ESOMAR attending Collision - Part 3.

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Date 23 June
Author Xabier Palacio

The second day at Collision provided for even more food for thought, brought more friends to ESOMAR’s stand, and helped generate new avenues of future collaboration for us to explore over time. However, we found some familiar faces and very important players within the insights industry next to our stand.

Important disclaimer: this post will include information about reports scheduled for publication in the upcoming weeks, so I hope I don’t spoil their secrets! ;-)

Among the most prominent names from our industry I could find KPMG, according to ESOMAR the 7th largest firm within the Consultancy Firms segment – as we will show in our upcoming Evolution of the Data, Analytics and Insights Industry report –, and 25th largest insights company in the world – to be included in our upcoming Global Top-50 Insights Companies. Stay tuned for the release of these reports in the next few weeks though our Publications page.

Another participant was UserTesting, in fact our neighbour stand, and fifth largest Self-service Platform company globally. We had the chance to hold an interesting chat with Michael about their position in the ranking, the growing relevance of their service and the importance of their presence at Collision.

These are just two examples of companies that, as I mentioned yesterday, have understood that the future of the tech industry needs us.

Today’s tune of the discussion shifted somewhat compared to previous days. Sessions included much more engaged topics. In the Fourth Estate stage, Betsy Reed from The Intercept, Matthew Kaminski from Politico, and Justin Hendrix from Tech Policy Press explored how to fix toxic discourse and misinformation. They explained the sort of warfare game journalists play to get to the truth, and the crucial role they play in cases like Cambridge Analytica in 2016, or the confusion around the US election later on.

“However”, Betsy Reed, The Intercept, noted in a point I had never considered, “not every act of deceit is misinformation.” Some stories are true, but the environment constructed around them is built to disinform.

This has been obvious in the war in Ukraine. Garry Kasparov, chess grandmaster and now at Avast and his colleague Ondrej Vlcek, explained in the Centre Stage how war is a particularly prolific ground for misinformation and disinformation. The difference is that nowadays social media has the capacity to amplify these voices. Gillian Tett, however, summed up the situation in Ukraine in three points: first, the fact that Ukraine has surprised in the upside, because their military organisation is more akin to a dynamic and agile start-up whereas the Russian one is more hierarchical and inflexible like old corporations. Second, the realisation that Russia is vulnerable. And, third, the warning that cyber wars are raging below the headlines. Ondrej explained how the rest of the world had in fact experienced a decrease in ransomware attacks because many of them used to originate in Russia, and have now refocused their efforts.

At most stages the question of ‘how can technology, and the start-ups present at Collision, be more conscious and help in today’s problems’ was never left unasked.

This is a sign of incipient maturity and self-reflection of the tech industry, even though it is something we in the insights industry have been deeply concerned about for the past 70 years. This is, yet again, a new sign of what we can bring to the table.

Betsy mentioned the traditional secretiveness that has surrounded technology companies over the years, always fearful of third parties meddling in their invaluable algorithms. But without a degree of transparency and accountability about the required measures to tackle misinformation the power of, particularly social media companies, can be detrimental for democracy. Cautionary tales of this can be seen in countries such as the US, whose institutions managed to remain unabated after the last elections or, more worryingly, in countries like the Philippines or Brazil.

What can start-ups do?

That’s a big question, because many do depend on engagement, and the content that generates it is not always the one that guarantees quality. “We should change the incentive structures,” she said, “so people can be exposed to other ideas. Unfortunately, the belief that plurality of ideas won’t generate profits is a prevalent idea.

Tomorrow will be the last day at Collision. Though shorter than the rest, I am sure that it will leave me again wondering about concepts and ideas I had not had the opportunity to consider, and I will walk away with new contacts and plenty of opportunities to continue many streams of discussion for months to come.

Xabier Palacio
ESOMAR Staff, Senior Industry Analyst at ESOMAR