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Letter to BS: Technology companies repeatedly slip on ethical aspects

End users need to understand that they are continually exposed to a stream of confirmation biases

Business Standard 

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

Your editorial (“Another faux pas”, November 20) points out Mark Zuckerberg’s cluelessness or wilful default on taking responsibility in his dual role — both as CEO and chairman of his company. In-depth stories by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal also laid bare the machinations; insider revelations have also called out his trusted deputy Sheryl Sandberg.

While you rightly note that there is no case for regulation of social media, these are outdated constructs pushed by PR firms in In their quest for an open-ended world, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram together with Google and Amazon have amassed and concentrated data pools that are used by these corporations for behavioural modification and achieve political goals. Despite intense scrutiny of their ad networks, the process remains the same.

It must be clear that an average user in the US remains quite profitable for the property. If they are responding with such alacrity, it is because it has seen a significant decline regarding user engagement and censorship of speech (especially conservatives). The Cambridge Analytica scandal still reverberates in editorials, but the firm is now operating with another name. Despite evidence of the use of bots to artificially boost user engagement, these platforms remain closed to external audits. Hence their claims of self-policing need to be taken with a pinch of salt. has repeatedly snubbed scrutiny from various member nations that have joined the UK to force it to open up about political propaganda on its platform.

End users need to understand that they are continually exposed to a stream of confirmation biases (as these platforms are adept in behavioural targeting) and remain entrapped in their psychological bubbles. Social media also amplifies negativity that dehumanises our sense of self-worth as well as empathy. This addiction has reached alarming proportions and affect our real-life interactions. It is not uncommon to see children and adults alike to peer at their screens in response to a barrage of notifications.

Abhishek Puri, Mohali

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First Published: Tue, November 20 2018. 23:02 IST