The World-Wide-Web: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The world-wide-web heralded the technological age of enlightenment. Never before was information available at the touch of a button: the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica is available from anywhere in the world; WildEarth.tv allows people to live-stream African wildlife encounters from the comfort of their phones, laptops, tablets, and TVs; social media assists conservation NGOs to generate income through donations to specific causes in seconds; a single tweet can snowball a nudge to a systematic behaviour change; and, cellphone apps turn wildlife enthusiasts' observations into research-grade data. However, much like "the force" there is a dark side to all the good that can come from these technological advances.

This session will focus on the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the internet and social media, and its implications for wildlife conservation. Technologies such as the internet have the means to put people in touch in a way that would never be physically possible. Although much research has been done on the way that the web is used and misused – the impacts on African biodiversity are less known. It is the first session of its kind for The Conservation Symposium. This session aims to pull together researchers, conservationists, NGOs and front-line investigators using cyberspace to influence public perception regarding wildlife conservation, use it as a practical conservation tool, or track perceptions and behaviours. The application of machine learning and social media for monitoring tourist visitation to protected areas and tracking illegal wildlife trade, insights into wildlife traded through internet companies, social media, the exotic pet trade, and subsequent (usually inadvertent) alien introduction, as well as the psychology of web-based wildlife crimes will be focussed on by experts in the field. This session will highlight the importance of the web for conservation efforts, both positive and negative and showcase some of the "tricks of the trade". The main aim is to highlight the growing concern regarding the illicit trade online, speak to means of monitoring activities, and also focus on ways to harness technology for positive change.

Open session – researchers and practitioners are encouraged to submit relevant presentations for inclusion in this session. Participation in the session during the Symposium is open to all. Submissions that cannot be incorporated into the session by the convener will be considered for general sessions in the remainder of the programme.

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