The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced early this month that it is seeking commentary in connection with its plans to revise its online disclosure guide that is focused on digital advertising, potentially by way of new guidance that takes the metaverse/virtual reality into consideration. First released in 2000 and updated in 2013, the regulator’s “.com Disclosures Guide” aims to enable mobile and other online advertisers “to make disclosures clear and conspicuous to avoid deception.” The FTC recently revealed that it is seeking public comment on ways to modernize the guidance to align it with new advances in technology and how advertisers now interact with consumers.

While the FTC highlights its desire to crack down on advertisers’ attempts to “avoid liability under the FTC Act by burying disclosures behind hyperlinks,” along with the rising use of “dark patterns” (i.e., technology crafted to trick users into taking certain actions online that they might not otherwise take) and “other forms of digital deception,” the regulator is also specifically seeking comment on “advertising embedded in games and virtual reality, and microtargeted advertisements.” 

Among the 16 questions that the FTC poses, one centers on “what issues raised by current or emerging online technologies, activities, or features, such as … the use of advertising content embedded in games … should be addressed in a revised guidance document.” Another question posed by the regulator asks whether its revised guidance should address “issues that have arisen with respect to advertising that appears in virtual reality or the metaverse, and, if so, how should those issues be addressed?” (To date, none of the public comments have addressed the FTC’s gaming/metaverse inquiries, but the comment period remains open until August 2.)

It is worth noting that regardless of whether the FTC opts to present metaverse-specific guidance if/when it makes changes to the existing .com Disclosures Guide, its existing rules regarding advertising disclosures do, in fact, apply to advertising and endorsements in web3 just as they to do to more traditional forms of advertising and endorsements. Among other things, the FTC “has made clear that its disclosure requirements will continue to apply to virtual influencers that appear to be endorsers of a brand’s products or services, even if such endorsers are not real people,” Davis & Gilbert lawyers state in a recent note

The FTC’s existing rules also undoubtedly apply to the wave of celebrities that have been busy promoting non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) over the past year – even if the tech at play is relatively new. The rapid rise of NFTs since March 2021 and the marketing that has come along with it has raised questions about the nature of celebrities’ endorsements in the space, in particular. Wired’s Kate Knibbs asked early this year whether Bored Ape owner Justin Bieber, for example, “was paid to promote some of the NFTs he has posted about [on social media], either with free NFTs or regular old American dollars?” The answer, according to Knibbs, “We don’t know right now.” 

These are the types of questions and (potentially problematic) answers that the FTC – and federal law in the U.S. – aims to avoid by requiring that individuals that have a material connection to the brand whose goods/services they are endorsing to make such connections known to consumers by way of clear and conspicuous disclosures if such a connection would not otherwise be obvious to the average consumer. 

As the FTC has stated, material connections can consist of “a business or family relationship [between the endorser and the company], monetary payment [to the endorser], or the provision of free products to the endorser.” 

The NFT realm has been rife with reports that celebs that have promoted NFTs from popular collections have done so after being given the NFTs as gifts – either from the companies behind the NFT collections, themselves, or from third parties, such as NFT “concierge services,” per Wired – in exchange for promotion. This could explain the shout outs to Moon Pay, for instance, that have come along with certain celebs’ promotions of their Bored Ape NFTs. If gifting in exchange for endorsements was, in fact, at play in these scenarios (and there is not guarantee that it was), the tenets of the FTC Act would apply, thereby, requiring the endorsing party (the NFT-owning celebrity) to alert consumers about the nature of the connection and the gift-giver to monitor such promotions to ensure that the proper disclosures are made. 

Advertising Metaverse

At the same time, the push to modernize its online ad guides comes as the FTC has faced complaints about advertising in the virtual world. Truth in Advertising (“TINA”), for example, called on the FTC to take action over marketing on Roblox Corporation, the wildly popular metaverse/gaming platform. In a complaint in April, the Connecticut-based advertising watchdog alleged that Roblox, “a multibillion-dollar public company,” is on the hook for failing to “establish any meaningful guardrails to ensure compliance with truth in advertising laws, effectively allowing marketers, including but not limited to Alo Yoga, DC Entertainment, Forever 21, Hasbro, Hyundai Motor America, Mattel, Netflix, NFL Enterprises LLC, Nike, Paramount, and VF Corp., to manipulate millions of consumers in one of the largest and most captivating virtual platforms on the internet today.” 

