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Tech Scepticism Emerges as a Theme at SXSW 2018

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This year’s South by Southwest conference has seen multiple discussions on the benefits and limitations of the big tech brands’ dominance.

Facebook, social media more generally, and artificial intelligence have all been areas of concern for attendees.

Alex Hardiman, news head at Facebook, said in a Friday talk that the site was trying to improve the way news was promoted, going beyond clicks and engagement in its feed curation.

The rising scepticism has been dubbed ‘techlash’ by commentators.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, weighed in via an open letter: “The Web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today.

What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,”

“This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.”

Criticisms of the addictive nature of social media and the stifling of conservative opinions online were also prominent.

SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk warned that AI is more dangerous than nuclear warheads, and urged a lot more caution in the development of machine learning.

Whitney Wolfe Herd talked about the problem of online harassment, and noted how many prominent tech sites were made by men.

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