Economic Liberties Explains Why Policymakers Must Ban Targeted Advertising

February 3, 2021 Press Release

Washington, DC — As the Biden administration and Congress consider policy responses to the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, the American Economic Liberties Project today released “How To Prevent the Next Social Media-Driven Attack On Democracy—and Avoid a Big Tech Censorship Regime,” a new policy brief that explains why confronting the gatekeeping power and corrupt profit motive of social media platforms is key to addressing online extremism.

“There’s a direct connection between increasing radicalization in society and social media platforms’ profit motives,” said Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Until political leaders recognize that these tech barons make their billions by selling tickets to the end of American democracy and act to address their toxic business model, online extremism will get worse.”

As Economic Liberties’ new policy brief explains, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google-owned YouTube make money through targeted advertising, creating specialized interfaces to keep users engaged and collect as much data as possible to sell to specific advertisers. And because sensational, click-bait content keeps users online longer, the platforms allow it to spread or even promote it themselves.

The brief argues that addressing this business model is key to thwarting online extremism. It focuses on three specific policy recommendations, including:

  • Banning targeted advertising by communications platforms through either Federal Trade Commission agency rulemaking or legislation;
  • Repealing or reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so that traditional legal claims such as defamation, fraud, incitement, harassment, and so forth apply to platforms who profit from spreading dangerous and illegal content. A possible reform path would be to remove protections for firms that use algorithms to monetize data; and
  • Implementing the recommendations in the House Antitrust Subcommittee’s report on digital markets to force common carriage rules on big tech firms that operate critical private infrastructure so that anyone engaged in legal behavior has access to this infrastructure on equal terms for equal service.

Read “How To Prevent the Next Social Media-Driven Attack On Democracy—and Avoid a Big Tech Censorship Regime” here.

Learn more about Economic Liberties  here.   


The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.