Column like I see 'em - Facebook isn’t our friend, but in this one case, it’s certainly not our enemy


By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

can’t stand Facebook. While many users of the networking platform are able to use it to great efficiency to keep in touch with friends and family, I think it has outlived its usefulness. For me, Facebook is just the place to find out which relatives/former co-workers are unexpectedly racist or to quietly resent the fact that my friends are much better at vacationing than I am. Those complaints, however, are more of a “me” problem. It’s not Facebook’s fault that I’m not very social with social media.

No, despite my own personal problems and opinions regarding Facebook, I’m here to defend the site against some of the slings and arrows hurled upon it, due to a recent legal fight with Australia.  For the past few weeks, Australian legislators had been considering laws that would force digital giants into payment agreements, essentially requiring them to pay publishers when their articles are posted by users. Facebook responded to the action by just banning the viewing and sharing of Australian news. Now, blocking somebody on Facebook is a real “Richard” move at the best of times, but to do it to an entire country, now that feels like some next level pettiness.

The situation has since been resolved, as Facebook has agreed to a content deal, but I don’t think they should have caved on this for two reasons.  Firstly, it now sets a precedent for other nations to follow, and secondly, Facebook, in this one case, is not the problem.

Who’s using who?

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook has been caught many times engaging in unethical practices. The selling of private user information and its uneven rules on misinformation and hate speech being the worst examples. This content situation, however, falls upon the shoulders of news/media outlets.

The majority of news outlets frame this as a need to “pay for content,” with Facebook accused of, at best, using content without permission or regard for the creator and at worst, stealing said content.

But Facebook doesn’t “use” media content, they link to it. Those links then send the user to the media outlets’ pages, where their content is posted in full. Facebook, Twitter and Google, in this sense, are of benefit, driving people to those pages so that we can convert them into subscriptions or advertising sales.

Get better at your job!

The argument from here by the media suggests that Facebook is using this ability to share news content as a selling point to advertisers…Well yeah! But, they didn’t achieve that dominance by stealing ads or content. They did it by being better at shaping the narrative of value to potential customers than media/news outlets can. It’s not Facebook’s fault that the news media is not very social with social media. Train your potential advertisers that seven shares, four likes and a comment is not blanket coverage. Showcase the value that your online presence creates. If media outlets want some of that sweet internet money, get better at internetting!

Media companies post their content publicly, on their own Facebook pages, specifically so that people can share it. And then they demand payment because Facebook is giving them free advertising? I dislike Facebook, but this decision from Australia is just internet extortion. Hey media, don’t blame Facebook because you can’t do your job…Please remember to like, comment and share this article online...What?

Disclaimer: Column like I see ‘em is a monthly opinion column for the Neepawa Banner & Press. The views expressed in the article are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Neepawa Banner & Press.