AFT Resolution

END SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM AND REGULATE SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN, PROTECT PRIVACY, AND SAVE OUR DEMOCRACY

WHEREAS, by age 12, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of children and 84 percent of teens (13- to 18-year-olds) own a smartphone, and on average, teens’ daily screen time (excluding school and homework) is nearly 7 1/2 hours with 1 hour and 10 min. devoted to social media;[1] and

WHEREAS, Facebook’s own internal research shows Instagram use by some teen girls is related to feeling worse about their bodies, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and confirms a decade of studies revealing the relationship between social media use and types of harm to young people; and

WHEREAS, for U.S. adults, the recent average amount of time spent per day (1) reading a book is 17 minutes, (2) on their smartphone is 5.4 hours and (3) on social media is two hours and three minutes;[2],[3] and

WHEREAS, social media sites are designed to be addictive with the infinite scroll and swipe-to-refresh that generate never-ending targeted content, Instagram’s and Facebook’s “Like” buttons, and comments that provide validation feedback while the brain’s dopamine system reinforces staying on the site, returning to check the media feed, responding to alerts and inducing more posts;[4],[5] and 

WHEREAS, every time someone sends a message on Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, or does a Google search or sends an email using Google’s Gmail, everything is scanned, sorted and stored as part of that person’s advertising profile;[6] and

WHEREAS, the behavior of clicking Facebook’s Like button, “can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes, including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age and gender”; the highest accuracy for correctly classifying individuals are: by race (95 percent), gender (93 percent), male sexual orientation (88 percent) and political affiliation—Democrat vs. Republican (85 percent);[7] and

WHEREAS, in 2018, Facebook (now, Meta) CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress, “We believe that everyone around the world deserves good privacy controls,” but, a year later, a Facebook attorney argued in a U.S. District Court, “There is no privacy interest, because by sharing with a hundred friends on a social media platform … negated any reasonable expectation of privacy”;[8] and 

WHEREAS, surveillance capitalism creates profit by claiming private human experience collected online as a free source of raw material translated into behavioral data that is processed—without individuals’ knowledge or understanding—to create profiles which provide behavior predictions of an individual or group and sold to business customers in a new marketplace to manipulate human behavior. Internet users are not the customer, they are the raw material;[9] and

WHEREAS, surveillance data are used to build psychographic profiles of voters and sold to political campaigns, as revealed by the Cambridge Analytical scandal where CA obtained the data of 87 million Facebook profiles, more than 70 million in the U.S., tested images and messages, and supplied profiles and hundreds of tailored ads to the 2016 Trump campaign to do highly targeted political advertising on social media; and

WHEREAS, surveillance data used to build psychographic profiles of voters to create political ads, use disinformation, and create fake news stories designed to influence specific groups of voters in elections and campaigns around the world are a threat to democratic nations:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will affirm:

  • U.S. federal and state governments must enact legislation that gives internet users the choice to opt out of any data collection process without repercussions and to have access to completely tracking-free advertising;
  • The business model of global tech companies must be reformed to protect against data targeting of personal information, including race, sexuality, gender, health status, and political, religious or philosophical beliefs;
  • Social media platforms must reform algorithmic pathways to end the optimization of divisive and dangerous messages based on disinformation that radicalizes some users, leads to violence and threatens democratic governments; 
  • Anti-trust action must be taken to mitigate the power of global technology giants such as Google and Meta; and

RESOLVED, surveillance capitalism must end; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will affirm that it is the responsibility of tech giants and governments to ensure that timely reforms are made to mitigate the discovered harm done by using social media, such that it would not be the case that viewing and using an app might lead a teenager to consider suicide. 

(July 17, 2022)

[1] “The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2019.” Common Sense Mediahttps://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-media-use-by-tweens-and-teens-2019. Accessed May 21,2022

[2] Published by Statista Research Department, “Daily Social Media Usage Worldwide.” Statista, March 21, 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/433871/daily-social-media-usage-worldwide/. Accessed May 29, 2022.

[3] Hari, Johann. Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022. p. 80.

[4] Price, Catherine. “Trapped—the Secret Ways Social Media Is Built to Be Addictive (and What You Can Do to Fight Back).” BBC Science Focus Magazine, April 15, 2020, https://www.sciencefocus.com/future-technology/trapped-the-secret-ways-social-media-is-built-to-be-addictive-and-what-you-can-do-to-fight-back/. Accessed May 30, 2022.

[5] Ong, Thuy. “Sean Parker on Facebook: 'God Only Knows What It's Doing to Our Children's Brains.” The Verge, Nov. 9, 2017, https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/9/16627724/sean-parker-facebook-childrens-brains-feedback-loop. Accessed May 30, 2022.

[6] Hari, Johann. Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022. p. 125.

[7] Kosinski, Michal, Stillwell, David, and Graepel, Thore. Private Traits and Attributes Are Predictable from Digital Records of Human Behavior—PNAS. (2013) https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1218772110.

[8] Biddle, Sam. “In Court, Facebook Blames Users for Destroying Their Own Right to Privacy.” The Intercept, June 14, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/06/14/facebook-privacy-policy-court/. Accessed May 29, 2022.

[9] Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Public Affairs, 2020.

 

(2022)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.