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Facebook

Travesty – a false or distorted misrepresentation of something

By Leonie Saunders  

What the Morrison government aided and abetted by the ineptitude of a sycophantic Opposition is a travesty.

Comparing Facebook to Google with regards to the distribution of news is like comparing apples with oranges.

The only comparison that can be made is that like Murdoch’s NewsCorp, Google and Facebook do not pay taxes – see Crikey’s article – “Tax dodging News Corp continues to rip Australia off – and is subsidised by taxpayers to do so“. Unfortunately, for verification purposes one of the many consequences of the Government’s pernicious agenda to undermine public interest journalism being shared on Facebook is I am unable to share the link to Crikey.

Now for some clarity as to the current travesty the Morrison Government is promulgating.

To begin with, unlike Facebook, Google’s search engine scrapes (indexes) news content that publishers do not provide voluntarily. Google has long been moving to an answer engine and not a search engine for sometime and has been coming under fire from many who rely on search traffic for their business. In short, Google is known for not paying for the content that supports its free search engine which drives its business model (advertising, i.e. using your data and traffic history to support an advertising business model).

On the other hand, whilst it is true that Facebook also sells our data to advertisers, it does not scrape (index) content on other websites into its platform. The reason news publishers and Government willingly post information on Facebook is due to the size of its Australian information sharing audience. News publishers and governments willingly add links on Facebook in the hope that its users will follow the links to their respective websites.

I can’t help but conclude that Murdoch – as an inherent monopolist – is jealous that it wasn’t he who cornered the social media market. Which, come to think of it, is somewhat oxymoronic given that if Murdoch owned Facebook, the social ingredient would no longer exist.

That most significant aspect revealed in the law that the Morrison Government proposes is that the government – and indeed the political class and mainstream news media journalist alike – are fundamentally averse to open public debate. Glass-jawed egotists populating Government and news media outlets are typically hostile to their work being viewed through a critical lens. Facebook providing a platform for critical thinking Australians to engage in open political debate is anathema to them. Indeed, critical thinking is the nuts and bolts of grass roots ‘journalism’. But more on that in a bit.

This law like most that the Australian government is proposing to introduce next week is inept and full of holes. It is extraordinarily vague in its application and understanding. Equally inept was Facebook shutting down some Government and non-Government pages. And despite the fact that the majority of these pages were quickly reinstated, the failure of media organisations to report the news accurately without cherry-picking to support their bias is proven by the fact that we are not getting that information from them now, are we?

Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that PR-wise the people running Facebook in Australia were stupidly ham-fisted. Fancy giving the Government a big stick talking point to divert public attention from the real travesty going on with the legislation being proposed.

With respect to the nature of this page, let us ‘connect the dots’ behind the motivation behind this proposed law. The Murdoch press hides the majority of its content behind a paywall; wanting its users to pay for the content they publish. Whilst that is a business model Murdoch’s NewsCorp and other publishers have the right to pursue. It is ironic that they complain the loudest by using a ‘free’ platform like Facebook which allows them to drive significant traffic to these paywalls by people sharing news articles.

Facebook claims the company generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimate of AU$407 million and News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their news feeds.

The Government wants Facebook to pay for any links shared to news articles. The same links that go to a paywall wants you to pay for reading said content. This approach flies in the face of the democratic integrity that people sharing information on the Internet was originally designed to facilitate. Furthermore, aided and abetted by a sycophantic Labor Opposition, the Morrison Government is setting up a double-dipping system in which paywalled news outlets like Murdoch’s NewsCorp will benefit twofold.

Now that Google has created a ‘news showcase’ product that will pay millions of dollars to news publishers, as it should if it’s using content for its benefit, the public can only hope that rather than the clickbait headline shit put out by Murdoch et al, the money paid to news publishers by Google will not be sucked up by the major shareholders, but instead will go towards quality investigative journalism that is sorely lacking in the modern Western world’s mainstream commercial media outlets. We must never forget that as a search engine Google is inextricably intertwined with the content it indexes.

