Does it ever feel like you’re running into more click-bait and low-quality content everyday on the internet? Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter, Medium, and Blogger is letting us know this isn’t coincidence. In an interview with CNN, Williams gives us his insights on how online advertising as it stands today is incentivized to serve us attention-grabbing content at the cost of real substance.
To sum it up: “A fundamental problem with our information ecosystem is attention gets rewarded, not quality of information.”
“The most nefarious feedback loop that drives belief and misinformation on the internet and in media in general is that it’s all driven by advertising and it’s all free and attention is valued and if you can generate attention then you can get paid. You don’t get paid more if it’s attention based on someone consciously choosing to pay attention or you scream ‘fire’ in a theater. You still get paid.”
So who’s writing the checks? Williams – a current member of Twitter’s board of directors – points his finger at Silicon Valley.
“Most of fake news… some of it was driven by ideological beliefs, a ton of it was driven by people just making a buck on ads. Who was sending them money? It was the major ad platforms. It was these tech companies,” he said.
Responding directly to the recent revelation that Russian actors spent approximately $100,000 on Facebook ads to spread fake news during the 2016 election, Williams gave us a sobering message about Facebook’s goal to increase profit margins.
“The thing that we should acknowledge is that anyone selling ads – these ad-driven platforms – are benefiting from a lot of the fake information and misinformation.” he said. “That’s the thing that I think is the most broken about the information economy we live in.”
Harsh words if informative.