Sunday 26 May 2019

Social networks need to be controlled more tightly - Web Summit told

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova

Adrian Weckler in Lisbon

Facebook has endured another day of bashing on the international stage with the European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova, telling the Web Summit that social networks need to be controlled more tightly.

"It is time to address non-transparent political advertising and the misuse of people’s personal data," Ms Jourova told journalists at the Lisbon tech conference.

"In our online world, the risk of interference and manipulation has never been so high. The Cambridge Analytica case has been a wake-up call that sent shockwaves through our democratic systems."

Ms Jourova also said that there is "strong determination" within the EU to move ahead with an EU digital tax, which Ireland opposes.

The criticism of the social regulation came after Facebook and Google both agreed to sign up to a new ‘Contract For the Web’, initiative set up by the founder of the worldwide web, Tim Berners Lee.

The loosely-defined ‘contract’ asks for new systems of accountability for major tech companies and state bodies when it comes to building and using the web.

"A lot of things have gone wrong with the web," he said.

"We need a revolution."

Mr Berners Lee said that online companies can "do better" than they are at present.

Irish tech entrepreneurs were out in force at the conference.

Alan Coleman, the Brite:bill founder who sold the Irish telecoms software firm to AmDocs for a reported €80m in 2016, was present with his new startup, Sweepr. The firm aims to help people with everyday technical problems they have using artificial intelligence.

Other high profile Irish technology founders present included Intercom co-founder Des Traynor, who said that his company will soon be rolling out a road-map for its next big products.

The Web Summit is traditionally used by hundreds of European startups to find financial backers, partners and customers.

Organisers at the conference say that the number of people registered to attend the event is close to 70,000.

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