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Scientist argues social media is a 'manipulation scheme'

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Prominent computer scientist, Jaron Lanier, has argued that people should delete all of their social media accounts.

He featured on BBC’s topical debate programme, Hardtalk, and told audiences that deleting social media accounts could give them a better perspective on life. Lanier described social media as a “surveillance scheme” and a “manipulation scheme”, headed up by companies like Facebook.

He’s written a book entitled ‘Ten Reasons for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now’ and believes that social media can be immensely harmful. “Every time people connect through the internet it is financed by those who wish to manipulate the users” he argued.

He also referred to a “behaviour modification scheme”. Lanier believes that the way social media sites can tailor and adapt their advertisements depending on an individual’s demonstrated preferences makes them much more threatening than television advertising. The computer scientist was keen to argue that these constant adjustments that sites make can ultimately modify an individual’s behaviour.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter argue they simply function to help people connect more efficiently and to stay in touch. Lanier responded: “the direct experience of users and what they do can often be quite positive, quite authentic, and I’d be the last to dispute that. The problem is that in the background it’s feeding this manipulation machine.”

But it might not be as simple as deleting all your accounts. Lanier asserts that Facebook have “deliberately created an addictive scheme. Large numbers of people are addicted and will not be able to delete their accounts”.

As a result the computer scientist conceded that he can’t expect everyone to delete their accounts. He does hope that “young people who have only known life while they are connected to these things will be motivated to get off them at least for a while”.

He continued “if the whole of society is universally tied into a manipulative scheme we can’t have conversations because there’s no one left to give perspective.” He argued that some members of society being disconnected from social media gives us the ability to have wider conversations and real perspective. 

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