Facebook has decided to show the Australian Government its resolve by removing Australian news content from Facebook across the globe yesterday, and it’s certainly made news (ironically). Rather than pay news media for sharing their content – its debatable whether it actually does this – it’s simply gone and removed all such content from the site, and anyone who attempts to post anything with a link to Australian news has their post blocked.
It has caused an outpouring of discontent, with various news media organisations large and small taking to – wait for it – Facebook to tell their readers how to find their content now it can’t be found on Facebook.
We’ve already seen various forms of ingenuity, from putting spaces in URLs so would-be readers can paste it into their address bar, remove spaces, and access content, through to using URL shortening services such as Bit.Ly to “mask” the media organisation’s URL so Facebook can’t filter it.
Frankly, it’s all an exercise in stupidity, and a race to the bottom; Facebook will – if it wants to – catch on to these tricks very swiftly, and soon enough they won’t work either. If Facebook wants Australian news off its platform, it’s going to happen quickly and mostly effectively, too.
If it’s not sneaky URLs, its content creators posting videos (for the first time in ever) on Facebook – again, LOL – encouraging their readers to actually read their websites instead of finding their news on Facebook.
This, folks, is precisely the danger of hitching your wagon to a private enterprise for getting your content out there. When that enterprise doesn’t want to help you anymore, you’re adrift without so much as a single oar.
People may say the same thing about Google, and to a large degree they’d be correct. Just as Facebook has wiped Australian news from its platform, so too could Google … except the search giant has indicated it won’t be doing this, and is in fact reaching deals with most major media organisations as we speak to comply with the new Australian law.
If Google were to remove Australian news from its search coverage, though, I’d wager most news organisations would cease to exist within days, as a huge volume of any website’s traffic these days is on search referrals from sites like Google.
So, any media organisation that has – wisely – focused its efforts on good practices and performance will still be indexed by Google and will still receive a good volume of traffic from it. Those that have focused on Facebook are facing a rude awakening; that social-first approach wasn’t wise, and will bite back now.
Frankly, I think Facebook without all this content takes it back to what it was probably better at being – a place to connect with family and friends.
By becoming more than that, Facebook largely became the problem rather than the solution. From live-streaming the Christchurch massacre a couple of years ago, to so readily allowing all forms of conspiracy theory to flourish and grow, thoroughly violating any concept of actual privacy and more, Facebook is as often an example of the worst of humanity as it is anything else.
By flexing its corporate muscle in this way, Facebook has yet again demonstrated it is unfit to be considered a public good; it is, after all, a money-driven capitalist corporation which exists for the betterment of its shareholders and its founders. Paying media organisations – however stupid and ill-conceived the law may be – is something that Facebook considers it shouldn’t have to do, given it (effectively) drives a lot of revenue towards media anyway, as it would rather keep that revenue from advertising etc. for itself, rather than share with others.
That greed has pushed Facebook to show its true face to Australia, and while it seems almost certain the move will be backtracked in the not too distant future, one hopes that Australians have a long memory of how quickly, easily and without much concern Facebook acted against us.
It might’ve been trying to send a message to the government, but all it succeeded in doing was sending a message to us all; we’re only as important to Facebook as the revenue we can generate for it, and if we generate an obligation to pay others, then we’re expendable.
Ausdroid ditched Facebook long ago, and we suspect from this week’s actions, many more will be ditching it very soon.