Facebook whistleblower to open Lisbon Web Summit

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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is set to open the Lisbon Web Summit on Monday evening, putting more pressure on the company as tens of thousands arrive for the tech world’s first mass rally since the start of the pandemic.

The organizers of one of the world’s largest tech conferences, which was canceled last year due to Covid-19, hailed its return to a country with one of the lowest vaccination rates. highest in the world.

With some 40,000 attendees from all over the world to Portugal – all having to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test – Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave said there was tremendous excitement, as well as caution. .

“There is this very strange euphoria that probably happened at the start of the Roaring Twenties. People are coming out of an apocalyptic pandemic,” Cosgrave told AFP.

The capacity of the Web Summit has been reduced by 70,000 to allow for greater social distancing, with required masks in the Altice Arena and one-way systems in place for an event that runs through Thursday.

Haugen, the former Facebook engineer who leaked a trove of damaging internal documents, is headlining at a conference that will also see executives from some 70 tech unicorns – start-ups valued at more than one billion dollars – get on stage.

The future of Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, is expected to provide a key talking point as the company struggles to emerge from the scandal.

The “Facebook Papers” have sparked a torrent of negative media reports in recent weeks, showing that business executives know the potential for harm from their sites on many fronts.

These include growing concerns about the spread of hate speech on Facebook in developing countries and concerns about Instagram’s impact on adolescent mental health.

Haugen, who is due to take the stage sometime after 5:00 p.m. GMT, has testified before US and UK lawmakers, but it will mark his first appearance before a larger audience.

– The “hype” of the metaverse? –

Key Facebook executives attending the Web Summit, including Vice President Nick Clegg, meanwhile will be keen to shift the conversation to the company’s much-discussed “Meta” rebrand.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that Facebook’s parent company is changing its name, as it focuses on creating the “metaverse,” a futuristic vision of the internet that would involve heavy use of virtual reality.

Facebook’s “Meta” rebranding is intended to signal a shift in the company’s focus on metaverse development. Chris DELMAS AFP / File

“Over the next decade, the metaverse will reach one billion people, release hundreds of billions of dollars in digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers,” Zuckerberg said at a launch event which showed him exploring psychedelic-looking virtual worlds.

The metaverse would confuse the physical world with the digital world, making online experiences – like chatting with a friend or attending a concert – feel like one-on-one.

While critics have derided the rebranding as an attempt to deflect attention from Facebook’s woes, Silicon Valley enthusiasts nonetheless believe that the metaverse could indeed represent the next big leap in the evolution of Facebook. Internet.

Various metaverse-themed events at this year’s Web Summit.

“I think part of the discussion will be, ‘How much of the hype is that and how real is it?'” Said Cosgrave.

Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave told AFP there was a sense of
Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave told AFP there was a feeling of “euphoria” around the return of one of the world’s biggest tech gatherings PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA AFP / File

Beyond the metaverse, the main themes of the Web Summit include the extent to which technology can help mitigate climate change – a topical issue as the conference coincides with the COP26 global climate negotiations in Scotland.


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