News Corp’s risible fake news about Facebook slap down

IF you believe the senior columnists at The Weekend Australian, we spend most of our time in a state of panic about cyclones, floods and coronavirus. We cannot get a weather report from any other source, cannot hear the latest on a pandemic the mainstream media have been cynically hyping for click dividends for a year, cannot telephone a hospital, cannot get advice from a rural fire brigade. In short, without news and emergency service links on Facebook, we’re all going to die – possibly during an attack of the killer tomatoes.

This is a power play shootout never seen before. It is a war between Australian sovereignty and global digital monopoly. It pits Australian lawmaking democracy against the big tech “masters of the universe” in the form of Facebook deploying its media power against Australia…

Facebook verified the need for the bargaining code by showing its willingness to sabotage news and public interest content to further its financial interest; it showed by this action it was not just a publisher asserting its rights over content but an irresponsible publisher; it was ready to use the 11 million Australians using Facebook as collateral damage in its intimidation campaign; and it exposed its contempt for the Australian government and, beyond that, for Australian sovereignty.

Facebook has left itself open to class-action lawsuits and could even face prosecution after the pages of hundreds of charities, groups and government agencies were “unconscionably” caught up in the platform’s wiping of Australian news content this week…

Allan Fels, the chair of Public Interest Journalism and the former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Facebook was not demonstrating their social license to operate.

“It is unconscionable for Facebook to limit access to Australian Government information, be it weather, health or bushfire information,” Professor Fells said in a statement.

No matter how large US energy giant Standard Oil was before it was famously broken up in 1911, it didn’t also control the flow of all digital information. It might have charged consumers too much, but it couldn’t distort their beliefs or opinions.

 
The Australian here. Check the BOM here. COVID latest here. In an emergency, phone triple 0. No worries.

There has been no sabotage, limitation or unconscionable control wielded over any of these sites, neither public or private. Josh Frydenberg has been boasting this week that his new media laws constitute global leadership. Now, while a portion of Kelly’s argument today is conceivably true – that Mark Zuckerberg has decided to take a stand in Australia to frighten other states and avoid revenue losses that could be massive if the Treasurer’s model becomes an international template – it misses the wider geo-political and cultural point.

While the target of the Frydenberg gambit is novel, the thinking behind it is just old-fashioned protectionism. It’s a minimum price for potatoes, a complaint that we need fries and a denial that fish and chip shops abound. What governments should do – and what is genuinely hard – is pass laws to make Big Tech liable for crippling damages if and when they violate free speech. The law should be hair-triggered to blast them for the kind of corrupt gamesmanship exhibited during the US presidential election. Speak to your Polish counterpart, Josh. Imitate him and I’ll be impressed. This is the reform our democracy desperately needs.

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45 Responses to News Corp’s risible fake news about Facebook slap down

  1. stackja says:

    Mark created this problem. No one else is responsible.

  2. Roger says:

    What governments should do – and what is genuinely hard – is pass laws to make Big Tech liable for crippling damages if and when they violate free speech.

    Slight problem with that in Australia:

    We have next to no legal protection of free speech to start with.

  3. Ian of Brisbane says:

    Pal Kelly and PVO will cause me to cancel my subscription. I don’t care about their fantasies.

  4. cuckoo says:

    I almost feel sorry for the merchants of panic, who were all set for a summer of bushfire climate armageddon, only to have their hopes (so far) thwarted. They’ve been reduced to running one ad over and over, showing a panicked family who flee in their car from a suburban grass fire and end up crashing into a pole in the smoke. Come to think of it, there’s the other ad, showing a cross section of racially-calibrated typical Victorians (pert female Asian surfer, etc.).

  5. Frosty says:

    Facebook = gigantic waste of time.
    Yawn. My kids tell me its only for old people.
    Wouldn’t miss it if they just shut down completely.

  6. harrys on the boat says:

    This kerfuffle is like a Serena v Venus tennis match. You dislike both and wish both could lose.