Back to the support of grass roots journalism.

I ask you, are Australia’s high quality independent news media publishers, freelance journalists and even pages like ours going to receive any financial compensation for publishing, discussing, critiquing and critically analysing news stories? I think not.

It will only be the big players who get compensated in this ‘law’. Ipso facto this is not a law proposed to support public interest journalism at all. But rather, it is crafted to support Mr Murdoch’s media empire.

Are academics going to be compensated for the valuable information they provide for free through articles shared oh Facebook? Information which is of a far higher standard than the powerful media monopolies which use their position to push their owner’s political agendas.

One could also propose that this action plays very nicely into the hands of the Government who would rather tear down and disperse the audience from the new ‘public square’ of debate. How fortuitous it is that Government policies and actions will not be as easily discussed or shared across the 40% of Australians who use Facebook for their news. How easily would we learn of the mishandling of Dutton’s grant applications or pork barrelling sports grants leading up to an election? This list of this Government’s crimes and misdemeanours goes on and on. Controlling social media is an early sign of Fascism. The public’s ability to share and disseminate information so widely via the Internet has concerned Governments for many years now. Authoritarian governments ban the platform completely in their countries so the public cannot voice their dissent.

So whilst the Government protests Facebook removing the information posted by this country’s news outlets on the platforms pages, I would argue it’s a smokescreen as this law plays just nicely into keeping the public silenced in respect to the dissemination of news and current affairs that has for far to long been under NewsCorp’s control.

The blessing and curse of the Internet is the huge amount of information available to us, both good and often very bad. It is a reflection of our society.

 

 

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7 comments

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  1. paul walter

    Yes.

    The only people who seem unable to see through the hypocrisy and trace back yet another IPA-originated problem created by Murdoch tabloidism back to Murdoch and cronies, seem to be the politicians and Press Gallery.

    Strange that the myopia is so selective. The Crikey headliner should be across every newspaper and TV/radio news and current affairs, but the public are so dumbed down they wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    If I looked for a while, no doubt I could pick a fault in the posting, but it expresses this writers views so effectively I would be churlish to do that.

  2. David Evans

    Wouldn’t NOW be a good time for a Global boycott of all murdoch product? And for an explanation as to why Australian taxpayers periodically ‘donate’ tens of millions $$$ compliments of morrison and co?

  3. Ill fares the land

    Thanks for this article. You know, many years ago, Myer was going be floated in a public listing. At the time, it was possibly not a bad investment (it would be now), but I was totally warned off when Jennifer Hawkins was appointed as the “face of the listing”. It seemed to me that the hoopla was intended to divert attention away from the fundamental issues and create a kind of momentum – i.e., was the business a sound investment. I concluded it could not be and didn’t invest. Moving forward 10 or 15 years (I can’t really remember the timeline, but I am old), we have President Bargearse Morrison and his Treasurer Frumpenbluster telling us that Google and Facebook should pay for their news feeds in order to ensure that Australians can get access to quality journalism. Hmmm. Since the starting point is that Murdoch is behind this, the issue is not “quality journalism” – NewsCorp and quality journalism is an oxymoron if ever there was. There’s talk about the “power of Google and Facebook” and that they pay minimal tax in Australia (true, but how is the latter actually relevant). But, all of the bluster by a pair of boofheads tells me that the real issue is being kept secret – not that it is not legitimate, but if the underlying message were truthful, it would be too obvious that what is happening is not what we are being told. We agree that Google and Facebook have way too much power and both abuse that power. What we should also realise is that paying for news links is not about quality journalism – even if Murdoch collects tens of millions from Google and FB, he isn’t going to spend one cent of it on “quality journalism”. This is about Murdoch using his power to make the Australian parliament recover some of the advertising revenue he has lost to Google and FB because they command a much bigger audience than NewsCorp. As usual, the truth is kept from us to make us believe that Google and FB are the eternal bad guys and Bargearse and his simpering Treasurer are standing at the gates, defending us from rampaging corporates. If we were told that this legislation is about restoring NewsCorp’s lost advertising revenue, we would most likely never accept that the government who says the “market should decide all things” should be passing a law to help Murdoch, so we have to be sold a mountain of claptrap. I think the most likely outcome here is that the losers will be the small independent media outlets (e.g., The Aim; Conversation, Guardian, The New Daily et alia). Murdoch might have the power to negotiate on some kind of equal footing with Google and FB, with the government doing his bidding, but the smaller players simply do not and Zuckerberg is not going to make any kind of voluntary ex-gratia payment. This can only have the effect of marginalising the smaller media outlets – outlets who, overwhelmingly, are critical and often vehemently so, of Bargearse and his desperation for absolute power.

