Contributed by Joe Montero
Facebook is taking a hit. A list of corporations in the United States have pulled their advertising form the platform, on the grounds race hate political content is being allowed. There is also the tendency of Facebook algorithms to block material of the opposite political bent. Private information has been passed to others.
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, which he owns, are far from innocent. His claim that he is not in the business of censorship does not stand up to scrutiny.
But to suggest that Facebook stands apart from the other major platforms is untrue. The main difference is that Facebook and its subsidiaries, like Messenger and WhatsApp, are by far the most widely used.
Rupert Murdoch and his NewsCorp are heavily involved in the demonisation of Facebook. This is another reason why it is singled out. Why are Merdoch and NewsCorp doing this? To make a big entry into digital and social media.
Murdoch’s traditional style media is waning under technological change and a turning away from its signature tabloid style ultra-right ideology. Although a part of the shrinking base remains fiercely loyal, this is not enough to cover business needs.
Murdoch’s strategy out of this, is to shift away from traditional media and move onto digital platforms, where it will bring its business model and politics. An important key of the strategy, is the imposition of a user pays model by setting up pay walls.
Facebook is too strong to be taken over directly. Murdock tried to buy the company in 2006 and failed. Open war between the two companies broke out in 2016. Dissatisfaction with Facebook is now being manipulated, through a barrage of propaganda and the use of pressure through the political systems in which NewsCorp operates.
The objective is to have laws brought in that enforce the user pays system.
Care should be taken not to be mesmerised into being used as pawns for Murdoch’s ambitions. Demanding a better performance from Facebook is one thing. Helping to pave the way for a Murdoch takeover is another one entirely.
Murdoch routinely uses freedom of speech as his slogan. In reality, he has always meant no restriction for his empire and the silencing of everyone else. It is the same in this case.
The impact of user laws would be to force Facebook and other social media platforms to pay for access to news stories shown to originate form existing publishers. Because Murdoch owns so much media in the countries in which he operates, his company would be the major beneficiary, and it would also lay the foundation for extending the empire through the Internet.
Facebook may be forced to hand over money. Part of it would come from advertiser’s revenue. But the real target is payment for the sale of content, which will ultimately flow onto everyday users. Murdoch already imposes this on his online media.
If this comes to pass, it will mark a serious curb on to access to information. Murdochesque news and conspiracy theories will not be curbed. They will increase. Income will not be provided to journalists. most will go to publishers like NewCorp, which are employing fewer journalists, as they become increasingly reliant on using digital alternatives and social media platforms.
Bringing in this regime will threaten the use of social media as a channel for alternative views, a means for whistleblowers to expose the wrongdoings of the powerful, and as an aid to community organising. The threat extends to public and not for profit community television and radio broadcasting.
Social media is where a growing proportion of journalists find a voice.
They will be nudged out.
In Australia, the Murdoch empire controls most of the major print media, a swag of radio stations, and has moved into television through its acquisition of the Nine Network. Public broadcaster the ABC is being targeted. Murdoch has led its demonisation, imposes pressure to restrict its content, and now wants to impose user pay onto it.
A suggestion doing the rounds, is that thew ABC can gain form this by selling its own content to cover dwindling government funding. The ABC’s CEO recently parroted this as the answer to falling government funding. By going down this road, the ABC will shift decisively onto a commercial foundation, paving the way to its privatisation. And Murdoch will be in the best position to take it.
User pays is also a threat to the network of community run radio stations, which could also be compelled to pay for broadcasting news and stories that incur a user pays cost.
There are good reasons to be dissatisfied with Facebook and campaigning for better. But this should not cloud the reality that there is a bigger game being played here. It is even more important to keep Murdoch from taking over.
Mark Zuckerberg is saying that he will not comply. For this he is being accused of threatening to not provide breaking news and important information. Think about this. It is publishers. Led by Murdoch, who are saying they will stop access – unless Facebook pays up.