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Niko Härting has the great pleasure of talking to Jeff Jarvis, an American journalist, associate professor, public speaker and former television critic. Jeff Jarvis has written numerous books with his latest one to be published this fall – “The Web We Weave – Why We Must Reclaim the Internet from Moguls, Misanthropes, and Moral Panic”.


Jeff Jarvis is criticizing the Opinion that the European Data Protection Board (EBDP) recently published on the “Pay or Okay” model that Meta has introduced for Facebook and Instagram. The EBDP is arguing that users need to be given the option of using the platforms free of charge and without targeted advertising in order to be GDPR compliant. At the end of the day, the stance that the EBDP takes might endanger the lately established “pure” alternatives that media sites are offering for users who are willing to pay a subscription fee for ad-free news articles.

“It takes a bunch of hyperboles to make this argument”- Jeff Jarvis explains why targeted advertising may be regarded as creepy but can, by no means, be equated with “surveillance”. In strong words, Jarvis criticizes the “moral panic” that tends to blame the internet for all kinds of evils as well as the tendency to interpret the GDPR “in an overblown way”. Attention needs to be paid to actual harm: What is the actual harm for users when they are targeted with ads? What, on the other side, would be the harm for public discourse if media companies and platforms were not able to finance free content by targeted ads?

In more general terms, Niko Härting and Jeff Jarvis also talk about content moderation and the trend of making the large US platforms more and more responsible for content published on the platforms. In a democracy, it is problematic if it is up to private companies and not up to the justice system to police content. There clearly is a power issue as far as the US “internet giants” are concerned. But is this really what privacy and the GDPR are about?