TINA asserted in the 44-page complaint that in furtherance of its operation of a closed platform metaverse, Roblox “pushes [advertising] in front of millions of consumers, including more than 25 million children and adolescents, by a multitude of companies and their avatar influencers.” The problem, it argues, is that in “jump[ing] into the Roblox metaverse” in order to connect with young consumers, Roblox and these big-name companies are allegedly “exploiting children’s inability to distinguish organic content from marketing, and manipulating them and other Roblox users with undisclosed promotions that are nearly identical to organic virtual items and experiences on the platform.” 

A spokesperson for Roblox told TFL at the time that “Roblox is committed to ensuring our users and developers have a positive and safe experience on our platform,” noting that the company has “strict guidelines for developers that want to promote or use ads within their experiences, including specific rules to protect users under 13, expectations that all developers adhere to Community Standards we strictly enforce, and no tolerance for fraud or scams.”

While transparency is not necessarily proving the be the norm in the budding virtual world at large, the FTC’s request for information about advertising in the metaverse and beyond “could ultimately lead to major changes in how it views the requirements for companies of all kinds to advertise their products online” – including in the metaverse – “to the public,” according to Troutman Pepper’s Christopher Capurso, Mark Furletti, Caleb Rosenberg, Chris Willis, and Alan Wingfield. Beyond that, they note that in addition to influencing how the FTC has treated online advertising, its .com Disclosure Guide has also been “extremely influential in guiding other regulatory agencies’ assessments of online advertising, as well.” 

Emily Ratajkowski and a paparazzi photographer have reached a settlement agreement in an ongoing lawsuit over an Instagram post. On the heels of Judge Analisa Torres of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York determining that the copyright infringement case should move forward to trial to determine a number of questions of fact, including whether the multi-hyphenate model’s unauthorized use of an image of herself was fair use, Emily Ratajkowski and plaintiff Robert O’Neil, the paparazzi photographer who took the photo in question, alerted the court that they have reached a settlement in the lawsuit.

In a filing on April 13, counsels for O’Neil and Ratajkowski informed the court that they had “reached a settlement in principle pending their negotiation of a final settlement agreement,” and requested an order of discontinuance of the action while they hash out the terms of the deal. The settlement comes two and a half years after O’Neil filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Emily Ratajkowski after she posted a photo of herself to her Instagram story, captioning the photo in which she is obscuring her face with a flower arrangement with “mood forever.” The model-slash-actress would later argue in response to the infringement claims that her use of the image was fair use, as it served as a commentary on the state of her paparazzi-plagued life. 

Instead of settling the lawsuit filed against her at the outset, which has been common practice for the vast majority of celebrities that have landed on the receiving end of a string of similar copyright infringement cases, Ratajkowski opted to O’Neil’s case, arguing in September 2020 motion for summary judgment that, among other things, her reposting of the photo constituted fair use.  

Deciding on the motion in September 2021, Judge Torres spent the bulk of the order dissecting the merits of Ratajkowski’s claim that her posting of the photo amounts to fair use, namely, by way of the four non-exhaustive fair use factors: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. From the outset, the court was largely unwilling to decide on the various fair use factors, and ultimately held that both parties’ motions for summary judgment on the issue of fair use should be denied. 

In terms of the purpose/character of the work, which comes with a number of sub-factors (transformativeness, commerciality, and bad faith), the court stated that reasonable jurors could disagree about whether or to what extent Ratajkowski’s use of the photo is transformative, noting a reasonable observer could conclude that Ratajkowski’s Instagram post “merely showcases Ratajkowski’s clothes, location, and pose at that time – the same purpose, effectively, as the photograph.” On the other hand, the judge held that “it is possible a reasonable observer could also conclude that, given the flowers covering Ratajkowski’s face and body and the text ‘mood forever,’ the Instagram [post] instead conveyed that [her] ‘mood forever’ was her attempt to hide from the encroaching eyes of the paparazzi – a commentary on the photograph.” As such, the court determined that there was a genuine issue of material fact at issue that needed to be decided by a jury. 

