Advertising to blame for big bad world of Social Media?

According to The Social Dilemma, a documentary-drama hybrid released on Netflix this month, Russia is not to blame for influencing elections around the globe.

They simply invested in advertising tools readily available on social sites to their advantage.

It is an expose’ that explores the scary human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, the 93-minute film combines real-life interviews with a fictionalised story about the effects of social media on an American family.

“Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. Exactly what image you stop and look at, for how long you look at it.”

The interviewees include former employees of Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other internet giants who talk about the Frankensteinian monster they helped create.

One thing is for sure: social media addiction isn’t an unintended consequence, rather a well thought-out objective. Turns out, all these years, Big Tech (Facebook, Twitter, Google etc) has been manipulating us and we didn’t even realise.

Most of the strategies were worked out intentionally, though their extreme efficiency may have been unforeseen.

They explain how these giants are running riot reaping billions in advertising revenue and the best part is they succeed because of us, as we become victims of their manipulation engines.

The movie’s main narrative is propelled by Tristan Harris, who worked at Google as a design ethicist and began to publicly criticise Google’s business model three years ago, as well as the business models of other tech companies.

While the internet also does a world of good, the film actually gives a rare look of what I have been writing about for sometime. I have peppered this curated story with trigger words from the movie to get the points across.

…. False news is more novel and more emotional than true news. That means more clicks, or in advertising parlance “sticky”…

Advertising tools used on unsuspecting audience

Social theorist Michel Foucault shares, “Everything people are doing online is being watched, is being tracked, is being measured. Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. Exactly what image you stop and look at, for how long you look at it.”

Social platforms use tools of manipulation that extract the attention of human beings as a business model.

This allows what Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff calls Surveillance Capitalism which she defines as the new economic order that claims human experiences as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction and sales.

She adds, “Social media is a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures… and those markets have produced the trillions of dollars that have made Internet companies the richest companies.The trading floor runs on the fuel of algorithms that dissect dissects them into the three goals of engagement, growth and advertising held mutually across internet companies.”

Alternate Reality

An MIT study that analysed millions of tweets sent between 2006 and 2017 concluded fake news travels 6 times faster than the truth. Which simply means fake news creates more traffic (read eyeballs).

False news is more novel and more emotional than true news. That means more clicks, or in advertising parlance “sticky”.

The study suggests that the spread of false news is a consequence of flawed human psychology — and platforms like Twitter simply amplify it.

No Facebook feed is the same for everyone. We live in our own version of reality, based on what the machine feeds us.

Aza Raskin, former Firefox and Mozilla Lab worker says: “Advertisers are the customers. We’re the thing being sold.”

Algorithms are seeking to maximize advertising revenue by tapping into human psychology to keep us addicted to our screens.

Tech giants act like defacto governments and their religion is profit at all costs. The more attention we give the screen the more they profit. Bad things happen because we let them happen.

Human technology loses its humanity and we don’t get paid.

Social media is pushing all our buttons now.

“The guy who helped create the Like button for Facebook says he wanted to spread love in the world, but a former Facebook executive admits purposely creating dopamine-driven feedback loops.”

Tech players use our internet usage and search history and flip that to their advantage. 

This article first appeared in WEEKENDER.


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