  4. Joseph Carli

    On Twitter….: Joe Carli
    @JAYSEE423
    ·
    13m
    Hey!…How many times do we hear smart-arse MSM journos say “If you don’t like what you’re hearing/seeing change the channel”…Well..now that Facebook says TO THEM “we don’t like what we’re hearing from the govt’..so we’re switching off!”….& the MSM squeals like a stuck pig!

  5. Andrew J. Smith

    Fascinating to see the hubris from media and MPs over and against ‘BigTech’ backgrounded much confusion and digital illiteracy by key players i.e. media and MPs, acting on behalf of our overly influential media cartel or oligopoly; cognitive dissonance?

    Meanwhile both the government and big media are now positively spinning the surprise move by Facebook, although based upon their own proposed law, as something illegal or unethical, but Facebook (a private company) did what was offered vs. rolling over and paying (they assumed Facebook would not pull the pin). Then…. trying to argue that Facebook’s move will impinge upon older regional people, without explaining, that is because NewsCorp et al closed down, merged and/or hid local newspapers behind pay walls…..

    A joke that pay walled article stubs, indexed and promoted for free should be paid for by Google? Meanwhile the Google News Showcase had been planned for sometime globally, but presented as an initiative sparked by and in Oz as a media and govt. win; not.

    Not only are the $ amounts offered by Google a fraction of media outlets’ ambit claims, but making an issue of links threatens the model of Google; plus sole traders, small biz and SMEs who have invested in SEO to be found in the trusted organic search results? In addition to the bleeding obvious on the past form of media outlets gaining favours or subsidies from (‘owned’) govt., unclear how funding would translate into quality journalism and also support regional media?

    Further, what Oz media has not addressed is better practice, i.e. how Facebook/Google are constrained legally in the EU under various frameworks but does not fit Oz because what is good for the goose is good for the gander, let alone acting upon or complying with any regulation in Oz by media even when gifted ‘subsidies’, advantageous tweaks in regulation etc..

    Otherwise EU regulations and their broader effect i.e. the ‘Brussels Effect’ on standards globally, e.g. anti-competitive behaviour re. corporate monopolies/oligopolies, transparent financial transfer and tax arrangements, EU GDPR now becoming global standard, plus now Digital Services etc., are anathema to NewsCorp.

    How will all this noise, grandstanding and deflection, by both the media and government, improve the quality of journalism, regional (and urban) media diversity, stop fake news or outright lies in political PR, and most of all, inform voters? It will not, but that’s not the point, but is about the ‘Canberra bubble’ protecting its own ‘standover merchant’ making Australia look like a sub-optimal or ‘illiberal democracy’?

  6. wam

    this government makes laws on hearsay and public polling. Hastily concocted with little thought and untested.
    Sunrise displayed the facebook law as for show to the media that scummo is prepared to look after murdoch and ch9, in order for them to support him in the election
    There is no doubt the legislation will be as full of holes as zuckerderg’s reaction.
    The zuck has apologised for errors and redressed the situation for most of the businesses affected.

    Meanwhile scummo has bribed his way to destroying the family court. The consensus of the learned being as a probable disaster for women. So why would that worry conservative men and women, like patrick and phon, as long as they got their silver.

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