In a new paper, Institute Associate Jeff Gary and former FTC Chief Technologist Ashkan Soltani argue that addressing platform moderation concerns must begin with an examination of the online advertising models and financial incentives of platforms.
The article, published as part of the Knight First Amendment Institute’s Free Speech Futures series, argues that platforms do not have proper incentives to identify and remove controversial content because “the business models of the platforms themselves encourage and reward divisive or controversial content” since that content drives the most engagement, and therefore provides the platforms with the greatest potential revenue.
Instead, any meaningful solution to content concerns “must address the ways in which platforms collect data and curate content in order to maximally harvest users’ attention and sell advertisements, the main method of monetization online.”
This approach comes as policymakers and academics grapple with the ongoing challenges of widespread harmful content online and marks a departure from many current legislative and regulatory proposals, many of which focus on the direct control of particular types of content or modes of speech.
The full paper is available on the Knight First Amendment Institute website.