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Should social media carry health warnings?

By Mal Fletcher - posted Thursday, 28 December 2017

Technology in itself is not the problem. We are not a product of the technologies we use, but of how we choose the use them.

However, those who make money trading in personal data have a concomitant responsibility to their data providers. At the very least, they are ethically duty-bound to be honest and accountable about the potential impacts of their product.

We would be horrified if a drug company was allowed to amass a fortune by selling a product known to encourage any form of addiction or depression, without (at the very least) being required to announce the same on its packaging.


We'd be even more disturbed if the same drug provider offered a remedy that said, "Take more of our drug and you'll be fine."

We should be no less disturbed if social media platforms refuse to appropriately address these same side effects. Perhaps it is time such groups were treated as drug companies and required to carry health warnings.

Instead of offering remedies built on people doing more-of-the-same, Facebook - and arguably other social media companies - should be offering concise, accurate and consistent guidelines about keeping the useage habit in check and in the process protecting relationships and mindsets.

In many ways, these platforms offer a helpful, informative and entertaining service. However, they should be required to acknowledge and mitigate the dangers.

Perhaps social media platforms should feature a caution loosely based on one used by gaambling companies: "BEFORE the fun stops, stop!"

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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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