The Way You’re Being Manipulated Online (and Might Not Have Known)

Have you ever wondered how specific magazines, spam letters, or specific ads find you in the large nebulous that is the internet? Well, Twitter’s recent refurbishment of their ad-revenue model, which now closely resembles the model used by Facebook, gives insight into just how media executives use your electronic history to sell products.

Currently the social media site receives payment for every ad selected by a user. However, in the coming month, Twitter will offer companies the ability to control how they repay Twitter for advertisements. For example, a clothing website could pay Twitter only when a user is steered towards looking at the upcoming collection. Other options include payments after seeing a growth in followers for that specific company, number of app downloads, or the company could even pay for social media user’s email addresses in order to bombard them with advertisements. Before, one had to go out of the way to follow companies or click on ads, make it a personal mission to find media which would direct away from normal social media interactions, whereas now something as simple as retweeting can lead to pop ups and filtration of what content is received.

Like Facebook, Twitter users will have to consciously think about the choices they make on the site. By choosing to download the app, you are giving the company the ability to see your search history and make ads that cater to your previously visited websites. By clicking on an ad, you are telling Twitter exactly what it is you are interested in and allowing them to alter the type of media you are exposed to while its website.

This means that social media has further filtered what people are able to access online. Yes, one could still search for other things in media, but what will be received more frequently because of this new model is very watered-down form of media; diluted media that only exposes the viewer to small portions of what the planet is going through. And although Twitter and Facebook might find this to be an attractive idea for ad companies, they are putting their viewer’s content and the amount of cash earned from ads at risk- now it actually takes more effort to see more ads and earn money.

Either way, this situation limits what can be seen and done online. Someone who finds the ads for polls on celebrities will never see world news pop up on their feed, just as people who follow CNN will never escape the newsroom’s melodrama. This circumstance forces users of social media to be more scrupulous of what they search for online, because using these outlets of communication forfeit privacy and choice over what they consume.

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