A coterie of classy women gathered at the top of tony Hearst Tower Tuesday night, but they weren’t trading beach-friendly makeup tips or swapping recipes for a swank garden get-together. They were dishing on the pitfalls of a sometimes dangerous digital world.
Hosted by Marie Claire magazine and the nonprofit Common Sense Media, the panel was moderated by editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, and included ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, Facebook marketing director (and the CEO’s sister) Randi Zuckerberg, and Common Sense Media President and COO Amy Guggenheim Shenkan.
Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, although often limelight shy, made the opening and closing remarks, sharing her connection to Common Sense Media and its mission of helping kids navigate the dizzying world of media and digital technology.
“In my family, for as long as I can remember, an appreciation for a free and vibrant press, as much as this may surprise some of you in this room, has been a core value,” said Clinton, a board member of Common Sense Media. “Also in my family for as long as I can remember, a healthy skepticism of what is in the press has been a survival skill.”
Kicked off by Andrews, who opened up about the stalker who posted a peephole video of her to the Web, the conversation covered many of the key quagmires of a high-tech life—privacy, online reputation, cyber-bullying, and other digital risks.
“We need to start paying attention to what is happening on the Internet,” said an emotional Andrews.
The invitation offered a talk on the "perils and possibilities" of living in a social media-saturated world, but it was the former, not the latter, that got the most time on stage.
And as Coles and the audience members asked the panel about underage Facebook members, online safety, and legislation possibilities, it was Zuckerberg—the sole representative of the wired frontier—who ended up in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the open Internet and its unwelcome intrusions.
At one point, the new mother (Zuckerberg gave birth to a baby boy in May) exclaimed, “I want to go back to my 3-month-old!”
When asked for her thoughts on government involvement, she said, “It's challenging to be at the forefront of innovation."
Later, in discussing what it would take to deal with the Web's darker side, Zuckerberg emphasized Facebook's real-name approach and said, “Anonymity on the Internet has to go away.”
When Coles asked Guggenheim Shenkan to weigh in on what it takes to address the perils, she said self-awareness, parental involvement, public education efforts, and public advocacy are all necessary tactics.
“It’s wage the war on all fronts," she said.
Guggenheim Shenkan also argued for the development of an Internet “erase button” that would make it easy for children and adults to delete information about themselves from the Web.
While Andrews acknowledged the potential censorship ramifications and positive aspects of the open Web, she threw herself behind the (as yet fictional) tool.
“I love the erase button, I wish I could have it. I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Andrews.