Ethics of the Attention Economy: The Problem of Social Media Addiction

Business Ethics Quarterly:1-39 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Social media companies commonly design their platforms in a way that renders them addictive. Some governments have declared internet addiction a major public health concern, and the World Health Organization has characterized excessive internet use as a growing problem. Our article shows why scholars, policy makers, and the managers of social media companies should treat social media addiction as a serious moral problem. While the benefits of social media are not negligible, we argue that social media addiction raises unique ethical concerns not raised by other, more familiar addictive products, such as alcohol and cigarettes. In particular, we argue that addicting users to social media is impermissible because it unjustifiably harms users in a way that is both demeaning and objectionably exploitative. Importantly, the attention-economy business model of social media companies strongly incentivizes them to perpetrate this wrongdoing.

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References found in this work

What is the point of equality.Elizabeth Anderson - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):287-337.
Exploitation.Alan Wertheimer - 1996 - Princeton University Press.
Inequality Reexamined.John Roemer & Amartya Sen - 1994 - Philosophical Review 103 (3):554.
The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal.Martha Craven Nussbaum - 2019 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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