A response to the TED Talk “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads” by Zeynep Tufekci

This TED Talk was one of the more interesting ones that I’ve seen in a while even though it only came out a few years ago. In 2017, sociologist and associate professor, Zeynep Tufekci, gave a TED Talk regarding the implications that technology poses on society. This talk focuses on how major technology companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and more use ads and other means to track and gain information on users based on how they interact with said adds. One example she used is when Facebook did an experiment on 61 million people. Facebook launched an ad regarding Election Day. One was normal without any additions to it while another one had underneath the ad, thumbnails of how many of your mutual friends have interacted with said ad and clicked on “I Voted.” This small detail would entice more users to click on the ad and encourage more users to vote based on the fact that their mutual friends already did so. Because of this, it turned out an additional 340,000 voters and they repeated the experiment a second time and it turned out an additional 270,000 voters. It is interesting to see how efficiently and sometimes creepily these companies can use ads to get our attention. They can also catch us with algorithms, such as with YouTube. Tufekci talked about how she got recommended a multitude of white supremacist videos on YouTube just from watching a few videos in regards to the 2016 election. The YouTube algorithm thrives heavily off of recommending as much to you as possible in regards to going down a rabbit hole of sorts with any subject. Overall, this TED Talk was very informative and engaging with many interesting and crucial points to take away from it.

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Cameron Washington

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