The real danger of (digital) advertising is LONG TERM conditioning
Just a synthesis of a GREAT thread on the real role of advertising in society.
(The whole thread, by Arvind Narayanan, is readable here)
The truly harmful targeted ads aren’t the ones trying to sell us something we’ve already searched for. It’s the ones that undermine our autonomy by covertly manipulating us into new desires and behaviors, molding our consumption patterns to maximize long-term revenue extraction.
Exploiting someone’s vulnerabilities to create insecurities about appearance and instil a negative body image produces a lifelong stream of sales. For a real world example, check out the real story of a woman haunted by an “endless string of half-naked, extremely thin women”.
The algorithms made they do it
And that’s the problem. Ads have always exploited stereotypes and weaknesses. Online ads powered by machine learning and automatic (but dumb) inference make the problem much, much, much worse. Even when/if they were not deliberately designed to achieve this effect.
This is exactly the same point I recently made on the real value of ANY advertising. It’s great to see it explained again, so well. As I said, the whole thread is available here). Please read it all, it’s worth it to understand, in Narayanan words, that online ads are:
“just a symptom of something deeply wrong with the online economy. Solving it will require more than adblocking.”
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