Would you pay for social media? Many people would scoff at this question, as we are used to getting our digital products and services for free in the web 2.0 age. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You are not the customer for Facebook, Google and Twitter. You’re the product, and you’re being sold to advertisers.
This paradigm created an ecosystem where content is derived for clicks, not because it’s truly beneficial to us. The current business model has to go. But what would social technology look like if it was created with the goal of improving wellbeing? Research has shown that social media intervention can encourage positive behavior change. Given the reach of social media, (%79 of the US) we could be helping people achieve their goals, rather than influencing them to buy products. This Fast Company article elaborates on the work that the Center for Humane Technology is doing to create a better internet.
In the meantime, until social media is designed with our wellbeing in mind, we can still use it to support our goals. I recently started using Distraction Free Youtube, a Chrome extension that allows me to still search for the content I want to watch and not get distracted with a bombardment of recommended content.
Clearview AI, a company that uses data scraped from social media for facial recognition to aid law enforcement, has been under fire recently. States and counties are scrambling to figure out whether to ban facial recognition or not, and now many privacy groups want a nation-wide ban on the technology. Fears stem from concerns about the software’s limited accuracy for people of color and the possibility of a dystopian surveillance state.
Mark Zuckerburg is calling for tech companies to be regulated. "Right now there are two frameworks that I think people have for existing industries - there's like newspapers and existing media, and then there's the telco-type model, which is 'the data just flows through you', but you're not going to hold a telco responsible if someone says something harmful on a phone line.
He said at a conference in Munich. “I actually think where we should be is somewhere in between".
Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games (the team behind the smash-hit Fortnite) has recently made the argument that loot boxes are “doing customers harm.” Loot boxes are a game mechanic where players pay real money for a surprise in-game item. "Do we want to be like Las Vegas, with slot machines or do we want to be widely respected as creators of products that customers can trust?” He said, “I think we will see more and more publishers move away from loot boxes."
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