As for the other sub-factors, the court found that Ratajkowski’s use was “slightly commercial,” but that this factor deserved “little weight” given the specific facts at play. Among some of the noteworthy elements: the court held that Ratajkowski’s Instagram is, “at least in part, a for-profit enterprise,” as she “has a link to her for-profit store on the Instagram account main feed,” and she estimates that “she has made more than $100,000 from the Instagram stories section of the Instagram account within the last three years, although posting sponsored posts to Instagram Stories is less common than to her main feed.” The balance also tipped the other way to some extent in the commerciality assessment as Ratajkowski was not paid to post the photo at issue, “nor was the infringed work displayed directly next to advertisements, or in a section almost exclusively meant for advertisements.” 

The court was not convinced by O’Neil’s claim that Ratajkowski’s use was in bad faith because of “her ‘omission of any credit,’ and her [failure to pay] a license fee despite knowing that celebrities occasionally license photographs from Splash.” Judge Torres stated that while “Ratajkowski rarely credits photographers, there is no evidence that she personally removed copyright attribution from the photograph.” Beyond that, the court stated that “there is no evidence that Ratajowski knew the photograph was copyrighted or who it was copyrighted by,” and held that her mention of “general ‘internet etiquette’ that ‘people will share [her] images and [she] share[s] their images,’ does not demonstrate specific knowledge about the photograph or Instagram stories.” 

Again, the judge held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to “whether Ratajkowski’s use was transformative, and neither commerciality nor bad faith weigh heavily on the analysis— particularly if the use is deemed transformative.” 

In terms of the second factor, the nature of the copyrighted work, the court determined that this weighed in favor of O’Neil, “but only marginally so” because the photo is “essentially factual in nature” and O’Neil “captured [his] subject in public, as [she] naturally appeared, and [was] not tasked with directing the subject, altering the backdrops, or otherwise doing much to impose creative force on the [photograph] or infuse the [photograph] with [his] own artistic vision.” 

The court looked to the amount and substantiality of use of the photo next, and determined that Ratajkowski took “the vast majority, if not the entirety, of the photograph,” but also – interestingly – considered Ratajkowski’s argument that “by posting the photograph [via the temporary] Instagram Stories, rather than the main account, the use was less substantial.” The court sided with O’Neil on this factor, stating that “because Ratajkowski used a greater portion of the photograph than was necessary for her purpose, this factor weighs slightly in favor of the plaintiff.” However, “the fact that it was posted on Instagram Stories lessens that weight.” 

Finally, on the effect on the market front, which requires a plaintiff to show that “even if the photograph is deemed transformative, a market exists which would be affected if this manner of using the photograph became widespread,” the court did not make a determination for either party, on the basis that “there is no information in the record regarding that market” for the court to “rule on this factor at this juncture.”  

With the foregoing in mind, the court left the critical issue of fair use up to a jury. In light of the parties’ pending settlement agreement, no such jury trial will come into play.

No stranger to paparazzi-initiated copyright suits, Emily Ratajkowski was named in a similar copyright infringement lawsuit filed by photographer Javier Mateo in July 2021. The parties settled that case in January 2022. Around the same time, Ratajkowski’s brand Inamorata Swim LLC was named in – and swiftly settled – a copyright infringement case waged against it by Eva’s Photography.

The case is O’Neil v. Ratajkowski et al, 1:19-cv-09769 (SDNY). 

Last month, Meta, Inc. announced that it was working on a set of ethical guidelines for virtual influencers – animated, typically computer-generated, characters designed to attract attention on social media. When Facebook, Inc. renamed itself Meta late last year, it heralded a pivot towards the “metaverse.” Even Meta admits the metaverse does not really exist yet, and while the building blocks of a persistent, immersive virtual reality for everything from business to play are yet to be fully assembled, virtual influencers are, nonetheless, already online (on platforms like Meta-owned Instagram), and many are surprisingly convincing

Given its recent history, it is worth pondering whether Meta is really the right entity to be setting the ethical standards for virtual influencers and the metaverse more broadly.

Who (or what) are virtual influencers?

Meta’s announcement on January 12 notes the “rising phenomenon” of synthetic media – an umbrella term for images, video, voice, or text generated by computerized technology, typically using artificial intelligence (“AI”) or automation. Many virtual influencers incorporate elements of synthetic media in their design – ranging from completely digitally rendered bodies to human models that are digitally masked with characters’ facial features.

At both ends of the spectrum, this process still relies heavily on human labor and input – from art direction for photo shoots to writing captions for social media. Like Meta’s vision of the metaverse, influencers that are entirely generated and powered by AI are a largely futuristic fantasy. But even in their current form, virtual influencers are of real value to Meta, both as attractions for their existing platforms and as avatars in the metaverse.

