Are Social Platforms Guilty of Digital Human Trafficking?
In today's digitized world, it's crucial to dissect the impact social media platforms are having on our psyches, freedom, and society at large. The question arises, "Are Social Platforms akin to Digital Human Traffickers?" This proposition may sound quite severe, but given a closer look at the operational dynamics of these platforms, it mirrors the structure of coercion and exploitation synonymous with human trafficking.
At what point do our digital lifestyles become a major part of our lives, and thus, needing and deserving freedom from such tyranny?
At what point do the platforms become publishers, no longer deserving of immunity, and exposed for exploiting free labor, (using children, YES children to initially prime the pump of the user base)?
How much of our expression is governed by platforms, pretending to be neutral, but in effect, using algorithm and “community” policies to editorialize and control publication of content?
The Monopolization of Digital Expression
Social platforms have effectively monopolized digital expression. They have become ubiquitous entities dictating the contours of online interaction and communication. The monopolization is not just a mere accumulation of user base, but it is also an unprecedented control over the avenues of human connection and attention. This dominance has created an environment where divergence or dissent is nearly impossible without facing consequences.
- Accumulation of Power and Influence
- Control Over Information
The platforms started by appealing predominantly to younger audiences, offering free and addictive content, akin to a stranger offering candy and kittens from a van. This luring is systematic and intentional, designed to hook users to the platform, making them reliant on the digital environment provided by these platforms.
- Intentionally Addictive Content
- Free Access
Coercion and Control
Manipulation through Nudging
Once users are hooked, social platforms deploy a series of nudging interactions and coercive techniques to influence behavior, preferences, and opinions. These manipulative tactics are subtle yet pervasive, often leading users to conform to the desired norms and behaviors of the platform.
- Behavioral Alteration
- Perpetuation of Desired Narratives
Threats and Consequences
If users dissent, or refuse to conform, they face a myriad of consequences such as censorship, shadow banning, and limitations on access. These punitive measures not only suppress dissent but also establish a culture of fear and conformity among the users.
- Censorship and Suppression
- Loss of Access
The Exploitation of Data
Selling User Data
Social platforms exploit users by selling their data, an act synonymous with the selling of one's body in human trafficking. This commodification of personal information raises ethical questions about consent and the valuation of an individual's digital presence.
- Commodification of Personal Information
- Privacy Invasion
Seeking Solutions and Ethical Reform
Establishing Ethical Guidelines
Addressing these issues is imperative. There is an urgent need for comprehensive ethical guidelines and stringent regulations to curb the exploitative and coercive practices of social platforms.
- Legal Reforms
- User Empowerment
At what point does the exploitive monopoly rise beyond monopoly and become something even more nefarious? How many people have to be harmed?
How many facts, news stories, voices and information have to be suppressed?
How many elections have to be manipulated by this effort? At what point do censoring “speech not reach” community guidelines policies and biased algorithms reach criminal standards?
At what point are these efforts editorializing the entire platform and thus make you a publisher not platform?
Drawing parallels between social platforms and digital human trafficking might initially seem hyperbolic. However, the monopolization of digital expression, coercive control over user behavior, and the exploitation of user data paint a grim picture of the digital landscape curated by these platforms. It is crucial to scrutinize the ethical implications of their operations and advocate for reforms to foster a digital environment conducive to plurality, freedom, and respect for individual rights. To ensure a balanced digital ecosystem, both legal and ethical reforms, coupled with user awareness and empowerment, are indispensable.