Thursday, May 24, 2012 | 1:26 PM
How should children stay safe online? When does cracking down on pornography morph into censorship? Has the social media revolution enhanced or diminished our society? How can we reconcile copyright with the split-second creations and sharing of the digital age? Our Big Tent returned to its birthplace to the UK this week to take on these tough issues.
For the debate on pornography and child safety, we invited one of our fiercest critics, the Daily Mail. Columnist Amanda Platell outlined her newspaper’s campaign for government-mandated filters for adult content online while Andrew Heaney of TalkTalk, a UK based Internet Service Provider described his company’s network-based filter. On the other side of the debate, Index on Censorship’s new chief executive Kirsty Hughes and Google’s UK Public Policy director Sarah Hunter warned of the risks - both practical and in principle - of filtering.
From the serious subject of adult content, we took a quirky but informative break to watch Aleks Krotoski demonstrate her Serendipity Engine, an algorithmic contraption of bicycle parts and light bulbs.
Last year, our executive chairman Eric Schmidt urged the UK to reform its computer science education, helping spark a nationwide debate. At this year’s event, he addressed a range of issues from how the next five billion people to come online will shape the web to his concerns about privacy and criminality online. In response a question about the disruptive nature of technology, he answered,“If you thought when you got your job at 20 that it would never change you were misinformed. Retrain yourself to be curious.”
UK Universities and Science Minister David Willetts addressed concern that university debt is threatening aspiring entrepreneurs, speaking of the importance of promoting innovation clusters and how big data and text analysis can fuel growth.
For this year’s Big Tent we partnered with the Music Managers Forum, the world’s largest representative body of artist management. MMF’s Chairman, Brian Message, challenged to Geoff Taylor of the BPI to spend more time thinking about innovation than legislation. TV comedy writer Graham Linehan raised laughs when he said he thought films would get better if people were asked to pay when they leave the cinema.
We also heard from journalists who are integrating digital media and user content into news storytelling - from local news in Australia's Northern Territory, to hard hitting social media fuelled reporting on Arab protests, to understanding the London riots through the lens of data.
The day concluded with a debate between two authors whose new books examine the impact of the social web on society and individuals. Andrew Keen and Nick Harkaway debated the question of whether the social revolution has enhanced or diminished our society. While coming from different perspectives, Keen and Harkaway did agree that Internet users should take more active decisions in how they use services online to ensure they protect themselves and their data.
The Big Tent programme heads to Dublin, Cannes and Tel Aviv next and the content from the UK event will be available on our YouTube channel soon.