  7. Paul says:

    Poland plans to make censoring of social media accounts illegal

    Absolutely correct.

    Some pundits claim that FB as a private enterprise can ban who ever they like censorship,

    But, that’s not free speech, which their platform pretends to uphold.

    Its like Transuban stopping liberal voters from using their roads, not that they would.

  8. vicki says:

    FB was a mystery to me for some time. I still only use it to keep track of a busy family, & to be informed of any significant events in the valley in which our farm is situated.

    Otherwise, I obtain all I need to know through the vastness of the web. If the tech giants are ever able to disconnect us from the internet – that will be an entirely different matter.

  9. Captain Katzenjammer says:

    Big tech banned Trump then went after everyone else, including those who applauded the banning of Trump.

  10. Chris M says:

    Yes, the media is in a tizzy about the farcebook ban after previously gloating about them banning conservatives.

    I think it’s great! Rush aside, together with the Indian pfizer vac ban it’s been a good week. I hope they fight it out and both die.

  11. Roger says:

    Poland plans to make censoring of social media accounts illegal

    Unlike us, Poland has an explicit constitutional clause protecting free speech.

  12. Behind Enemy Lines says:

    After The Australian cancelled Trump late last year in a 180-degree editorial reversal (‘no, we don’t tell our people what to write, they just figure it out for themselves all on the same weekend’), I cancelled The Australian. By then, it had long since got to the point where it was no longer worth the time spent. Now I’m perfectly happy to hear they’re frantically filling their pants over the latest own-goal.

    Get woke, go broke.

    Meanwhile, if there’s anything worth knowing, I find out about it quite soon enough without wasting time and IQ on the anguish box or the cage liner.

  13. Rob MW says:

    IF you believe the senior columnists at The Weekend Australian, we spend most of our time in a state of panic about cyclones, floods and coronavirus. We cannot get a weather report from any other source, cannot hear the latest on a pandemic the mainstream media have been cynically hyping for click dividends for a year, cannot telephone a hospital, cannot get advice from a rural fire brigade. In short, without news and emergency service links on Facebook, we’re all going to die – possibly during an attack of the killer tomatoes.

    All 100% true Sinc and what’s worse it is all 100% extremely transparent for anyone with an IQ below room temperature to access.

    Living in the bush, I get SMS (daily/hourly) texts about any fires in my locale and whether any assistance has been called for, I can telephone my local MPHS directly any time with any medical concerns with my family or employees, I get email company announcements and dividend payments for my ASX listed investments (it’s very easy to set up communications directives with the relevant share registries – Link or Computer Share), I get SMS texts from my electricity supplier about planned outages and from my retailer for when the meters are going to be read, I get daily SMS text messages from Grain Corp and AWB (Cargill) in relation to site delivery grade binning options, I get daily emails from various preferred grain buyers and weekly email market updates for wool, cattle and sheep brokers, I get up to the minute agriculture weather forecasts and warnings directly from Weather Zone or Elders Weather and also, from time to time, from “Windy.com” (fantastic interactive site – try it) and lastly but by no means least, I get all my capital purchasing and financial quotes from my preferred service providers directly via email and even SMS texts from Australia Post when ordered posted parcels have arrived.

    I mean facebook is like ANTIFA, it’s just a fucking idea !!

  14. theleftfootkick says:

    Does this mean if you provide a whole bunch of free services, which FB does, community groups etc a long list obviously, then anybody who is upset if you stop, can then start suing you, sounds like a ‘socialist form of Utopia’ no matter what you do, I’ve got your arse!

  15. Colonel Crispin Berka says:

    The way PJW slid smoothly into authoritarianism by sarcastically declaring

    Paul Joseph Watson @PrisonPlanet · Feb 18
    Facebook is now interfering with the the functioning of major sovereign countries.
    “It’s just a private company, it can do what it likes.”

    …was rather surprising. It really is a private company, and if it wants to withdraw service from customers who have paid only with their surrendered privacy and are not a dollar down, it has every right to do so. Very unclear as to what moral right the Government has in forcing FB to pay for products that the MSM sites give away for free normally.

