When It Comes to Regulating Social Nets, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark Says ‘Trust Is the New Black’

NEW YORK –  At NYU on Thursday evening, Consumer Reports raised tough questions about how to regulate the Internet in a round table discussion entitled “Facebook and Your Privacy: What Every Consumer Should Know in the Age of Social Networking.” In his keynote speech, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark declared that “trust is the new black.”

“I try to think of myself as the Lady Gaga of the nerds,” Newmark said. Once a nerdy kid with a pocket protector and thick-framed glasses, the Craigslist founder tried to create a community that was more welcoming to others than high school had been to him.

But the reality of social media is that when “we give you something, we want something back,” he said. Consumers trade their personal data for free Internet tools.

Where companies go wrong is in making their policies difficult to understand. “If you don’t explain things well enough,” said Newmark, “you don’t have informed consent.”

In a medium where there is very little fact-checking, “misinformation leads to moral panic;” and at a time when politicians have not caught up with technology well enough to legislate it properly, said Newmark, “No legislation is better than bad legislation.”

The Craigslist founder also pointed out that “The Internet has no lobby,” and that prior attempts at regulation like the SOPA anti-piracy act were shut down because the tech industry pushed back on its own behalf. “Maybe we need an Internet volunteer fire department,” he suggested.

In solidarity with people who share too much information on the Internet, Newmark disclosed to the crowd that he will be getting married this year. He met the bride-to-be at his favorite cafe in San Francisco.

His advice to consumers was to “Keep your head and then make decisions based on real information and informed consent.”