15 Cultural Leaders on How to Fix the Internet
Break the Internet ®

15 Cultural Leaders on How to Fix the Internet

As part of our Break the Internet issue, featuring cover star Amanda Bynes, we asked leaders in tech, commerce, entertainment and media about what they'd do to make the World Wide Web a better place.

"If people were forced to say the comments which they write — from the confines of their home behind a computer screen — to your face, there would be much less negativity and hate spread on social media." — Caitlyn Jenner, transgender rights advocate and bestselling author

"Start sending people a monthly troll report. Much like your energy bill shows how much electricity you've used relative to various groups, your troll report would show how often you engaged in behavior flagged as harassing, abusive or uncivil across the Internet's websites and platforms — and it would compare you to the norm in your neighborhood, city, state and country." — Adam Grant, psychologist and author

"I think the hate is unreal. People are severely ostracized and criticized by people who don't even know them with the stroke of a key. As someone who suffers with mental health issues, this only perpetrates it. I know you can block people and delete comments, but I think there are certain words that shouldn't even be allowed on online platforms. Kids who are just trying to get away from it are now subjected to it 24/7 via the power of the endless Internet. When I was a kid and had problems at school, I knew once I got home, it was over. Now, kids are berated at school and then continuously berated at home. There is no escape for them. I think there should be stricter punishment for people who constantly harass or bully others online. Their accounts should be deleted or deactivated. We need to make it a safer space for all." — Brittany Furlan, Vine star

"Start sending people a monthly troll report." — Adam Grant

"As one of the first viral video stars myself, who endured both online and in-person harassment for being openly gay, there needs to be more done by social media platforms in terms of holding people accountable that threaten or cyber bully in comments. I'm a strong person, but if I weren't, I know how destructive this was and has been to my mental health." — Chris Crocker

"No anonymous profiles. A lot of hatred is hidden behind avatars, and that toxicity spreads like a disease." — Phoebe Robinson

"There is absolutely no circumstance in which a video needs to autoplay!" — Hunter Harris

"No anonymous profiles." — Phoebe Robinson

"It would be to make the technology that exists around the Internet more human-centered, less addictive and more helpful to how we live our lives. The Internet would be a better place if people could unplug from it more often.

So the start for building new technology should be these questions: What will the long-term effects of this new tool be on the people that use it? Will it create space for them to connect with what they truly need, or make that more difficult? Will there be any unintended consequences?

The good news is that this is already happening. In the last few years — especially in the last year — we've gone through a great awakening in our relationship with technology, as people have begun to realize, helped along by an ever-growing mountain of science, what the technology we're swimming in is doing to us. So people want to take back control of their technology, and they're demanding tools that are about enhancing their lives instead of consuming them.

This is one of the next frontiers in technology: apps and tools that help us create time and space in our lives by helping us take a break from our devices and social media to reconnect with ourselves and those we love.

And that's why at Thrive Global we built the Thrive App, which helps people take control of their relationship with technology by giving them tools to take a break from their phone, monitor their usage for specific apps on their phone and set goals for how much time they'd like to be using those apps.

For the companies we partner with, we also offer a variety of tools to help their employees use the technology in their lives to truly enhance their well-being.

And one of the core features of our media platform is stories showing all the creative ways people make the technology in their lives work for them instead of the other way around." — Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global

"The beauty of the Internet is the ability for anyone, anywhere, to access unfiltered information. It's completely democratized many industries. Consumers are more knowledgeable today about what they do and buy than at any point in history. But the world of consumerism has a long way to go. Companies still aren't sharing the impact of their products, and that needs to change. Imagine that when buying a car, we compared not just mileage or safety, but also the environmental impact of making the car and the wage of workers. People would make decisions for more than just themselves, and the world would quickly become a better place. At Everlane, we've made our costing and factory origins completely transparent so consumers know exactly what they're buying. We continue to push this forward by sharing material impact and opportunities for us to do better. We think this kind of connection is the future of consumerism and where the Internet needs to go." — Michael Preysman, Founder and CEO, Everlane

"The Internet would be a better place if people could unplug from it more often." — Arianna Huffington

"The magic of the Internet is that it connects the entire world, giving consumers unprecedented choice while allowing individuals and companies to reach bigger audiences than ever before. Ubiquitous connectivity has transformed industries ranging from publishing to commerce, yet we are only scratching the surface when it comes to leveraging the Internet and telemedicine to do the same for healthcare. To enable this, we need a regulatory framework that allows for innovation and for new telehealth services to be reimbursed by insurance companies.

At Warby Parker, we've always believed in using technology to enhance the customer experience. We launched on the Internet because it allowed us to circumvent traditional retail channels and sell glasses directly to consumers for a fraction of the price. We kept hearing from our customers that it was time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive to renew their eyeglass prescriptions, so we developed a telehealth app called Prescription Check. This service allows consumers to go through a vision test from home for $40. Doctors then review the results remotely and can provide an updated prescription remotely. Developing this innovation has allowed us to make safe, routine vision tests more accessible, convenient and affordable for consumers.

