A global coalition of more than three dozen groups on Monday launched a campaign to ban surveillance advertising, which the leaders of the effort described as “the extractive profit model underlying so many of Big Tech’s worst behaviors.”
“Surveillance advertising — the core profit-driver for gatekeepers like Facebook and Google, as well as adtech middlemen — is the practice of extensively tracking and profiling individuals and groups, and then microtargeting ads at them based on their behavioral history, relationships, and identity” the coalition — co-organized by Accountable Tech and the American Economic Liberties Project — said in a joint statement.
“These dominant firms curate the content each person sees on their platforms using those dossiers — not just the ads, but newsfeeds, recommendations, trends and so forth — to keep each user hooked, so they can be served more ads and mined for more data,” added the coalition — which also includes Demand Progress, People’s Action and Public Citizen.
“Big Tech is making billions off surveillance advertising,” the groups noted on their campaign website. “Society is paying the price.”
The coalition of nearly 40 organizations — whose advocacy ranges from antitrust, corporate accountability and consumer protection to privacy, civil rights and counter-disinformation — argued that by “funding the misinformation machine,” “aiding and abetting violent extremists,” and more “Big Tech’s toxic business model is undermining democracy.”
In their joint statement released ahead of the March 25 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation,” the groups said that “Big Tech platforms amplify hate, illegal activities and conspiracism — and feed users increasingly extreme content — because that’s what generates the most engagement and profit.”
“Their own algorithmic tools have boosted everything from white supremacist groups and Holocaust denialism to COVID-19 hoaxes, counterfeit opioids and fake cancer cures,” the coalition added. “Echo chambers, radicalization and viral lies are features of these platforms, not bugs — central to the business model.”
The coalition criticized social media giants for “eroding our consensus reality and threatening public safety in service of a toxic, extractive business model.”