    As the Left is so fond of saying, free trade does not mean free from any and all consequences. This incident will further highlight the value of what both FB and the MSM were providing, and the need to sort out a funding model for the content producers. What the MSM can’t figure out is what to do when the middleman refused to collect a fee from the consumer, which is unusual because historically the conveyancing/finder’s fee was all that a middleman wanted.

    It’s also weird that FB is being demonised as “Big Tech” in this instance, as though it is some Canberra David versus Electro Goliath, when in the battle of BigTech versus BigGovernment there has typically been only one winner and they aren’t the one aiming for profit.

    As long as we have normalised receiving services in exchange for only reduced privacy and increased social stress, we will keep seeing incidents like this. The only solution is to convince people to pay for the (don’t laugh) journalism (stop laughing) that they receive from the main news outfits. What would it really be, maybe 2 dollars a month?

    Plenty of projects have attempted to introduce microtransactions to the web as a way to pay content creators like artists or journos. FB is also launching their own cryptocurrency Libra which, like its sanitary namesake, may be the only way to get blood out of a stone cold news consumer. It would not surprise me in the least if this whole saga was contrived by the MSM and FB to help launch Libra to the benefit of both parties.

  16. theleftfootkick says:

    Exactly what Tom Elliott was saying on this radio program, his daughter he says would not be on FB for any reason it is only for the old foggies! LOL Elliots defence of FB made a lot of sense, he reckons it is the old established publishers that are the hypocritical ones, and they need FB more that FB needs them,

  17. Roger says:

    Facebook is for women who like to keep up with their friends & family.

  18. Rabbi Putin says:

    The upshot of “its a pity they can’t both lose” is that at least one of them will lose.

  19. Suburban Boy says:

    FB “really is a private company”.

    Yeah it is, but so was the Honourable East India Company in the 18th century. Despite that, successive British ministries realised that the company was also a very powerful political actor and needed to be treated as such. At times it acted against the public interest so its powers were curtailed and ultimately ended.

    Any privately-owned business that confines its activities to trading for the purpose of the accumulation of gain is entitled to carry on without the state interfering. FB is not such an organisation.

  20. incoherent rambler says:

    If the tech giants are ever able to disconnect us from the internet – that will be an entirely different matter.

    Effectively they already have.
    Telstra/Optus/Google DNS dropped Trump supporting web sites from their name lookups.
    You read and hear what big brother thinks is good for you.

  21. John Comnenus says:

    As you all know, I am not a lawyer. Does blocking sites not related to paying for journalists product, which is what this dispute is all about, constitute a secondary boycott? And if so, is that unlawful? Or do secondary boycotts only apply in industrial disputes?

  22. Scott Osmond says:

    I hope this goes to court. Watching 2 groups I despise fight it out will be more entertaining than anything from the tv or Hollyweird. What will also be interesting will be the arguments on how FB withdrawing a free service damages a website or fake charity when their pages are still up and accessible to all. Also amusing is how when FB was cancelling conservatives and anyone to the right of Stalin it was a private company and now it’s their turn suddenly it’s an international crisis. Fight you bastards, I hate peace.

  23. incoherent rambler says:

    What did they expect?

    “if you reference Australian news sites, you will have to pay them money!”

    “ok. who would pay for that? I have removed references to news sites”

    “that’s not fair! You must reference Australian news sites!”

    It is a kinder playground of idiocrats.

  24. John Comnenus says:

    The issue as I see it is that FB takes copy for free and distributes it for profit with no consideration going to the owner or producer of the copy.

    I think it would be wonderful if the whole world adopted the Australian model because this would destroy FB ability to curate and propagate the news they want spread and the narratives they support at the expense of the truth, honesty and transparency.

    This is how the tech tyrants interfere in democracies because the ability to manipulate the news people see is the source of FB political power.

