Do platforms have a responsibility to increase happiness?

TBD Conference
2 min readJun 17, 2023

The big platforms have been accused of being, doing and allowing many things over the decades that have affected users and the wider population. During the time of quarantine and self-isolation do platforms have a responsibility to boost the mood and health of users where possible?

Photo by Mindspace Studio on Unsplash

Music makes people happy. Spotify’s playlists have tens of millions of users each week that subscribe to playlists. ‘Today’s Top Hits’ has 25 million alone. Is it prudent for the platform during times of isolation to limit the amount of sadder songs? Should Spotify and Apple Music use their algorithms to increase the mood when possible? Should the user be aware of these changes? Should authorities? Could the Samaritans or an SMS chatbot be implemented? The possibilities are endless. The implications are interesting. Could Dua Lipa on repeat be a prescription? Unlikely but the idea speaks to a larger issue, what responsibility do platforms have for the global population during such times?

The biggest platform of them all, Facebook, has been shown in the past to manipulate feeds and be able to identify and even target unhappy people. Does the company have a responsibility to help cheer them up? Could users be asked if they’d like to see different content if specific factors were observed? Should Facebook be doing more to inform those who choose to read sites that are well-known for misinformation? What is Facebook’s role in a Pandemic beyond information quality? Could, or should, Facebook be pumping happy news items into people’s feeds? When does it become propaganda? How would we judge what is enough? Who should this fall on?

Imagining such changes were made, what then are the implications for when life returns to normal? Would we need to be weaned off the positive dopamine afterwards? Would this then cause more problems as real-world realities set in? Is a temporary bubble still a prison?

The next few weeks will be trying times for millions across the globe and they begin to grapple with a world that is sputtering to cope with changes in daily life. Pandemics inevitably turn political and technology platforms are beginning to pick sides whether that’s through misinformation or banning strategies. Technology has a lot of impact during such times and as platforms mature understanding their roles and responsibilities has never been more important from a social, political and economic standpoint.

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TBD Conference

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