Is the Attention Economy Noxious?Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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A growing amount of media is paid for by its consumers through their very consumption of it. Typically, this new media is web-based and paid for by advertising. It includes the services offered by Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. We offer an ethical assessment of the attention economy, the market where attention is exchanged for new media. We argue that the assessment has ethical implications for how the attention economy should be regulated. To conduct the assessment, we employ two heuristics for evaluating markets. One is the “harm” criterion, which relates to whether the market tends to engender extremely harmful outcomes for individuals or society as a whole. The other is the “agency” criterion, which relates not to the outcomes of the market, but rather, to whether it somehow reflects or has its source in weakened agency. We argue that the attention economy animates concerns with respect to both criteria and that new media should be subject to the same sort of regulation as other harmful, addictive products.