Right now, the web has a single reigning business model: digital advertising, a $300 billion industry annually.
This business model has upsides, like “free” access to content, tools, and platforms. But there are also steep harms — and consumers bear the brunt of them. Today’s AI-powered targeted advertisements can spread misinformation and disinformation. They can reinforce societal biases and discrimination. They can increase surveillance. And they can even harm the environment.
It may be possible to reform digital advertising to mitigate these harms, but it is also possible to introduce mainstream alternatives?
Harriet Kingaby is a UK-based Mozilla Fellow embedded at Consumers International, where she researches the consequences of AI-enhanced advertising. Kingaby is also co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network, a coalition of organizations supporting ethics in advertising.
Nathalie Maréchal is a U.S.-based senior policy analyst at Ranking Digital Rights. Nathalie led the expansion of the RDR Corporate Accountability Index’s methodology to address human rights risks associated with tech companies’ business models, specifically the role that targeted advertising and algorithmic systems play in shaping internet users’ online experiences.