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Exploring the Impact of Social Media: "The Chaos Machine" and Ethical Considerations for Tech Companies

Max Fisher’s book, “The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World,” shines a light on how social media companies have had a profound effect on global society, inadvertently or not, playing a key role in causing amped-up tribalism and political polarization. This has major implications for the marketing technology industry and its use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). Here are four areas of marketing technology that require ethical consideration. Targeting and segmentation can lead to discrimination, as seen with Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences ad targeting tool, settling with the United States Department of Justice over enabling housing discrimination. Data collection is another area of concern, with legislation such as GDPR and CCPA in place to protect user privacy and prevent data breaches. Conversion and engagement strategies, such as those deployed by YouTube to increase watch time and by dating apps to drive revenue, are also a source of ethical quandaries. Finally, changes in strategy – such as those made by Elon Musk at Twitter or Match Group’s acquisition of two-thirds of the global dating app market – can have far-reaching consequences. It is important for marketing technology practitioners to consider the potential implications of their activities, and to balance profit and revenue generation with their wider societal impact. We should remember to ask ourselves whether the content and engagement strategies we employ are contributing to ethical problems, and how the power given to social media and other tech companies can be responsibly managed. Books like Fisher’s can help to remind us to think deeply about the real influence technology has on the world, and the need to keep our ethical eyes wide open.

Originally reported by Martech:
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