    I would like to see FB unable to afford to pay for the news. FB users should still be able to share stories they want to share rather than have FB decide what the news is. Hopefully the same applies to Google news.

    I think our democracy depends on this. If you want to read far left lunatic sites you can go to the ABC, Guardian or Nine. If you want soft left to middling content you can go to News. If you want serious commentary you come to the Cat.

    There is no reason for FB to be involved in your news choices. FB, Google and Twitter are anti democratic tyrants who should have no more power in our democracy than anyone else.

  25. Mark M says:

    The Sunday Telegraph just went up 50c to $3.50, but there is no improvement in the diversity of news quality, just more failed global warming ‘science’ and koolaide drinking,Trump hating.

    Just as well it comes with a tv guide with the comics, but that aint worth much more than $3.50.

  26. JMH says:

    Right over the target, John C.

  27. Jock says:

    I think its all hilarious. News and the Government have caught Farcebook flatfooted. For FB to fall into the trap is just beautiful. Zucks communist Stasi minions that he employs, cancelling every conservative they come across just had the pineapple.

    I agree with the arguments that FB owes no one, particularly Government a service. But I also find it risible that FB argues it is not a publisher, or a controller. It certainly isnt a free speech public square anymore.

    Just for Zuck, I think the next step should be regulating the information that FB and others can “scrape”. Privacy is important. Love what Apple are going to do to them.

  28. Damon says:

    “Facebook is for women who like to keep up with their friends & family.”
    Absolutely correct. Other posts are just from hysterics, nutcases, and bigots.

  29. Chester Draws says:

    The issue as I see it is that FB takes copy for free and distributes it for profit with no consideration going to the owner or producer of the copy.

    Takes? That would breach copyright.

    It links. So the consumer still goes to the media directly. FB merely sells some advertising on the way.

    The Australian government are asking for FB to pay for the privilege of directing people to other, competing, sites. No wonder it said no.

  30. incoherent rambler says:

    Correct Chester.

  31. Baa Humbug says:

    …was rather surprising. It really is a private company, and if it wants to withdraw service from customers who have paid only with their surrendered privacy and are not a dollar down, it has every right to do so.

    My bolding.

    Not quite correct. People have established businesses on these platforms. Some spend years and plenty of money establishing themselves.
    Then the tech demonetises you or bans you because of many things other than illegal activity. They also regularly and arbitrarily change terms of service.
    That is unconscionable conduct IMHO.

    At the very least, content providers should be treated like lessees of a shop front. Unless you break the law (of the country you’re based in), then something like a 3 X 3 X 3 or 5 X 5 etc contract should be in operation.

  32. Diogenes says:

    I despise Zuckerberg, Sandberg & the whole rotten Facebook group of companies, and find it strange that I am defending them.

    Yes, morally, they should have been paying for news content, but that is now in the past, once the Reps passed the legislation that argument was rendered moot.

    FB is voluntarily complying with the, as yet not gazetted, law (it still needs to go through the Senate & get royal asset). That says IF you carry news content pay for it, like all programmers* they saw the unstated “else” clause (if you don’t carry news you don’t need to pay for it). So they are responding to the incentives the Govt has laid out in that they have chosen to respond to the ‘perverse’ incentive and drop all ‘news’ content as overbroadly defined in the legislation rather than pay for it.

    Looking at the ‘non-personal’ T&Cs sction 5d I hope any class action litigants have deeeeeep pockets, and know of good lawyers in California

    Commercial Claims outside the United States if you reside outside the United States or your business is located outside the United States, you agree that:
    Any Commercial Claim between you and Facebook, Inc. must be resolved exclusively in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California or a state court located in San Mateo County, that you submit to the personal jurisdiction of either of these courts for the purpose of litigating any such claim, and that the laws of the State of California will govern these Commercial Terms and any such claim, without regard to conflict of law provisions.

    *

    A wife asks her husband, a programmer, “Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6?”

    A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk and his wife asks, “Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?”

    He replies, “They had eggs.”

