Is Pressure Enough to Get Big Tech to Create Safe Internet?

The Biden White House recently unveiled a document that they believe will set the tone for responsible use of one of the most critical technologies that is set to define both the long-term and short-term future of Americans — Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The document, “The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights: Making Automated Systems Work for the American People,” was released just weeks ago by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (WHOSTP). It specifically lays out five principles that the WHOSTP feels should guide the “design, use, and deployment” of automated systems to protect Americans in the age of artificial intelligence.

The 76-page Blueprint’s five key points of emphasis are creating safe and effective AI systems, providing algorithmic discrimination protections, data privacy, clarified notice and explanations of how AI may be used, and providing alternative options for consumers that choose to opt out.

Although the idea of ​​either regulating the use of or providing guidance in the AI ​​space may seem like a groundbreaking idea, the truth is, about 60 countries already have national AI strategies and the United States is largely playing catch-up.

And as a result of leading from behind, Big-Tech giants, who are on the cutting edge of collecting the data that is fueling most of the major platforms already leveraging AI, are now using their data irresponsibly and consumers are bearing the brunt of those efforts.

This has mostly been seen in the overly aggressive advertising models offered by companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook that put a premium on profitability over consumer protection. These companies, which possess a virtual monopoly on ecommerce have long engaged in irresponsible and deceptive behaviors.

The advertising networks affiliated with these behemoths are notorious for ruining the average consumer’s internet experience by bombarding them with countless misleading and confusing advertisements.

For instance, the typical advertisements people are presented with on download sites may be hidden as buttons, or pages may provide a multitude of advertisements disguised as clickable buttons that appear to serve a completely different purpose all together.

For instance, Google’s ad network serves up ads that look like website actions, which generate lots of clicks and make lots of money for the websites who host them.

Because these ads look like website actions (like download, or start quiz), the consumer thinks they’re taking an action that’s endorsed by the website, and they follow through the ad to the landing page, installing the software, which leads them to unintended purchases. They get cheated this way, all starting with the misleading ad.

That misleading ad got served up because Google’s AI was irresponsible: it measured the click effectiveness (how many times the ad got clicked when it was shown), and it measured the amount the advertiser was willing to pay per click.

Because presumably no human is overseeing this process, ads masquerading as website actions get increasingly shown on these action-oriented sites (download software, take a quiz). These kinds of actions particularly exploit novice web users and the elderly.

Although these behaviors are more consistent with annoying applications that exist on the fringes of the malware world and are referred to as adware, surprisingly these practices are promoted and monetized by Big-Tech companies.

Now consumer protection groups have begun to take a stand on behalf of internet users against this kind of malicious online profiteering. One notable example is an organization known as AppEsteem. Their organization has been leading the fight against unwanted software and unfair consumer practices online for the past six years.

According to their President Dennis Batchelder, who once worked for Microsoft on their security products, “Unfair ads lead less internet-savvy consumers into unwanted downloads and purchases.

The Big-Tech companies who control how these misleading ads get shown need to show more respect to consumers. They’re polluting the web browsing experience, and we’re calling them out as a practical first step to get them to change.”

AppEsteem recently established a list of nine Ad Pollution Indicators and has called out 30 ad networks, including the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. By doing so, they hope to start an honest conversation about how today’s automated online advertising is exploiting consumers.

Over the next few months, AppEsteem hopes to build pressure against BigTech’s unfair advertising practices by assembling an industrywide coalition and releasing their own software that protects consumers against ad pollution.

The internet is a dangerous enough place without the so-called “powers that be” enabling malicious behaviors. Hopefully with enough pressure, Big-Tech will begin to alter their practices in an effort to create a safer environment for all web surfers.

Julio Rivera is a small business consultant, political activist, writer, and editorial director. He has been a regular contributor to Newsmax since 2016, on both its web pages and television network. His commentary has also appeared in The Hill, The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Toronto Sun, and more. Read Julio Rivera’s Reports—More Here.

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