Free Social Media and the implications of Attention Harvesting
Thursday, September 20, 2018 — 2:00PM - 3:30PM
Social media has fundamentally changed how we interact with one another in many positive ways. We use it to connect with and keep in touch with friends, accelerating the spread of information, and even enabling social change. However, concerns abound around attention harvesting and data ownership.
For-profit social media platforms that offer “free” access are in the business of selling the attention and content of its users to advertisers and other 3rd parties. This phenomena has been described by Tim Wu, in the book The Attention Merchants, as attention harvesting. Paying attention to good content usually provides mutual benefit to the platform owners, content creators, and content consumers. The platform owners and content creators are compensated with money. Content consumers benefit in form of entertainment. In general, most content consumers understand this relationship: if you read, watch, or listen to compelling free content that is distributed by for-profit corporations, advertisers will leverage your attention and inject product and service advertisements into that content. However, on many for-profit social media platforms, this general understanding is blurred because the users are both content creators and content consumers.
The Social Media and Attention Harvesting panel discussion will focus on the following questions:
1). Should we pay for access to social media platforms to reduce the harvesting of our attention?
2). Should content creators on social media platforms be directly paid for their content?
3). Do social media platforms that rely on attention harvesting encourage race-to-the-bottom content?
4). Who should own the content created on free social media platforms?