  33. Diogenes says:

    Other than payment the legislation has a 2nd part which is the part I think FB is most worried about (and why Google struck a deal with News Corp et al OUTSIDE the legislation) which is they need to disclose their ranking & advertising algorithms to ‘news’ organisations every time they change them.

  34. theleftfootkick says:

    Always wondered how a programmer looked at life.

  35. H B Bear says:

    J’ismists just toeing the company line before they are all made redundant. Except for Paul Kelly. He is just wrong, as usual.

  36. notafan says:

    If you’ve got a business on Facebook, you’re paying them money for marketing.

  37. Squirrel says:

    This is like Alien vs. Predator – but I am looking forward to the announcement of Kevin “I’m here to help” as Facebook’s ambassador to the Peoples’ Republic of How Good is Straya.

  38. Eyrie says:

    Facebook is for women who like to keep up with their friends & family.

    Who can’t be bothered or are too stupid to make an email address list.

  39. Dianeh says:

    It links. So the consumer still goes to the media directly. FB merely sells some advertising on the way.

    Except where they block the link. They decide what the consumer sees.Therefore they are publishers. And if they are deciding what is published, they should also be liable for whatever crap is then posted, whether defamatory or not. But no, they make themselves not liable for what is posted in a sites feed by pretending they are only a carriage service.

  40. John A says:

    stackja #3762076, posted on February 20, 2021, at 1:11 pm

    Mark created this problem. No one else is responsible.

    No, as many have commented, this is a battle between old media and new media.

    Old media let the grass grow under their feet while new media took away a lot of their business (81% of advertising business according to some measures).

    I am not carrying a flag for FB and Google, especially while they play the two-faced “not a publisher but a common carrier” game.

    But as CL points out, old media has gone crying to the government “oh, pretty please, protect us from those new media bullies” – playing the crony capitalism game.

    Well, they should be careful what they wish for because they all feed off each other in what was once called “the news cycle.”

    And, as someone pointed out, FB is simply responding to the incentives presented to them:
    a) carrot (don’t carry news because that will save you money)
    or
    b) stick (carry news feeds and pay for the privilege).

    I would have thought the answer was a no-brainer. The over-reach, if it could be called that, has galvanised the highly useful political responses we see above, such that the old media hacks look utterly ridiculous bloviating their massive hyperbole. FB executives must be high-fiving all over the place!

  41. Anonandon says:

    F them both – although Facebook marketplace is good. A lot of morons selling stuff for way less than it is worth.

  42. Ozman says:

    Whether there is only one solution to Facebook’s farce of being both a publisher and a public utility acting as a carrier of information (Dianeh), while being an aggregator of news stories and providing links (Chester), it is not to make people pay for MSM, as has been suggested by Colonel Crispin Berka. They should improve there own services so that people leave Facebook, because they are better, otherwise it is back to deal making and bribery of politicians.

    Diogenes has to be on the money about FB’s fear of having to disclose ranking & advertising algorithms to ‘news’ organisations every time they change them, because it is part of the Big Brother, and really wants to dominate the space and dictate, not only to MSM but also to governments. Zuckerburg has boasted about having over 2 billion subscribers, making FB’s base larger than China’s population.

    Incoherent Rambler basically says that Telstra/Optus/Google have together effectively become as Big Brother and will silence unacceptable comment, even though legal.  Fortunately, other options are becoming available, even if they have not yet landed bigly Down Under. The trump card could turn up and, besides the likes of Telegram, Gab, Parlor, Bitchute, Rumble, another company could easily spring up and choke off Facebook, similar to how it smothered Myspace—which, by the way, does still exist.

    Like currency really, unless people have confidence, whatever fungibility it may have, this can quickly disappear.

  43. Albatross says:

    Oz are Globohomo shills.

  44. Judge Dredd says:

    Protectionism is not bad, look at how evil globalization is that has stripped mostly western nations of manufacturing, etc. You can further point to Trump’s protection policies that helped bolster the US economy and bring manufacturing back.

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