thin...it really tried to move from that 2d static, i guess, spectator sports that we have been doing a lot of at the moment because we have been staring at 2d screens for a very long time during the pandemic. moving it into more of a 3d space. the exciting bit actually is that it could be the new internet, it's enabled by technologies like virtual reality like augmented reality and mixed reality. those are three slightly different technologies as well. some of which involve wearing glasses. i think that's one from a more social science user perspective.
i think that glasses bit can be one of the steps that they have got to get over around people adjusting to virtual reality. i tend to have quite a vomitty reaction to it. then again i tend to go queasy on the top of the bus. if you put that headset on me, i do tend to vomit. that will get better and there's a big fashion brand recently that just launched a pair of glasses which are more augmented reality. rather than being completely concealed in a headset, you can actually start to merge reality and the digital world as well. there's lots of applications that we have been looking at, things like health care using that kind of application. we can start to see some quite exciting examples of things that we can do with that technology. and then mixed reality is where it is more the star trek vision. the holodeck type of thing where you bring them together and there's this word called �*figital�*, a terrible word but that describes the physical world and digital world to start to interact. if i pick up a pencil, will the digital world respond? there's a lot of challenges creating this metaverse as well as connecting probably multiple metaverses together. and enabling us as users
to navigate through those multiple worlds in a very consistent way. you have given us some enticing glimpses, but let's try and pin down exactly what the metaverse will be. lauren, some of our listeners may know, they may even remember the sims, that was a video game in which you had a little digital characters and you could decide what they wear, what they ate, what kind of house they lived in, whether they even had a shower. i remember playing that. is the metaverse similar to that? i think you're touching on something that is important. which is that the metaverse can be expressed through a virtual world such as simcity or the sims, and some people also say second life is something that would be considered part of the metaverse. but is doesn't necessarily
have to be something that is in that space. as nicola also said, it could be something that kind of exists partly in your physical world around you and partly in the digital world. i also think that what you're describing or asking are these silos, right? we hear technologists prognosticate right now about the metaverse and say it's going to be its vast expanse of virtual experiences where people will connect, there will be interoperability, it will be open. but what we are actually seeing is now a lot of these companies try to elbow their way into the metaverse and stake theirclaim in it. facebook of course is one, you mentioned that off the top. i wouldn't be surprised if we saw google make a more serious play in the metaverse. apple might not call it that because apple tries not to call things super nerdy terms but it's working on ar solutions. there's microsoft, pokemon go, fortnite, and what we are seeing are these companies that exist in our lives, so present in our lives through their technology services.
many of them are not interoperable. many of them have containers or walled gardens where we are supposed to live and do our work. and do our connecting with other people. and so i think the promise right now theoretically is that it's been very open and that people just kind of live in this next layer of the internet. but in reality these companies want to make money off of this. they want to build applications on top of this and they are going to do, i think, what they can to make you use their services over others. if i'm right, you have some doubts about this, right, the metaverse? i do have some concerns, i would say. primarily, i think there's a real barrier tojust people widely adopting it. so long as there is a proponent of it that relies on heads up displays was that the vr headset or ar glasses,
ijust think it's going to take a lot and there's going to have to be, going to have to be advancements in that technology for people to adopt it widely. there are going to be applications where people can join from their 2d screens and, quote unquote, "enter" the metaverse, but what technologists are pressing right now is the totally virtual immersive experiences. i'd like to say vr and ar are in theirteenage phase but it feels like vr and ar in their teenage phase. as much as we are figuring ourselves out and considering changing our names, the metaverse is a new name change for what technologists have been pushing already for, like, decades at this point. my other concern is just about inclusivity in the metaverse. a lot of the conversations we have heard so far, some of the most prominent voices around the metaverse, this panel not included, happen to be people who identify as men whether science fiction writers or analysts, or people like mark zuckerberg and andrew bosworth orjohn hanke, the founder of niantic, or the founder
