Highlights from Priv8, Orchid’s Virtual Privacy SummitNov 17, 2021
On Monday evening, Orchid wrapped up the second edition of the Priv8 Virtual Privacy Summit. The event brought together experts, academics, and evangelists from various technology, business, media, and political spheres to share their experiences, predictions, and advice with like-minded people around the world. Here are the highlights.
Glenn Greenwald, Dr. Steven Waterhouse, and Willy Woo on Free Speech and Free Internet
Journalist and author Glenn Greenwald, Orchid CEO Dr. Steven Waterhouse (Seven), and bitcoin analyst Willy Woo opened the event with a vibrant discussion about free speech.
Glenn spoke about the ways that his upbringing affected his views on free speech—born in 1967, he came of age in the time of "Watergate, spying abuses on the part of the FBI, and cultural wars that happened over free speech."
"These issues brought public debates about civil liberties. The main question was, 'how much protection do we need from tyrannical abuse of state power?' My views today were formed by one of the predominant arguments at the time: if you give the state too much unchecked authority, they're going to abuse it. And the one thing you don't want to do is to allow the state to decide which ideas are and are not permissible.
"Therefore, when I started to think about how and where I wanted to do journalism, I looked for companies that were created specifically with the intention to avoid big tech repression, with founders who believe that free speech is worth protecting—which I believe is true of the founders of Substack," Glenn said. Substack is a service that allows people to create subscription-based newsletters. He began publishing a Substack newsletter in 2020.
Moderator Naomi Brockwell added that the growing popularity of Substack and similar platforms could signify a shift toward decentralization in the way that content is shared. "When it comes to the ways that information is shared, we're relying on the goodwill of centralized platforms [not to censor content]," she said. "The only real path toward true freedom of expression is to decentralize the Internet."
Willy Woo pointed out we could be in the midst of a "first step" toward decentralized sharing of information. "But it's hard to build first-generation platforms that work well for everybody—usually, people build on top of these platforms and make them more open over time. So there are more solutions ahead that will create protocols that are truly decentralized and not subject to political pressures."
Orchid CEO Dr. Steven Waterhouse (Seven) added that with the invention of cryptocurrency and programmable money, the concept of decentralization and free expression now extends to the financial world. Like free speech, "people express themselves through their investments, donations, sending money to people who need it around the world, and so on," Seven said. "So the question is, can we create censorship-resistant money?"
Leigh Cuen and Aella on Censorship and De-platforming
Later in the day, crypto journalist Leigh Cuen and OnlyFans creator Aella continued the discussion about freedom of expression online by sharing their thoughts on cancel culture and de-platforming.
Leigh said, "Today, when people hear something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they feel the need to ostracize the person who said it. As a journalist, when I've said things that have made people angry, they'll often say, 'I hate censorship, but she in particular deserves to be censored. So for me, the question is 'how do we have respectful conversations without ostracizing opinions that don't align with our own?' I believe that having platforms with a robust diversity of opinions—though there may be uncomfortable moments—is beneficial to everyone involved."
Aella agreed, adding that she "was raised in an extremely devout religious household where I was isolated from the outside world. In that environment, uncomfortable conversations were the thing that rescued me. When you're locked in a world like that, the things that are 'normal' and 'abnormal' are separated by a layer of moral disgust. The things that would have challenged my beliefs were tied to a moral framework—so today, when I see certain ideas framed with a sense of morality, I think it's incredibly important to question that framework."
The ongoing discussion on censorship included a session with Google whistleblower Zach Vorhies and author Shiv Malik. "Is there a way of marrying the vision of decentralized information-sharing platforms with truth and voracity, given the complicated nature of the modern world?" Shiv asked Zach.
"If there's a problem with misinformation, then the solution is more information," Zach replied. "Just like the fix for 'bad speech' is more speech."
BlockTower's Ari Paul on Privacy in the Metaverse
In one of the day's final sessions, Ari Paul, co-founder and CIO of BlockTower Capital spoke on how people can protect their digital identities. "There are a growing number of decentralized identifiers being developed—different ways of developing credit scoring and other reputation-based metrics beyond traditional AML/KYC. Optimistically, that's where the world is headed.
"So in a metaverse setting, it won't be that no data is collected about you or that you won't have total privacy. But maybe you can use pseudo-anonymous digital identity, VPN tools, and other mechanisms to decide which information you want to share, and which you do not."
Onward and Upward: the Future of Privacy
This November's Priv8 Virtual Privacy Summit was a success thanks to the bold ideas and sharp insights of our many talented speakers. We extend our deepest gratitude to those who registered and attended the event. It is your passion and engagement that drive the privacy movement forward. The momentum for a truly open and free Internet is growing around the globe—and thanks to all of you, that growth is accelerating.
Download the Orchid app today to start exploring the Internet freely.