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IEEE Computer Society Exploring Technical, Policy, and Business Issues Related to Societal Harms from Digital Platforms

By Forrest Shull and Andre Oboler


The fast-paced development of innovative computing technologies that constitute truly societal-scale digital platforms, and the equally large-scale impacts – good and bad – that those systems have on day-to-day life, are among the defining issues of our time. The IEEE Computer Society’s Tech Forum on Digital Platforms and Societal Harms brings together policymakers and technologists to explore the intersection of current technical efforts with public policies, and the resulting impacts on society.

Comprising a series of free, virtual events that will run between October 20 and November 3, the forum focuses on dangerous societal harms – Hate Speech, Extremism, Exploitation, Misinformation, and Disinformation – that are amplified by digital platforms such as social media, online games, and the metaverse. Attendees will hear about the latest approaches to these critical problems, including insights from experts developing technological solutions such as AI and machine learning, join Q&A sessions with the speakers, and participate in small group discussions on each topic.

The first of several plenary panels will occur on October 20, starting at 11AM EST, The Computer Society’s 2021 President, Forrest Shull, will moderate a plenary panel to explore issues around hate speech on digital platforms, with participants including:

  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz, US Congresswoman
  • Anthony Housefather, Canadian Member of Parliament
  • Paul Giannasi, National Police Advisor for Hate Crime (UK)
  • Inbal Goldberger, VP of Trust & Safety at ActiveFence, former senior manager in Google Trust & Safety

To provide additional context on the topics, on October 21, the forum will also feature a virtual museum tour of the #FakeImages exhibition in Belgium, which is about “the thousands of messages and images come to us every day, flooding us through social media, television, and the printed press” and recognizing how they can be used to impact perception and change behavior, in ways large and small.

Passes are complimentary for a limited time:

“This important event focuses on some of the most pressing issues affecting society,” said Andre Oboler, IEEE Computer Society Vice President of Member & Geographic Activities and Online Hate Prevention Institute founding director and CEO. “We will once again bring together technology professionals, lawmakers, public policy professionals, and civil society representatives to discuss what solutions are technically possible with today’s technology, what challenges will require new technical innovations, and where policy and regulatory changes may benefit from technical expertise to avoid unintended consequences. This free online global event will be of interest to everyone concerned about negative effects amplified by digital platforms and of particular interest to those working to address these harms either through technology, policy, law reform, or advocacy.”

Later weeks will focus on related topics:

Extremism & Exploitation, October 24-28

Plenary Panel on Extremism & Exploitation
The use of digital platforms to aid in violent extremism (terrorism) and child exploitation will be examined in our second panel. Experts will discuss the latest efforts to address these harms and the challenges that have arisen with the increased use of alternative and minimally moderated platforms. Participants will then be divided into small groups for further discussion on the topic with each other and our speakers.

Asia Pacific Regional Forum
A regional forum will bring together speakers from across Asia and the Pacific to discuss the themes of online hate speech, extremism, exploitation, misinformation, and disinformation in the local context.

Disinformation and Misinformation, October 31– November 4

Plenary Panel on Disinformation and Misinformation
Interference in elections, the spread of false information during the global pandemic, and conspiracy theories that can lead to hate and extremism: recent years have seen online disinformation and misinformation emerge as a serious threat to health, safety, and the rule of law. Leading experts will discuss the challenges in addressing these information threats. Participants will then be divided into small groups for further discussion on the topic with each other and our speakers.

Policy Workshop
IEEE public policy staff and volunteer leaders will hold a roundtable discussion that seeks to answer the questions of policymakers (where clear answers exist) and discuss different perspectives on public policy responses and potential responses to tackling online hate speech, extremism, exploitation, misinformation, and disinformation.

About the IEEE Computer Society
The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s home for computer science, engineering, and technology. A global leader in providing access to computer science research, analysis, and information, the IEEE Computer Society offers a comprehensive array of unmatched products, services, and opportunities for individuals at all stages of their professional careers. Known as the premier organization that empowers the people who drive technology, the IEEE Computer Society offers international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a unique digital library, and training programs. Visit for more information.