Your customers and employees want to trust you, so don’t give them a reason not to. That was Jeff Hancock’s message to leaders in tech attending Voxpro’s latest event: “Trust in the Digital Economy” at Mangopay HQ in Paris. The Stanford University Communications Professor described how, in a world rife with deception facilitated by technology, humans still show high levels of trust in each other.
“We have been doing research into deception detection for about 60 years: hundreds of studies and thousands of trials. There is only one effect that replicates every time – it’s called the Truth Bias. The place where everyone starts is trust. In fact, the way language works, the way we have developed and evolved language is that we have to trust the other person. It’s very easy in an era of deception, technology and fake news to forget this. People start in a place of trust and only move away from that when they get suspicious. Leaders need to think about how to make sure that they start with a place of trust and keep their employees and their consumers in that spot.”
Professor Hancock is the founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, a research project that explores how people lie and detect deception with technology. The lab also works with companies that heavily rely on building and maintaining the trust of their customer base, such as Airbnb. He told the full house that technology has radically changed how people lie.
“I speak to a lot of companies about how lying and trust work when we bring technology into it. And here the thing: the way we lie is changing and the way we trust each other is changing, and it is technology that is causing that change.”
Some examples used to illustrate these changes included fake consumer reviews, fake news in the US election, and state-sponsored disinformation. Professor Hancock, whose Ted Talk has been viewed over one million times, also described how technology has helped to create a new kind of lie, which he has named the ‘Butler Lie’.
“When people say “I’m on my way”, 80 percent of the time they’re lying. “Sorry my phone was dead”: that is a lie about 70 percent of the time. And the reason we are seeing all of these ‘Butler lies’ is partly a design issue. In Silicon Valley, where much of the communication technology is created, we’ve been designing for openness. If someone has your phone number, they can contact you almost anytime, anywhere. And these Butler lies are all about creating a buffer [to that openness]. That’s why we call them Butler lies, because your butler used to buffer you from your guests.”
While technology has allowed companies in sharing economy to build large online communities around their product or service, Hancock believes that some elements need urgent fixing:
“Trolls – this notion of people causing trouble within online communities – have become a massive problem. Most large companies are either getting rid of commentary platforms or having to pay tremendous amounts for moderators. That’s a huge focus for us over the next two years: how do we make comments useful again? Review and reputation systems seem to be working but comments and online feedback seem to be broken.”
Regulation and legislation of the digital economy was a major talking point for the discussion panel that, alongside Professor Hancock, included Marguerite Grandjean of Ouishare and Jean Marc Nourel of Mangopay.
Moderator and Voxpro Director of Customer Success Niall O’Riordan posed a question around the kind of regulation needed in this space – whether it needs more, less, or simply a different kind, as a way to promote more trust between users and providers. He referred to a recent Accenture study suggesting that if industry continues to move at Silicon Valley pace, it will be almost impossible for legislators to keep up, leading to a reliance on the industry to regulate itself. Marguerite Grandjean of Ouishare referred to author Nick Grossman in her answer:
“If regulation is to have an effect on this massive change that we are seeing then it has to become ‘Regulation 2.0’. So he’s thinking of the process rather than the themes of regulation. Something that Nick Grossman proposed was a kind of ‘sandbox’ policy making. So instead of banning every collaborative platform from doing something, you would test some legislation in a particular territory and if it works, expand it.”
Grandjean also addressed the idea of Tech industry leaders having to adhere to a code of ethics of some kind.
“I would really like to see platforms agreeing to sign up to a Charter of good behaviour, similar to one that doctors sign up to for example. We have seen some platforms come together to look at how they can build systems to create good shared governance, thereby building more trust with their stakeholders and users. They are coming together to try to set up a set of standards (and protocol standards is the basis of the internet), so if we could have that as some kind of self-regulation for platforms, that would be really good. But I’m not really seeing that right now.”
Professor Jeff Hancock predicts a significant gear change around the changes we are currently seeing:
“Artificial Intelligence: everybody has heard about it and there’s lots of buzz about it, but it is about to change the speed at which transformation takes place. And I think I regulators are very ill-suited for what’s about to happen.”
Voxpro’s Niall O’ Riordan wrapped up the discussion on a positive note, pointing to the deep levels of human connection that the sharing economy is helping to forge.
“I think Airbnb is a great example of how powerful the sharing economy can be: people that are complete strangers to each other are coming together and sharing homes. Some of the stories we hear are incredible: recently, a couple came to Dublin and stayed with another couple who were renting out their spare room through Airbnb. The visitors ended up becoming godparents to the hosts’ child! There are many stories like that where we see the very positive, good side of humanity accentuated through sharing platforms. So I think it is really important to celebrate the good parts, while also keeping our eye on the fact that there’s plenty of work still to be done on the not so good.”
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