After all, interest in virtual influencers has rapidly expanded over the past five years, attracting huge audiences on social media and partnerships with major brands, including AudiBoseCalvin KleinSamsung, and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s TMall platform. And a competitive industry specializing in the production, management and promotion of virtual influencers has already sprung up, although it remains largely unregulated. 

So far, India is the only country to address virtual influencers in connection with national advertising standards, requiring brands to “disclose to consumers that they are not interacting with a real human being” when posting sponsored content.

Ethical guidelines

There is a need for ethical guidelines in the space in order to help producers and their brand partners navigate this new terrain, and more importantly, to help users understand the content they are engaging with. Meta has warned that “synthetic media has the potential for both good and harm,” listing “representation and cultural appropriation” as among the specific areas of concern.

Indeed, despite their relatively short lifespan to date, virtual influencers already have a history of “overt racialization” and misrepresentation, thereby, raising ethical questions. But it is far from clear whether Meta’s proposed guidelines will adequately address these questions.

Becky Owen, head of creator innovation and solutions at Meta Creative Shop, said the planned ethical framework “will help our brand partners and AI creators explore what is possible, likely and desirable, and what is not.” This seeming emphasis on technological possibilities and brand partners’ desires leads to an inevitable impression that Meta is once again conflating commercial potential with ethical practice.

By its own count, Meta’s platforms already host more than 200 virtual influencers. But virtual influencers exist elsewhere too: they do viral dance challenges on TikTok, upload vlogs to YouTube, and post life updates on Chinese platform Weibo. They appear “offline” at malls in Beijing and Singapore, on 3D billboards in Tokyo, and star in television commercials.

Gamekeeper, or poacher?

This brings us back to the question of whether Meta is the right company to set the ground rules for this emerging space. The company’s history is tarred by claims of unethical behavior, from Facebook’s questionable beginnings in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room (as depicted in The Social Network) to large-scale privacy failings demonstrated in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Fast forward to February 2021, and Facebook showed how far it was willing to go to defend its interests, when it briefly banned all news content on Facebook in Australia to force the federal government to water down the Australian News Media Bargaining Code. Last year also saw former Facebook executive Frances Haugen very publicly turn whistleblower, sharing a trove of internal documents with journalists and politicians. These so-called “Facebook Papers” raised numerous concerns about the company’s conduct and ethics, including the revelation that Facebook’s own internal research showed Instagram can harm young people’s mental health, even leading to suicide.

Today, Meta is fighting antitrust litigation in the U.S. that aims to restrain the company’s monopoly by potentially compelling it to sell key acquisitions including Instagram and WhatsApp. Meanwhile, the social media giant is scrambling to integrate its messaging service across all three apps, effectively making them different interfaces for a shared back end that Meta will doubtless argue cannot feasibly be separated, no matter the outcomes of the current litigation.

Given this back story, Meta likely is not be the ideal choice as ethical guardian of the metaverse. The already-extensive distribution of virtual influencers across platforms and markets highlights the need for ethical guidelines that go beyond the interests of one company – especially a company that stands to gain so much from the impending spectacle.

Tama Leaver is a Professor of Internet Studies at Curtin University. Rachel Berryman is a PhD Candidate in Internet Studies at Curtin University. (This article was initially published by The Conversation.)

“Purchasing is very often more than just a simple transaction between buyer and supplier,” with consumption being a social experience in many cases, and the influence of others playing a role in what we buy. That same goes for the consumption and sale of counterfeit goods, according to a recent report from the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office, which surveyed 1,000 female consumers (“as the social media endorsements of counterfeit products are dominated by female influencers and a female audience,” the research population was limited to female consumers), to gauge the state of the market for counterfeits and determine the extent to which social media influencers facilitate the purchasing of such goods. 

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (“UKIPO”)’s top-line finding in connection with its survey was that 17 percent of participants (70 percent of whom were between ages 16 and 33) reported that they had knowingly purchased counterfeits in the prior year – and 13.3 percent revealed that their purchasing behavior relating to counterfeit products has, in fact, been influenced by social media endorsements. In other words, that 13.3 percent of respondents reported that they had “purchased counterfeits either deliberately or by mistake following social media influencers’ endorsements,” which the UKIPO contends “clearly demonstrates” that influencers are an noteworthy force in endorsing counterfeits and an “important channel to market for counterfeit suppliers on the other side of the world.” 

