WSW: Behaving Responsibly Online Tackled at Kalamazoo Social Media Conference

May 4, 2018

Garlin Gilchrist II, director of the newly opened Center for Social Media Responsibility at U-M, speaks at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Fetzer Center as part of the Kalamazoo Social Media Week Conference.
Credit Courtesy photo | Garlin Gilchrist II

Facebook may have been called to task for fake news and breaches of personal data, but it's the job of all stakeholders in the digital "ecosystem"--from users to advertisers to media companies--to act responsibly in cyberspace, says Garlin Gilchrist II, a headliner at the Kalamazoo Social Media Week Conference starting Monday.


Gilchrist, director of the Center for Social Media Responsibility founded in March at the University of Michigan School of Information, made his comments on WestSouthwest, the news and public affairs show on WMUK. (The show airs 5/7 at 9:30 a.m. & 3:30 p.m. Click above icon to listen now.)

He envisions the center helping America navigate through this murky time in the growth of social media by conducting research and making the findings publicly available.

The School of Information has already done some research concerning social media, but Gilchrist said it has been "locked up in the halls of academia" and not disseminated where everyday citizens and interested companies might be likely to see it.

"Ultimately, we want platforms to be better experiences for all those who interact with them--the users, the advertisers, the companies and the media makers who want to have content on these platforms," Gilchrist told WMUK's Earlene McMichael.

"Everyone wants to have better experiences, from what I can tell, given the national conversation around that these things need to change."

What kinds of things would Gilchrist like to see measured?

He said he would like to see a study of "how much toxicity" is present on Facebook and Twitter, such as personal attacks and aggression, and to quantify "the scale of misinformation" online.

"We can measure and we can track these things. Once we can measure and track something, it's a doorway to understanding. If we're able to understand and track the right things, it can lead platforms to a more responsible ecosystem."

Asked if he foresees governmental and legislative intervention to protect consumers in the digital world, Gilchrist said it's possible.

He noted that a sweeping law called the General Data Protection Regulation taking effect in Europe this month lays out strict rules on how people's online data is to be handled, including by third parties, and U.S. lawmakers are watching closely.

But some are doing more than simply pondering enacting similar laws here.

"I think that legislators are considering, perhaps, setting up a new agency or recreating previously existing agencies that could have jurisdiction over this kind of activity," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist will deliver a keynote address at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Fetzer Center during the Kalamazoo Social Media Week Conference.