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Social Media: An Undetectable Perpetrator

By: Maya Lescano (2/15/21)

Original Source: https://deadline.com/2021/01/the-social-dilemma-director-jeff-orlowski-netflix-documentary-interview-news-1234678324/

An article was released by Deadline which focused on the hit documentary: The Social Dilemma. This film exposed how social media networks use psychological tactics to manipulate the masses through specialized algorithms. It breeds a culture where humans are seen as commodities rather than the consumers. In order for social media companies to maintain the attention of users, they curate individual feeds that feed our tastes and preferences to get us to like and subscribe. These companies accomplish this through  data mining and because of a lack of consumer protection regulations and rules, social media ultimately becomes invasive to one’s privacy, similar to that of a constant lurking presence. 

The content posted on social media sites oftentimes goes uncheck, which results in a rampant spread of disinformation and falsehoods. Efforts to curate and check the content pool is few and far between compared to the influx of misinformation posted and shared every second. The article addresses that companies proceed with sharing  “misinformation, conspiracy theories, and stories that stoke “outrage-ification” (Carey, 2021). Essentially, platforms such as Facebook design their algorithm to bias towards false information because it caters to our deepest desires and reactionary impulses, which maximizes engagement and revenue. This documentary and article revealed that social media companies are focused on monetizing as its main goal at the expense of a divided world due to inconsistencies of truth.

The question is, how do companies practice corporate social responsibility if their profit model relies on invasion of privacy and disinformation? We know that a company’s goal is to maximize profit and social media firms do so by neglecting disinformation on their platforms. It’s difficult for shareholders and executives to put a halt to their current revenue stream which keeps them afloat. Therefore, there is no real incentive to change the existing system. Self-regulation will not be a viable option in the long run because doing so will go against what has gotten them this far. Stakeholder capitalism relies on a win-win scenario between producers (social media) and consumers, and this is not the case. We need to change the incentive structure such that social media firms will self-regulate because the alternative will be detrimental. The most used option is regulation. Revisions to Section 230 and antitrust laws are often brought up as solutions to the problem. By reforming Section 230, we can hold  social media firms responsible for what is posted on the sites. Through stricter forms of screening, we can incentivize innovation and competition. With regards to privacy, breaking them up will decrease their capabilities to mine data at a large scale. As a result, people’s privacy will increase. What are other reforms of incentive structures that could persuade companies to engage in corporate social responsibility?

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