Friday, February 19, 2021

Facebook blocks news feeds in Australia, but that's OK

Kudos to Australia for sticking to their guns and insisting that Facebook pay for the Australian press news stories they feature in their news feeds, despite threats from Zuckerberg & Co that it would block news-sharing on its platform in Australia.

Well, Facebook has made good on its threats, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Facebook users are the ultimate in lazy surfers, content to suck up whatever Facebook's algorithms throw at them, happy in their little confirmation bias bubble. And much of this is fake news, as we well know from four years of Trump rule. Now, if they want news, they have to go look for the source, not just whatever skewed angles Facebook pushes at them, maybe subscribe to local media companies, and be subjected to local news compamies' advertisements, not Facebook's.

Interestingly, Google, when faced with the same ultimatum from Australia, caved, and has struck deals with Australian publishers for the use of their news stories. Which, it seems to me, is the right thing to do, morally. Google 1, Facebook 0.

Other countries are taking note of all this, including Canada, which issued a stern rebuke to Facebook. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault: "I must condemn what Facebook is doing. I think what Facebook is doing in Australia is highly irresponsible and compromises the safety of many Australian people." Guilbeault has recently met with counterparts from Australia, Finland, France, and Germany to discuss a common front on dealing with the mews policies of Facebook, Google and others.

Surely, a company full of supposedly bright young things can figure this out (Google did). Paying for what they use will not bankrupt Facebook. Many media publishers, on the other hand, could well find themselves out of business in the next few years unless something changes.


As could have been expected, after days of outraged bluster and vocal recriminations, Facebook quietly caved, and agreed to pay Australian news outlets for their content

Not content with an anticlimactic, and possibly negatively-perceived, news report, they even pledged to invest over $1 billion in the news industry over the next few years. They will probably need it, as other countries follow Australia, realizing that -imagine! - they too can get paid for what they produce.

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