On July 15, 2020, the GeoTech Center hosted a discussion on ways to best increase trust and sensemaking online and in digital transactions. Sensemaking can be described as how individuals and groups interpret current events based on past experience, while trust is the reliance on entities whose actions one does not control. The event was convened to discuss the greatest challenges to and opportunities for how people make sense of what they see online and how they make decisions about trust. The panel consisted of Marc Goodman, Chair for Policy, Law, and Ethics at Singularity University; Evanna Hu, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; Barbara George, PhD, Executive Director at Washington Cyber Roundtable; and Don Codling, President at Codling Group International.
Marc Goodman explained that the biggest challenge for trust in digital transactions is how easily screens are manipulated, which causes difficulties because of our widespread reliance on them in an increasingly digital world. Evanna Hu, who focuses on disinformation and misinformation distinguished between the trust of people and trust in hardware. She explained that in the pandemic there has been a decrease in trust in people and what she has coined as “disinformation as a service,” where someone is able to hire foreign services to write inaccurate stories for the public. Barbara George spoke to the role of critical thinking in the digital age. While technology is becoming increasingly common, we cannot assume its safety. To use technology effectively we must think critically to avoid doing harm. Don Codling agreed that a challenge for trust is the continued presence of bad actors who try to game the system, and it can be difficult to decipher what is true. All the panelists agreed that people should think more about what they are presented with online and the accuracy of that information and that we should do more to defend against misinformation.
Hannah Biggs is a recent University of Redlands graduate with a B.A in Political Science and Public Policy with an emphasis on human rights and criminal justice reform. She is currently an intern at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center where she uses her skills as a writer and researcher to support the team. She was previously an intern at the National Criminal Justice Association and worked with a coalition of non-profits to create policy implementation tests for California’s Fair Chance Act.