Big Tech Accused of Addicting Users

Big Tech Under Fire for Addicting Users

( – It can sometimes be difficult to believe Facebook came into existence in 2004, when CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was still a teenager at Harvard. YouTube was launched a year later. Both companies now form part of an IT cartel that affects nearly every industry and exerts a huge amount of influence over the content billions of people hear and see every day.

Are Tech Platforms Addictive?

One increasingly prevalent criticism of Big Tech is that its products are designed to turn users into addicts, holding their attention hostage to rake in advertising money. On Tuesday, April 27, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law to answer questions on this issue.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) led the charge in questioning the companies’ use of algorithms to manipulate people. “The business model is addiction, right?” he asked, pointing out the direct relationship between money earned by tech companies and time spent on their sites by users.

How it Works

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) questioned the companies about whether financial incentives were offered to engineers and other employees to design algorithms with a view to driving engagement. Representatives from Twitter and YouTube both failed to answer the question. Monika Bickert, vice president of content policy at Facebook, denied that targeting was common practice at her company, and also claimed Facebook did not sell the data of users.

Bickert did concede that Facebook used certain criteria to target advertisements. As Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, pointed out, even targeting can have significant negative consequences for the public interest.

Social media and tech are positive forces that have made connecting with people infinitely easier and created countless business opportunities. However, they can also be harmful, and users need to be aware of how it shapes our minds and impacts our lives. Many more hearings like this one are necessary to pave the way toward a healthier relationship between our society and the technology we use every day.

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