In line with previously-reported figures, the UKIPO found that fashion and related accessories are top drivers of counterfeit consumption, with this category of goods being “particularly attractive” for younger consumers (i.e., those in the 16-33 age group), with 1 in 5 (20 percent) of survey participants admitted to buying counterfeit clothing or accessories in the prior year compared to 4 percent of older consumers.” (The UKIPO notes that it defined counterfeits to participants as “items that look identical to a genuine product with or without the official branding/logo, but are not made by the brand and may be of lower quality, for example, a handbag of identical design to a “Chanel” with or without the Chanel logo.”)

Aside from fashion apparel and accessories, which was the most popular product category when it comes to counterfeit consumption, according to the UKIPO, fake jewelry and watches, and beauty products were also noted as frequently purchased. 

Another interesting takeaway about the mindset of consumers when it comes to counterfeit goods from the UKIPO’s findings is that 18 percent of survey respondents “believe counterfeits do not harm businesses and jobs,” 22 percent “believe counterfeits are not a health and safety threat,” and finally, a larger 33 percent (or one-third of survey participants) revealed that the trade in counterfeits is actually “the manufacturers’ fault for overpricing high brand products.” 

The Rise of “Dupes,” as Platforms Eye Luxury

The timing of the UKIPO’s survey seems appropriate given the overarching rise of “dupes” both in terms of Google searches and on social media sites, including Instagram and TikTok, and influencers who have built sizable followings thanks, in many cases, to their posts on this topic. As TFL reported this past summer, while recent Google Trends data indicates that searches for the word “replica,” for instance, are steadily declining overall, searches for “dupes” have been on the rise in recent years.

“A browse through YouTube reveals innumerable videos presented by young, mainly female content creators that promote counterfeit clothing, accessories and beauty products to followers,” the UK IP body stated, pointing to one British influencer with 4.4 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, who “posted a video promoting counterfeit goods in May 2021 entitled, ‘I Bought Fake Designer Bags on Wish.’” The video – which features counterfeit Louis Vuitton, Jacquemus, Dior, and Balenciaga bags – has since been viewed 221,326 times. 

At the same time, brands and marketplace sites are coming together to send public messages to influencers (and the public at large) in connection with their role endorsing counterfeit goods. Amazon, for instance, filed a counterfeit-centric lawsuit in November 2020, accusing influencers Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sabrina Kelly-Krejci of “engaging in a sophisticated campaign of false advertising” in connection with which they have “conspired” with sellers on Amazon’s marketplace to evade Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting protections by promoting counterfeit luxury goods – from Gucci belts to Dior handbags – on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and their own websites. That case settled in September, with the terms of the largely confidential agreement putting in place a prohibition against Fitzpatrick and Kelly-Krejci from “marketing, advertising, linking to, promoting or selling any products on Amazon,” and in terms of monetary damages being paid by the defendants, Amazon revealed that it would donate the sum to various non-profit organizations, including an anti-counterfeiting initiative of the International Trademark Association.

Not to be outdone, Facebook, Inc. (now Meta) partnered with Gucci in April 2021 to file suit against a single defendant – a woman named Natalia Kokhtenko –for operating “an international online business, trafficking in illegal counterfeit goods,” which has seen her use the “Facebook and Instagram [platforms] to promote the sale of [luxury brand] counterfeit goods,” such as Gucci handbags, shoes, clothing, and accessories, and running afoul of trademark law and “Facebook and Instagram’s terms and policies” in the process. That case is still underway in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Given the strikingly limited scope of both cases (there are far more than marketplace sellers and influencers hawking counterfeits on Instagram and Amazon), the cases are almost certainly part of a larger trust-building exercise aimed to luring consumers and brands onto these platforms, and enabling them to be viewed as a source of legitimate fashion. In much the same vein as Amazon, which has not been quiet about its ambitions in the fashion and luxury space, Reuters reported last year that “groups like Facebook, Inc. are keen to make a bigger push into the luxury market and ‘social commerce,’ but to do so they need to show that their platforms are not a conduit for counterfeiting and are safe for brands, some of which are reluctant to sell their products through third-party players.” Targeting counterfeit-peddling influencers is one part of that effort.

