The Ethics of Psychometrics in Social Media: A Rawlsian Approach

Bay, Morten
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Targeted social media advertising based on psychometric user profiling has emerged as an effective way of reaching individuals who are predisposed to accept and be persuaded by the advertising message. In the political realm, the use of psychometrics appears to have been used to spread both information and misinformation through social media in recent elections in the U.S. and Europe, partially resulting in the current, public debate about -˜fake news’. This paper questions the ethics of these methods, both in a commercial context and in the context of democratic processes. The ethical approach is based on the theoretical, contractarian work of John Rawls which serves as a lens through which the author examines whether the rights of citizens, as Rawls attributes them, are violated by this practice. The paper concludes that within a Rawlsian framework, use of psychometrics in commercial advertising on social media platforms is not necessarily unethical, since the user enters freely into a contract that allows for psychometrics to be used, and because this type of advertising is not necessary for full participation in society. The opposite is the case for political information, and thus, the paper concludes that use of psychometrics in political campaigning violates several of Rawls’ ethical maxims.
Critical and Ethical Studies of Digital and Social Media, Facebook, Misinformation, Psychometrics, Social Media, Targeted advertising,
9 pages
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Proceedings of the 51st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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