ChatGPT: ‘The risk of mass manipulation will intensify the PR battle between Big Tech companies’

We’ve become accustomed to using Google to direct us to relevant web pages. But why search these pages – while generating ad revenue for the company in the process – if artificial intelligence (AI) can find the answer to our questions straight away? We use Amazon for a shopping experience that features sponsored product listings. What will happen to them when AI immediately suggests the perfect product? We use Facebook or Instagram to connect with our communities. What will happen if AI becomes the one making these connections and generating the majority of posted content? This new generation of AI removes the reasons that users spend time browsing the web. But our time and clicks are monetized, which poses a problem to the very heart of the internet: its advertising model.

As a result, Big Tech (Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft) will probably give in to the temptation to replace advertising with manipulation. Back in 2014, the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed that it was possible to influence citizens’ votes by presenting them with fabricated information. Since then, the game Candy Crush has shown that it is possible to create enough of an addiction to then charge for continued playing. Meta has indicated that it has the ability to modify its algorithms to improve the wellbeing of its users. And the voluntary spreading of misinformation has convinced 1 in 10 French people that the Earth is flat.

From now on, a similar use of new-generation AI will make it possible to sell to the highest bidder not an audience, but a direct revenue-generating service – or even a number of favorable (or unfavorable) opinions! Yet this business of manipulation will come at the expense of consumers’ and voters’ ability to judge. MEPs were alarmed by the danger that Cambridge Analytica revealed for democracy – but that was in the Stone Age of AI. Today, the industrialization of manipulation is a systemic risk, just as global warming is an ecosystemic risk.

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In addition, Big Tech’s markets have started to overlap. Amazon and Apple have recently invited themselves into the advertising market dominated by the Meta-Google duopoly, which in turn is venturing into e-commerce. Microsoft wants to expand the Xbox Store to mobile against Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. After video, music, cloud, and payment services, it is now the metaverse’s turn, whose issues could surpass those of the smartphone or even the internet. And although Apple has not yet announced a product in this sector, Meta and Microsoft have already joined forces against it.

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