According to recent McKinsey research, 2021 was a year of transformation: people, corporations and society began to look ahead to influencing their futures rather than just surviving the present. It was the year that hopes for herd immunity, an end to pandemic lockdowns, and a return to normality were dashed – at least for now. And aside from the Great Social Media Resignation, which saw burnt-out Gen Z workers announce that they had quit their jobs via TikTok and Instagram, the rise of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”), and the introduction of the metaverse, the world’s space-going billionaires were as wealthy and productive in business and technology as ever. 

It is difficult to make accurate predictions in the unpredictable environment we have been experiencing over the last two years; the year ahead will undoubtedly bring many surprises. However, here are six digital trends that will influence life in 2022 … 

1. Social Media: More Privacy, Quality and Algorithm Tweaks

Platforms will concentrate on privacy and content quality in feeds. Despite recent public criticism, Facebook is likely to grow in terms of its members, as well as its revenues. With an eye on privacy and content quality, all major social media platforms will likely have updated their privacy policies and tweaked their algorithms by the end of 2022. All the while and due to the demand for strong, engaging content, a new tribe of creative influencers will grow rapidly and make an impact on branding and engagement. 

Thanks to the growing popularity of short-form video content, Instagram and TikTok are likely to witness a rise in ad expenditure in 2022 and Instagram will continue to grow beyond its 50 percent ad revenue share. Underutilized social media marketing components like customer service and relationship management will soon thrive on these platforms.

2. Enter the Metaverse: From 2D to 3D Web

Mark Zuckerberg announced a corporate name change to “Meta” in October 2021, indicating the former Facebook, Inc.’s wish to shape the metaverse transformation. The term refers to the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality. Users may interact, socialize, explore and create content in the virtual environment, and monetize their virtual transactions using blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The metaverse (or Web3) is intrinsically linked to NFTs and cryptocurrencies, which help to commercialize interactions by creating or selling digital artifacts. In 2022, Web3 is expected to be a big commercial issue and is backed by major brands including NikeAdidasGucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Microsoft and others.

3. Acceleration of Crypto & NFT Growth

The adoption of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) increased significantly in 2021 and will continue to in 2022. A new value exchange mechanism in the global online economy (and one of the most notable digital trends of the past year), NFTs have the potential to change the value and function of digital assets and artworks, including by enabling artists to reap resale royalties. The Frankfurt School Blockchain Centre predicts a $1.5 trillion market for tokenized assets in Europe over the next three years – with real estate, debt, bonds, shares, virtual art and even tangible collectibles being among the types of assets that can be linked to NFTs. 

4. Growth of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence could well change the way we conceptualize, create and enjoy food – or fashion – or look for a job. Michael Spranger, COO of Sony’s artificial intelligence team, explains that labor shortages have led many organizations to use AI to broaden the way they evaluate and assess job applicants. He also notes that some of the most exciting applications of AI in gastronomy will enhance the imagination and creativity of chefs and culinary experts beyond what is possible today. And robots like Flippy are already flipping burgers at McDonalds and other restaurants.

5. Increased Connectivity = More Digital Transformation

5G and the new Wi-Fi 6 standard will enable faster connection – crucial if the world is to embrace these new digital trends. Jerry Paradise, VP of product management for Chinese tech company Lenovo, has said 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are about more than just speed: “Future applications will include smart cities, the internet of things, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications – which would ideally improve traffic flow and safety.”

According to Lenovo, working from home will grow to become more “hybrid” as consumers and organizations continue to think beyond the office. A large majority of IT executives expect to work outside of the office in the future, with smaller and smarter devices, as well as wireless and noise-cancelling headphones. And in this vein, it is expected that hybrid employees will participate in video meetings and conduct phone calls not just from their home office – but from anywhere.

6. New Workplace, New Skills

With workplace set to change, skills will presumably be next. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2022, new occupations will account for 27 percent of big corporate employee bases, while technologically outmoded positions will decline from 31 percent to 21 percent. A shift in the division of labor between humans, computers and algorithms has the potential to remove 75 million current job openings while generating 133 million new ones. 

Data analysts, software and application developers, e-commerce specialists, and social media specialists will continue to be in high demand, including for retail companies. Meanwhile many “human” jobs, such as customer service, organizational development and innovation management, are expected to grow. So, far from “taking our jobs,” AI will create jobs and ensure employment across an array of different field, and further accelerate larger digital trends.

Theo Tzanidis is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at the University of the West of Scotland.