Understanding the effects of social media is important, When we educate people on the effects and harms, however, we need to make sure we systematically discuss the platforms in order to help show learners how the effects and harms develop.
Platform History—Knowing how the platform has developed, from the first iteration to the current one, helps us understand where the harms might first appear. Scandals, controversies, and ownership describe how the platform reacted and changed.
Platform Use Cases—Knowing what each platform is designed to do help to explain the types of harms that could appear. If a site can be used for sales, it will have a different set of potential harms than a photo-sharing platform.
Platform Features—The features will develop from the use cases. Knowing what features the platform offers allows us to identify where gaps exists in protection, allowing harms to occur.
Monetization/Advertising—This is the main financing model for most social media platforms. How the platform is designed to be used and what features the platform offers will draw a target audience for advertising. The audiences for platforms are not the same. Much like the use cases and the features, the target audience will have potential ways to be harmed.
Algorithms—Algorithms are based upon the use cases, features, and target audiences. They are there to increase viewing time and interaction. The algorithm will produce a lot of data on the user, a member of the target audience, and the user will be shown content and advertisements that match their profile. The algorithm can be exploited by both the platform (privacy) and outside bad actors (disinformation). Additionally, unintentional harm can come by showing the user certain content (mental health, fomo, disturbing content).
Effects/harms—By the time we get through the other tiers, we should have a good idea of the benefits and harms to the user.
Jumping straight to effects limits our ability to successfully mitigate them. Learners need to go through the process in order to understand what produced the effect and at what level it needs to be addressed.
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