In the face of claims that they prioritize profits over people, Facebook and Instagram are under mounting pressure to reform the ways in which their platforms are built to be addictive for users. Experts say this increased scrutiny could signal that the social media industry’s current business model is due for a significant disruption.
Often compared to Big Tobacco for the ways in which their products are addictive and profitable but ultimately unhealthy for users, social media’s biggest players are facing growing calls for both accountability and regulatory action. In order to make money, these platforms’ algorithms effectively function to keep users engaged and scrolling through content, and by extension advertisements, for as long as possible.
“[These companies] aren’t being held accountable for any of their business practices,” says Sherry Fowler, a professor of practice in information technology and business analytics at North Carolina State University. “I think we’re at the same point [with Big Tech] that we were when Big Tobacco was forced to share the research on how its products were harming individuals. There had to be this mass campaign to inform the public because, at that point, a lot of people didn’t even know that tobacco was addictive. Here we have something that’s just as addictive and we’ve allowed the companies not to have to answer to anybody. Certain industries can’t run rampant without any rules being enforced.”
With bipartisan consensus growing that more must be done to combat how social media’s leading platforms drive engagement by employing algorithmic tools that are destructive to individual and societal wellbeing, government intervention seems more inevitable—and imminent—than ever in the year ahead.
Bipartisan lawmakers have already introduced a House bill dubbed the Filter Bubble Transparency Act that would require platforms to offer a version of their services where content is not selected by “opaque algorithms” that draw on personal user data to generate recommendations.
As Republican Rep. Ken Buck, one of the representatives sponsoring the legislation, told Axios, “Consumers should have the option to engage with internet platforms without being manipulated by secret algorithms driven by user-specific data.” But the question remains: Is real change possible?
The dark side of addictive algorithms
While concerns over addictive algorithms extend beyond the two platforms owned by Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, internal documents—sometimes …read more
Source:: Time – Technology