Contributed by Joe Montero
In case anyone didn’t notice, a war is being waged against Facebook. The social media platform may not be innocent. Users know only too well, about how its algorithms work to exclude any and allow harmful posts and manipulation by those who have the ability and financial capacity to advantage to gain the platform and maliciously orchestrate the vilification and blocking of others.
This war is not being waged to put an end to these failures. Ed internationally and in Australia by Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, this is about knocking off a business rival and gaining control over online news. Salvos against Facebook have been fired consistently over the years and have recently gathered pace.
The Australian government bowed to Murdoch’s pressure and imposed fees to media outlets, which is to serve as the Trojan Horse towards setting up paywalls and giving news Corp the lion’s share of ownership of this market. Tumbling Facebook is a necessary step towards making this a reality.
Other media corporations want a piece of their own action
The bottom line is that social media controlled by Murdoch would be much worse than Facebook.
Australia has followed what is going on in the United States, where a Congress committee is operating and has grilled founder and major owner Mark Zuckerberg extensively. Voices within the political elite are calling for more censorship and using the committee to push this barrow. The concern is not about how anything Facebook might be doing wrong affect ordinary people. It is to muzzle criticism of them and exposures that cause problems for the powerful.
Photo from Forbes: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg v Rupert Murdoch
Australia’s deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has weighed in, calling for measures designed to do exactly this.
The war against Facebook was lifted to a higher level with the use of two former data scientists and whistleblowers, Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang.
Haugen alleges harm to children, sowing division, and undermining of democracy in pursuit of breakneck growth and astronomical profits. Many would suggest she has a point and a trove of documents to back what she says. There may be evidence there. But these documents are not there for the public. Facebook claims that research conducted by the company and its results has been quoted out of context and selectively. They might also have a point.
The documents were passed on to regulators and select media outlets. The most important of the media outlets is the Washington Post. It is now owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and major owner of Amazon. Bezos appointed Fred Ryan as its editor and CEO. It happens that Fred is the founding CEO of right-wing and pro Trump Politico, a former official of Ronald Reagan’s administration, and active in the Republican Party.
Sophie Zhang has said much the same, except with more focus on the international aspect.
Both have been sympathetically adopted by the Washington Post and other corporate media.
There couldn’t be a bigger contrast between this and the treatment of other whistleblowers. Take Julian Assange as an example. At the worst he has been vilified, and at worst, the Washington Post and others have acted as apologists for the vendetta against him.
Murdoch may be taking a lower profile regarding the Congress committee’s dealings with Facebook. This does not mean he isn’t playing the general in the overall war. After all, he has more to gain than anyone.