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Facebook's role in media


Facebook is the favorite advertising platform of many businesses, but the algorithm has too many gaps for fake news to rage, making its reputation down.

Facebook's move to limit news in Australia is a risky and unprecedented strategy in the social network's 17-year history. It also goes against the mission that founder Mark Zuckerberg once declared: "Connecting the world", promoting freedom of expression. In addition, the blocking of news sources also contradicts the model maximizing content on platforms that Facebook has pursued for more than a decade.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (left) and Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Photo: Telegraph.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (left) and Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Photo: Telegraph.

Facebook seems to be hoping to rely on public outrage and the limited financial capacity of its press agencies to force the Australian government to make concessions. The decision to block news in Australia also tacitly sends messages to other countries, especially the EU.

The Australian bill, if successful, will have the main function of subsidizing the country's journalism industry. It is especially beneficial for News Corp, which controls 52% of the Australian newspaper market.

The representative of Facebook emphasized that the Australian bill is "fundamentally misunderstanding" about social networks, the platforms that currently help news agencies to reach millions of readers for free. Facebook also asserted that the benefits the company gained from sharing news by press agencies were few, with only about 4% of what users saw on news boards. Facebook argues that the social network has no obligation to pay for content it "doesn't grab or request".

Mark Zuckerberg and Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Telegraph.
Mark Zuckerberg and Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Telegraph.

From one perspective, Facebook's argument is quite correct: publishers depend on the social network to reach their readers, and Facebook could be completely fine without Australian news outlets. Here, however, Facebook itself seems to be trying to misinterpret its role in the media landscape.

Most publishers don't depend on Facebook too much. The social network's post selection algorithms also change constantly and are often suspected of being political bias. However, over the years, the traditional press seems to have no other choice. Facebook has been too successful in attracting the attention of users and has since become the top advertising platform for businesses.

Currently, of Australia's 19 million people over the age of 14, more than 17 million are using Facebook. Social media is the country's third largest source of news after TV and radio. Looking at the criteria Facebook uses to define what "news" is, users can spot the flaws that make fake news easy to spread. Facebook's machine learning system is trained to look for features that fake news sites often lack, such as explicit quotes or editorial transparency.

However, most of the news shared on Facebook today is in the form of images, in which the identity of the original author is often obscured making it even more difficult to check the authenticity. Conspiracy movements such as opposing vaccines often use this as a tactic to evade censorship. Will Facebook's anti-fake robot catch that?

Facebook, on the other hand, should have no trouble recognizing the established and trusted media outlets. Banned legitimate sources of information create the risk that the entire news network will be skewed towards misinformation and conspiracy theories. This can affect life and death in the context of the clear truths about Covid and vaccines that need to be understood by the public today.

If neither side gives in, it will be a test of the true strength of Facebook, as well as whether news agencies can succeed with the new business model. However, the price that the parties must pay will be very expensive.