“Cybersecurity and Safer Internet within Modern Societies” – Recap of Week 4 Launch Event (4 April 2022)


In the context of the ALL DIGITAL Weeks 2022, the event: “Cybersecurity and Safer Internet within Modern Societies” took place on the 4th of April, and it was supported by Microsoft.


As Peter Palvolgyi, ALL DIGITAL CEO, said, the main topic of Week 4 was a very critical one: “Cybersecurity and safer internet environments interest citizens, companies, governments, policymakers impacting their living and working. This topic is very wide, and it covers technical aspects like data sharing protection, digital identity,technologies that we often hear about. But also, fake profiles and fake news, cybercrimes, that could affect people financially but also more impactfully personally, especially young people. In fact, we are unfortunately witnessing online grooming, blackmailing, cyber bullying, sex trafficking and exploitation that expose vulnerable young people to offenders”.

Therefore, during this event, many aspects of cybersecurity were analyzed. Firstly, we had Una O’Sullivan, Corporate Affairs Manager at Microsoft. Thanks to her speech, a wide overview of the real risks and good practices when tackling cybercrimes was provided. She started off by underlining the importance of digital safety in response to a “worrying landscape”, as she said, that increasingly lies upon young people. To better face this issue, she suggested to involve as many social actors as possible: “It is a combat that many actors need to tackle together, and that it goes beyond just one company. At Microsoft we see it essentially as ensuring that we maximize the positive online experiences while minimizing experiences that relate to illegal inappropriate or illegitimate Contact, Content, Conduct and Commerce. It is what we call the four Cs”.

According to her, this joined effort must be a priority as: “Protecting children lies at the core of that, all the way across the spectrum: whether it is hate-speech, or more serious actions, ranging from cyber bullying, to child grooming and identity theft, and unwanted solicitations for commercial activities, that often turns out to be scams or hoaxes. It starts with our technology and ensuring that safety considerations have been integrated right from the start of the engineering process for all the products that we bring to market.”

To make sure that these standards are met, Microsoft pays a lot of attention to their policies, as their Terms of Use, and they also conduct an annual study called “Digital Civility Index”, which was released this year to mark safer internet day. It is structured around 21 different online risks linked to behavioral, intrusive, sexual reputational risks that people experience online, in particular women and girls experienced more online risks.

As we know, during the pandemic online risks increased enormously, but a shared solution came out of Microsoft’s survey: “Most respondents agreed that education was critical in ensuring that the internet becomes a safer environment. A lot has to be done on the education side and through Microsoft’s Council for Digital Good, young people have been contributing, participating and sharing the voice of youth as well as all these organizations are working to improve the online experience, understanding how to make cybersecurity more compelling for young people”.

After the corporate take on this matter, Claudia Matera, Chief Development Officer at ALL DIGITAL, shared the RAYUELA project approach to face this issue. The RAYUELA project is funded by the Horizon 2020 programme, with seventeen partners such as lawyers, enforcement organizations, universities, to gain expertise regarding specific topics as sociology, anthropology, criminology, formal and informal education. The diversity within the consortium is necessary as the aim of the first part of the project is to identify which are the main drivers behind cybercrimes, especially those that affect younger generations. The collected data are then used to kick off the next part of the project focused on the development and pilot testing of a video game based on stories where young people can have a safe environment to reflect, understand, recognize, and see actually how specific types of cybercrimes can affect them.

As Claudia Matera said: “We might have the sense that there are many types of cybercrimes. Within RAYUELA, we have been focused on few specific ones. So, those that are affecting younger generations. We have studied them to understand what the typical victim profile is, the type of behavior of victims, to understand how it is possible to become one. And on the other side, what kind of offenders are those that are acting online, looking for interactions with young people?”Similarly, to what emerged from the Microsoft’s annual study, the RAYUELA research confirmed that females are those most affected but, although the gap is starting to close, from interviews and interactions with offenders, the female choice is in any case the preferred one.

Following, Sylvain Le Bon, co-founder and CEO of Startin’blocks, focused on a different side of the matter: interoperability of data and how it could give the power back to users when sharing their data. In his words: “Today, we are in a situation where citizens and users have no control whatsoever over their data. The reason behind that is that the platform we use to interact with other users have a clear strategy of locking users in, not being interoperable with the other tools. So, as a user, I end up having data distributed among a lot of different apps all around the web, I have no idea where they are, I have no idea who accesses them, what they do with them and where they lead. I have the rising cost of using these because they’re basically monopolies. And I feel powerless when it comes to what is done with my data, because I can either just accept whatever they do, or I have to stop using my internet services and to stop interacting with my family, friends, colleagues and business partners”.

What his organization tries to achieve is getting as many companies as possible to use open standards: “This interoperability can change the experience of users and all the matters of security, and performance in this new web. It could be applied to any field.”

Federico Bomba, Artistic Director of Sineglossa, closed the presentations. He provided another point of view on cybersecurity suggesting to: “Use art as a tool for enabling communities interpreting and finding common answers to complex social issues that we’re all facing”.

At Sineglossa they are currently working on 2 projects dedicated to data and artificial intelligence, and they were both born from the perception that, as the panelist said: “People have two different approaches to artificial intelligence: most of the time they do not care, but many other times they are scared when they know a bit more about it. Both these attitudes are not great because AI enters in every aspect of our life. It is very important that we work on creating a critical understanding on how AI works, because it can be a very powerful tool for making lives better”.

He showed a video of the IACOS project which “uses art and design, to turn data into knowledge that could help to understand some and solve some problems in a specific local context”. IACOS is a shapeshifting entity whose scope is to build and protect relationships with people from the local community, to involve them in different participatory actions.  Lastly, he also introduced the “AI for the future” project which improves the understanding and dissemination of artificial intelligence technology.

To conclude, he also quoted Ursula Von der Leyen saying that: “We have to cross-fertilize different disciplines, and the green transition cannot just be technological, but it also has to be beautiful, sustainable and inclusive. This are the pillars of Europe, and this is why we are working on this project with so many different stakeholders”.