And it is precisely these responses that generate audiences and revenue. “The business models that run the industrial complex of social media have a lot to do with the results we see,” says Aral. “It’s an attention economy, and companies want you to get involved. How do they get their engagement? Well, they give you little dips of dopamine and… get you pissed off.
The political implications are sobering. During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Russia distributed false information to at least 126 million people on Facebook and an additional 20 million on Instagram. “I think we need to be a lot more vigilant than we are,” says Aral.
To this end, it favors automated and user-generated labeling of fake news and measures to minimize the advertising revenue that content creators can collect from misinformation. He believes federal privacy protections are potentially helpful and require portability and interoperability of data, so consumers “can move freely from one network to another.” He doesn’t approve of Facebook’s disbandment, instead suggesting that the social media economy needs structural reform.
But without change, he adds, Facebook and others risk a civic backlash. “If you make me angry and pissed off I might click more in the short term, but I could also get really tired and bored with how it makes my life miserable, and I might turn you off altogether,” he says. he. But bad results are not inevitable – for business or for society.
“Technology is what we make of it,” he says, “and we abdicate our responsibility to lead technology for good and away from evil. This is the path I try to illuminate in this book.
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