social media companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. this has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections.
in addition, social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes and deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. the latter can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents.
the power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. it takes a real effort to assert and defend what john stuart mill called ‘the freedom of mind’. there is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. this may have far-reaching political consequences.
an “even more alarming prospect” is on the horizon if data-rich internet companies such as facebook and google pair their corporate surveillance systems with state-sponsored surveillance – a trend that’s already emerging in places such as the philippines.
this may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even aldous huxley or george orwell could have imagined.
-: george soros