From Regulating Web2 to Building Web3: Challenges and Opportunities for the Social Web

24 March 2023

Project Liberty Founder Frank McCourt and Stanford Professors Rob Reich and Jeremy Weinstein discuss the governance of social media, the promise of decentralized technology and ways to harness emerging technology to support healthier digital communities and democratic societies.

On March 24, 2023, Project Liberty’s founder Frank McCourt was joined by Stanford professors Rob Reich and Jeremy Weinstein for a discussion organized by Project Liberty’s Institute at Sciences Po, Paris. The conversation, which was introduced by the Institute’s executive director Constance de Leusse, and moderated by program manager Leïla Mörch, focused on the governance of social media, the promise of decentralized technology, and ways to harness emerging technology to serve human interests, and support healthier digital communities and democratic societies.

Multi-stakeholder approach to finding solutions

The event began with a framing of the current state of the internet as a way for the audience to understand the errors in the system before finding a pathway to solution. As technology is rapidly evolving, exciting opportunities to redesign and reshape the internet are arising with the emergence of Web3. McCourt set the tone for the conversation by pointing out how it’s important to have conversations like these, which are tech-related but not tech-centric.

Reich and Weinstein, co-authors of System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot, agreed that in order to find solutions for a better future of the internet, it is crucial to bring together a multidisciplinary array of stakeholders to think about their work together.

The key to migration

Referencing the need for building alternative architectures in the next iteration of the web, Reich quoted McCourt saying, “If you want to migrate from somewhere, you need a place to go.” With the problems of Web2 already identified, the next move to create a pathway toward solutions is to encourage building a new web ecosystem that will allow users more agency, as Weinstein emphasized, and greater control over how their data is used and how they connect with others.

Core to Project Liberty is the idea that the Internet does not have to work the way it does right now, and people should have agency over their data. McCourt said that we need to think about how to imagine, design, and build technology that shift power from dominant tech platforms to people.

Reich said that in order to create a better, more democratic set of institutions prepared for the rapid pace of change on the technological frontier, we need to think about how technologists can have a place in early on in conversations with policymakers about ethics and governance.

Later in the conversation, Weinstein pointed out that while technology as a solution can offer a destination, “a place to go is not enough.” In response, McCourt agreed that technology is the easy part. “It’s the governance, the policy, the movement, the caring, the nurturing of all this – that’s really going to bring us to a successful place or not,” said McCourt.

“What Project Liberty really is, is an alliance. I’m here to invite everyone to get involved,” said McCourt.

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