Kill Facebook ‘comments’ before the buck stops with you

We can take a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty approach to the decision by Australia’s highest court making anyone with a Facebook page liable for any comments others post on it.

The judgement caused great wailing and gnashing of teeth in media as far afield as Ireland and India and not simply because it opened the way for a youth detention centre inmate to sue the Australia’s biggest news groups over things they didn’t say. As Harvard University’s Nieman Lab put it: “[It] makes publishers legally responsible for every idiot Facebook user who leaves a comment.”

That is just a little bit scary, but let’s start with the optimistic view. Continue reading “Kill Facebook ‘comments’ before the buck stops with you”

Thank God Facebook doesn’t supply electricity and water

We have been shocked by Facebook’s Australian news ban because we have been labouring under a misapprehension: We thought it was a public utility.

It was conceived as a utility (for Harvard University students) and founder Mark Zuckerberg has been masterful in characterising the platform as a democratic space since it moved beyond the ivy league university community to embrace ordinary folk like you and me.

The generic term ‘social media platform’ lends further weight to the perception that it is like a digital version of the companies that supply our electricity and phone services. We see it as a multimedia replacement for yesterday’s mail and landline.

So, when the company suddenly cut Australian news media sources – and, temporarily, weather and some emergency services – the shock didn’t stop at the continent’s vast shoreline. Many countries asked, ‘How could this possibly happen?’

Continue reading “Thank God Facebook doesn’t supply electricity and water”

Let’s hit Cyber-barons with Australia’s big stick.

Photo: AP

Andrea Vance is right. The Prime Minister won’t be ditching her Facebook account any time soon.

Writing in the Sunday Star Times, Vance noted that Facebook is her medium of choice “because it allows her to directly engage with a precise and captive audience [where] she is not constrained by troublesome questions from traditional media.” She went on to say Jacinda Ardern won’t be deleting her account “because it wouldn’t be expedient, especially in an election year.”

It is also odds-on that, for the same reason, the Government will not be joining its Australian counterpart in finally coming down hard on the unrecompensed appropriation of news content that attracts billions of dollars in advertising revenue to Facebook and Google.

On Friday, the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the much-anticipated mandatory code that will make the social media giants pay for news. Legislation to enact the code will pass through the federal Parliament before the end of the year. Continue reading “Let’s hit Cyber-barons with Australia’s big stick.”

Finally…someone gets tough on Facebook

TUESDAY COMMENTARY

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is rightly being praised for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic but she needs to get over her Millennial attitude to social media and join Australia in making them pay their way.

Canberra has announced a tough mandatory code to make Facebook, Google and others pay for the news content that have been pillaging from news media’s digital platforms. New Zealand should do the same, preferably adopting the same code for a trans-Tasman approach to regulating companies that thought they were beyond the reach of mere governments. So far, our government has gone no further that saying ‘we’re looking at it’ but characterising it as ‘a longer-term measure’.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wants a code developed by July and, if the tech giants do not negotiate payment rates in good faith, rates will be imposed. There will be heavy financial penalties for non-compliance. Expect the code to be in place before the end of the year. Continue reading “Finally…someone gets tough on Facebook”