In years past, social media management has been a darling at Austin’s South By Southwest festival. This year, though, wider concerns such as Twitter trolls and Facebook’s fake news issues have overshadowed the annual tech bacchanalia.
“Fifteen years ago, when we were coming here to Austin to talk about the internet, it was this magical place that was different from the rest of the world,” said Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, now the CEO of Medium.
According to The Verge:
If the last decade of SXSW celebrated the promise of social media, the next years may well be dominated by the reckoning. Questions about the unintended consequences of social networks pervaded this year’s event. Academics, business leaders, and Facebook executives weighed in on how social platforms spread misinformation, encourage polarization, and promote hate speech. It wasn’t the first time SXSW has examined the darker side of social media — several sessions grappled with targeted harassment in 2016— but it felt like the most sustained reflection on the subject to date. “I don’t think it’s a losing battle,” said Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook, “but I think it’s a really hard one.”
The idea that the architects of our social networks would face their comeuppance in Austin was once all but unimaginable at SXSW, which is credited with launching Twitter, Foursquare, and Meerkat to prominence. Social apps took off in Austin first because the festival was once one of few places with a strong concentration of smartphone owners. And while smartphones have now swept the globe, SXSW continues to attract thousands of early adopters who are seeking new experiences.
But with social media management now top of mind for everyone from politicians to businesses, it also seems fitting that SXSW would be the place where issues arising from social media would get debated.