Will Australia break Facebook’s grip on news distribution?

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Crescent International

Safar 18, 1442 2020-10-05

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

Last month the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) introduced a law which would make it binding on Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to pay local media outlets for the content sourced.

It is yet to be seen if the Australian establishment will muster enough political will to implement this move.

Whatever the outcome of Australia’s effort, this needs to be converted into an international campaign to break Facebook’s unhealthy dominance in news distribution.

In any business when one company’s product is used by another, the initial firm is compensated.

Facebook seems to think it is above this rule and appears prepared to fight hard to keep it this way.

As reported by CBC, Facebook Inc. stated that “it would stop Australians sharing news content on its platforms if a proposal to make it pay local media outlets for their content becomes law, escalating tension with the Australian government.”

Facebook’s unhealthy dominance over the news distribution process facilitates an environment where organizations with a smaller budget are given an impression that they are given broader exposure.

Overall, this creates an illusion of freedom of speech and information, while in reality it is mainly the corporate news organizations which get their perspective out to a large segment of the global audience.

A few years ago, Facebook made it so that only by manually changing the settings, does one get to see news posts of news organizations a person liked on Facebook.

Except that the so-called “trusted sources” are designated by Facebook itself.

This function makes it difficult for smaller news outlets to get their news reports out to the larger global public unless they pay for their posts to be boosted.

As pointed out by causely’s blog “even if you have accumulated a ton of followers, the number of people who will actually see your content is much smaller than it appears.”

Even though journalists are thinking of ways to decrease their dependence on Facebook, it is difficult to do it in practical terms.

The fact that you are reading this analysis most probably by accessing through Facebook testifies to this fact.

Three months ago, Editor in Chief of 5pillarsuk, Roshan Muhammed Salih, while pointing out many positive aspects of social media platforms like Facebook, also highlighted the need for Muslim media outlets to urgently create alternative social media platforms.

He righty pointed out that on Western platforms they are most likely to be censored.

Even though this should be the desired strategic goal, it requires large sums of money and most importantly support from powerful institutions.

Recent developments in Australia coincide with the interests of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

He is losing money to Facebook.

Thus, there is a possibility that Murdoch and ACCC may finance this initial step in breaking Facebook’s monopoly.

While this comes from undesirable quarters, at least for Machiavellian reasons, the Australian initiative should be supported.

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