The Internet needs a new sheriff
Trust and Safety online is a problem so large and complex that it employs presidents, activists and major advertisers. Tech giants and regulators are extremely concerned and are actively trying to find solutions - a golden opportunity for Israeli startups
The general public also started to understand the consequences of Trust and Safety issues, especially in the past year: false information disseminated about the Coronavirus vaccine caused increased anxiety, and information distributed on social media that the 2020 Presidential Election’s voter counts were manipulated brought rioters to storm Capitol Hill. All of this puts focus on the issue in the United States and around the world, and proves, in practice, that the problem of Trust and Safety online is intensifying, and that the existing vacuum on the issue must be filled soon. Consumers, advertisers, and regulatory officials have identified the problem and are calling for users to be better protected and for a new sheriff to come to town.Existing solutions are ineffective, so entrepreneurs must step in Manual solutions have been employed against harmful content since the maturation of the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to be already working on filtering content online. Aside from the basic inefficiency of this course of action (the amount of information required for filtering increases exponentially), the mental damage done to those content filterers creates real problems (the documentary ‘The Cleaners’ provides a powerful account of the consequences of this employment model). Other tools based on artificial intelligence and content labels and warning messages prove to be not effective enough. While tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google are investing capital in developing various technological solutions to Trust and Safety issues, I believe that solutions cannot come from those companies themselves, or by government regulation alone. The solution should come from independent parties: tech entrepreneurs and startups. These entrepreneurs are experienced in the world of the problem and have the instinct needed to create innovative solutions, the ability to bring change into the field, and familiarity with the environment they are helping. They are not dependent on one aspect or interested in advancing a particular agenda, they can develop technological tools relevant across platforms, and they can adapt to a changing landscape faster than giant corporations and government regulators. This problem is particularly complex as many platforms allow user-generated content to be uploaded in real-time, which results in an enormous amount of information all of the time. Many believe filtering unsafe content will always require human eyes somewhere in the process, and that only some aspects of it will be automated. This is due to methods used by users posting harmful content intended to fool algorithms, and tools that are currently in use today that are based, for example, on filtering keywords without understanding their context, as a human brain is capable of doing. Entrepreneurs who can identify the opportunity behind these complex issues, and can properly present the tech giants with an effective, independent, and comprehensive solution, will immediately strike gold. Grove Ventures has been following the field for several years and has actively invested in it. In a few years, we believe, technology startups will be able to help platforms fill the void and better deal with a thorough cleaning of the Internet's main roads. Lotan Levkowitz is General Partner at Grove Ventures.