of second life. and i think it's when you have this sort of homogeneous body of people who are creating this next layer of the internet you are setting yourself up for having an experience that does not necessarily apply to everyone or consider everyone. and i think right now the answer to that is, well, don't worry we are designing avatars that reflect what real people look like. and that's great but that does not necessarily consider the harms or potential harms or social dynamics that would exist for people who come from under—represented or marginalised groups who deserve to have the same safe experience on the internet as the people who are creating it. madhumita, you're european tech correspondent from the financial times. what do you think of the metaverse? so actually i'm in the office for the first time in - a while and i was corralling opinions from my desk. - i was talking to my two editors about this. - we were saying, you know, we throw this term out - as if it's this futuristic- thing, but we are already
on the path to this. i know the metaverse is supposed to be - three—dimensional and augmented but what it is really is, _ as lauren said, it's- interconnected in a kind of world where we do all things online. - over the last year and a half, j we are doing all things online already. living together virtually. we, notjust for entertainment, but for work as well. _ and we are already at that stage where behaviourallyj we understand - what it would mean. so i think the jump is a bit smaller for me than it - would have looked| like two years ago. and really the next step - is making it all interoperable. even if that's not in 3d, i can i take all of my social graph data from facebook and i take it with me somewhere else? rather than having all of these separate kind of units? - can ijust live one life online? - i think that will be the first - step of this metaverse and then we will kind of go on to l
the issues around glasses and headsets and things. i think we are closer than we think. - thank you very much. we could talk about this all day, but that's all the time we have for now. thank you so much on my guests. the media show will be back at the same time next week. thanks for watching and goodbye. hello. after a warm and wet october of the stormy final weekend has a different flavour to our weather now that we are into november. low pressure is moving away, around and there are still showers but overall it is looking drier. now is a developing northerly breeze coming into the uk and it's chilly now, but it is turning colder still in the next couple of days. here is what is on the agenda for the rest of the week. we have established as low
pressure moves away, drier, the air around it turning colder. some sunny spells, yes, a chance of showers mainly coastal areas. overnight fog and frost, got both of those in some spots as tuesday begins. especially across parts of england where the cultist areas here getting close to freezing at the day begins. showers from the word go in northern scotland, and some of these can be heavy maybe with hail and thunder. and some will push for south across scotland during the day and increasing chance of catching a shower in northern ireland. across parts of wales for the western side of england. much of central and eastern england will state largely dry, many places will see sunny spells and temperatures across the uk nine to 12 celsius. the wind continuing to ease. and with those light winds overnight and into wednesday that's a recipe for some mist and fog patches, especially across parts of england and wales. and again a recipe for seeing temperatures close to freezing, especially in the countryside for a touch of frost as wednesday starts. so on wednesday, then, again
many places going to stay dry. you can see the showers around to begin with and mainly affecting coastal areas. if you running through northern ireland, some inter—northern this patch along the north sea coast mayjust push further inland across england during the day with that wind direction. and a colderfeeling day on wednesday with more places topping out in just single figures for the top temperature. as we go from wednesday to thursday, a high—pressure trying to nudge in from the west and with that wind direction also killing off many of the showers across western parts of the uk. we will continue to see them especially along some north sea coast on thursday. a stronger northerly breeze, more of the wind—chill around on thursday. and there is a change developing in northwest scotland, thicker clouds and some outbreaks of rain starting to move in. a weather system that will bring some rain to parts of scotland, and northern ireland going into saturday and then pushing a little bit further south as the weekend goes on. and that's your latest forecast for the week ahead.
welcome to bbc news. i'm david eades. our top stories: world leaders at the climate summit in glasgow promise to end deforestation by 2030, in a pledge that covers 85% of the world's forests. enough of burning and drilling and mining ourway enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. we are digging our own graves. it follows an opening day in which india's prime minister, narendra modi, pledged for his country to become carbon neutral by the year 2070. emergency teams in nigeria work through the night to find dozens of people feared trapped in the rubble of a collapsed apartment block. the us supreme court hears arguments in the controversial texas abortion case, with at least one legal challenge likely to be allowed to move forward.
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