Yet there are still many open telemedicine questions from a regulatory and reimbursement standpoint across the country — including some states that do not allow ocular telemedicine and no reimbursement by most insurance companies, forcing patients to pay out of pocket. Resolving these issues in a way that allows and encourages future innovation will result in better outcomes for patients and a cheaper, more efficient healthcare system." — Dave Gilboa, co-Founder and co-CEO, Warby Parker

"I would change the way we use the Internet. That's to say that the Internet is in many ways a digital resource that's neither good nor bad, but what we make of it. So how do we incentivize compassion and empathy for: those who use it; those who develop tools for it, and those who rely on it as a financial resource? Imagine if, before you could "at/@" someone online, a picture of them popped up, for example. Psychologist John Suler talks about the online disinhibition effect, the ability to hide behind a computer screen in the digital void of the Internet, which affects our fundamental humanity and allows for cyberbullying and harassment. In the next iterations of social media and the web, we need to design them with empathy and compassion baked in, not an afterthought. We should never forget there's a real person on the other side of the screen." — Monica Lewinsky, social activist, global public speaker, and contributing editor to Vanity Fair

"I strongly believe in the right to unquestioned access to a free and fair Internet. When we founded Warby Parker to transform the eyewear industry by selling glasses online at an affordable price, our business was built on having access to an open Internet. Net neutrality ensures users can access the best products and services at the best prices. It ensures that everyone has equal access to information to learn and grow. It enables entrepreneurs to operate on an even playing field, so the next Google or Facebook can be created anywhere in America by anyone — regardless of income and unencumbered by the narrow interests of a few businesses with the power to control Internet speed to various sites." — Neil Blumenthal, co-Founder and co-CEO, Warby Parker

"The Internet can also be used as an incredible tool for good that brings people together and enables them to end the needless suffering of people all around the world." — Scott Harrison

"In such divisive times, the Internet can often feel like a toxic place that breeds negativity and conflict (just look at any comments section). But rather than divide us further, the Internet can also be used as an incredible tool for good that brings people together and enables them to end the needless suffering of people all around the world. At charity: water, we're working to solve an issue that can sometimes feel distant and overwhelming (the global water crisis), so the Internet has proved an invaluable resource as we connect our supporters with the communities they're helping, showing the tangible impact of their generosity. Whether we're sharing satellite images of wells in Ethiopia, live-streaming a team of hydrologists in the Central Africa Republic as they find clean water for the first time or connecting a 6-year-old in New York with a mom she's helping in Niger, we see the Internet as a powerful tool that can spread hope, inspire people and allow them to change lives." — Scott Harrison, founder and CEO, charity: water

"The Internet has come a long way and is still an amazing place for the free exchange of ideas and commerce. But it could use a dose of humanity these days. As a global community of millions, we think we have a role to play in creating safe spaces for the positive exchange of ideas, but we also know that there is more to be done to address the darker influences that can creep into those spaces.

Tumblr has always been a place for freedom of expression, individuality and a deep sense of community. It's a place where young people come at a time in their lives when they are forming their true identities. They become immersed in communities and fandoms where they can find their voice and share their ideas, their art and their love of culture — often anonymously and without judgement.

Online behavior and trends change at an ever-increasing pace. As platform owners, we have a responsibility to our community to make sure our policies reflect these ever-changing times. We recently updated our Community Guidelines to address issues like hate speech, glorification of violence and unwanted sexualization. We will continue to update our policies to protect our community, and we have invested in additional resources and technology to find and remove content that violates our Community Guidelines. These efforts are our highest priorities.

It's also incredibly important that we facilitate necessary conversations around mental health. We consistently provide resources and access to expert advice for those who might need help coping with anxiety, depression or just a bad week. We have organized both online activations and in-person events with various mental health organizations to facilitate ways in which people on Tumblr can have these conversations.

#PostItForward is a Tumblr-initiated campaign to counter the stigmas around mental and emotional health through community-building and conversation. This community provides a safe haven for openly discussing bullying, self-harm, depression and other issues. People share their personal stories and positive messages, turning the online community into a support tool for those that may not have one in their daily lives. Our most recent in-person event was held around World Mental Health Day and featured an art exhibition from artists on Tumblr. Seen: A Mental Health Exhibition aimed to explore how the digital world can keep people from suffering in silence.

Next year we also look forward to taking on the topic of digital literacy. People deserve to feel empowered by their technological skills to not just better navigate Tumblr, but be more informed citizens who can make better, more informed choices about the media that they create and consume.

Positive, safe and open conversations that celebrate the richness of cultures and diversity in our world can change the Internet for the better." — Jeff D'Onofrio, CEO of Tumblr

"We believe in the original vision of the Internet where people participate, not just consume." — Katherine Maher

"The Internet should be treated like a natural resource; something we all work to protect and preserve and improve. Like the oceans, it touches everyone and every continent — we need to keep it healthy. The Internet needs to be more open to support a vibrant free press, to being able to stand up to authorities who use censorship against us. A free and open Internet is the best way we can share information, learn and grow as people so that we can make a safer place for creativity and collaboration for future generations." — Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

"At Wikipedia, we haven't taken new steps to make the Internet better, because making the Internet better has always been one of our goals. We believe in the original vision of the Internet where people participate, not just consume. Participation gives you a voice, and your voice can create real change, whether that's adding to Wikipedia or talking to lawmakers about net neutrality. Wikimedia believes in knowledge for all, and our mission is to include everyone in creating that knowledge. We want everyone to have a voice in shaping the way we see our world. And we do that by being entirely independent of commercial interests and advertising, and entirely supported by donors around the world." — Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation

Photos courtesy of Getty