Business models driving online platforms must be fixed as algorithms are being designed to maximise profits from hateful and harmful content, FTC Commisioner Rohit Chopra said on Thursday. Speaking here at a WEF 2020 session on safeguarding digital space, Chopra said platforms benefit from some of this content and the advertising business models they are built on means the thirst for data is unquenchable.
“They want to monetise user behaviour,” he said. Some experts opine that digital businesses are themselves struggling to fight harmful content, from the spread of hate speech to threats to children’s safety.
Joanna Rubinstein, President and CEO of the World Childhood Foundation said the problem of child sexual abuse online is growing. “Every device is a camera, every child can take pictures of themselves. One of the challenges is identifying pictures and taking them offline,” she said.
Digital platforms are an enabler of real-world crime. In the real world, between 10-20 per cent of all children are abused before the age of 18 and in most cases by someone they know. “We consider that a family problem, but online, we all have that problem and we need to address it. Paedophiles previously had to find children and groom them, now they can find them online and start interacting with them,” she added.
Rohit Chopra, Commissioner; Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said the business model which drives the online platforms needs to be fixed. “So harmful, hateful, darker content is going to be amplified. The algorithms are going to be designed to maximise profits for these firms.
“I don’t care how many moderators, you hire, the problem is the business. I’m not arguing advertising should end, but we should accept the reality that targeted advertising can be inherently manipulative.
“Maybe we fix the business model rather than hiring hoards of moderators,” he said.
Rubinstein said, “we need a multi-prong approach to improve child online safety. More support, investment, engagement and technical expertise from the private sector is also required.”