058 Tim Hwang and the internet advertising bubble

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“It’s a bubble!” are the words that scare most industries. So far, the internet ad industry lauded itself with the claims of universal potential and expansion, avoid rumours of its doom, but times are changing.

We sat down with Tim Hwang, writer and researcher, former director of the Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, $26M philanthropic fund and research effort working to advance the development of machine learning in the public interest who previously served as the global public policy lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google to talk about this new book called “Subprime Attention Crisis“.

“Hwang’s new book, Subprime Attention Crisis, lays out the case that the new ad business is built on a fiction. Microtargeting is far less accurate, and far less persuasive, than it’s made out to be, he says, and yet it remains the foundation of the modern internet: the source of wealth for some of the world’s biggest, most important companies, and the mechanism by which almost every “free” website or app makes money. If that shaky foundation ever were to crumble, there’s no telling how much of the wider economy would go down with it.”

Wired, 2020

So how do we proceed? Who’s responsible and who’s to blame for the current situation, where do start and what needs to change in order to stabilize the internet economy and to avoids the pitfalls of a value system build on digital sand?

Music provided by Cousin Silas

Citizen D advice:

  • Rethink the way you’re buying ad-space online
  • Push for regulatory approach
  • Start rethinking the role of personal data in the digital advertising economy

More information:

  • Ad Tech Could Be the Next Internet Bubble – article
  • Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet – review
  • The Ad Tech Bubble Is Set to Burst (For Real This Time!) – review

About the podcast:

Podcast Citizen D gives you a reason for being a productive citizen. Citizen D features talks by experts in different fields focusing on the pressing topics in the field of information society and media. We can do it. Full steam ahead!

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