Ideas·2020 Massey Lectures

Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society

Ron Deibert is the founder and director of Citizen Lab, a research centre based at the University of Toronto, which studies technology, surveillance and censorship. His 2020 Massey Lectures will focus on the societal impact of the internet and social media.

Renowned tech, privacy expert Ron Deibert delivers series of six lectures

Ron Deibert is the founder and director of Citizen Lab, a research centre based at the University of Toronto, which studies technology, surveillance and censorship. His 2020 Massey Lectures will focus on the societal impact of the internet and social media. (House of Anansi Press)

As social media and the internet in general take on an increasingly prominent — even pervasive — role in our society, renowned technology and security expert Ron Deibert asks us all to take a moment and really look at the devices in our hands.

There are dire consequences to living in an always-on, hyper-connected digital society, warns Deibert, founder and director of Citizen Lab, a research group focusing on digital security and human rights. 

In his series of Massey Lectures for CBC Radio, Deibert exposes the disturbing influence and impact of the internet and social media on politics, the economy, the environment and humanity.

Part 1: We need to reclaim our lives from our phones and 'reset,' says CBC Massey Lecturer Ron Deibert

There's a problem with that device in your hand — your phone that makes you anxious when it's not near. Deibert says that needs to change. The 2020 Massey lecturer suggests we need a "reset," and in his first lecture, Deibert sketches out the layered problem — and how he sees a way forward.

Part 2: Surveillance capitalism: Who is watching — and why?

The ads that personalize our internet browsing are obvious examples of how "attention merchants" vie for our data, but the more insidious actors are the ones we don't see. And unfortunately, our personal information is up for grabs with them as well.

Part 3: Why you can't quit social media

Everyone loves to hate social media, but there's a real reason it seems impossible to quit. And you might not like it. In the third instalment of the Massey Lectures, Ron Deibert exposes how social media platforms are engineered to be "addiction machines."

Part 4: Digital authoritarianism: How technology designed to empower us was seized by autocrats

The initial vision of the internet was that it would empower individuals and expose the wrongdoings of state and corporate interests. But now the same technologies that had been used for public uprisings against oppressive governments are now being used by those governments against political demonstrators, whistleblowers and dissidents.

Part 5: Want to help save the planet? Hang onto your old smartphone

What we don't see — because it is so carefully hidden from the public eye — is the ecological impact of our social media usage and the wasteful consumption loop we're trapped in, as we're pushed to constantly upgrade our devices and turn simple electronics and appliances into "smart" machines.

Part 6: What happened to the promise of the internet? It's time for a reset, says Ron Deibert

In his 2020 CBC Massey Lectures, Citizen Lab founder and director Ron Deibert wants to get us thinking about how best to mitigate the harms of social media, and in doing so, construct a viable communications ecosystem that supports civil society and contributes to the betterment of the human condition (instead of the opposite). 

 

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