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”

Where has all the policy gone?

Within the term of the next government our news media will, for good or ill, fundamentally change. Yet where are the major parties’ policies to anticipate, influence and ameliorate the effects of that change?

Only the Green Party has posted a media policy statement for the October election. It contains useful proposals such as the Public Interest Journalism Fund (which also featured in its 2017 manifesto) and a tax on digital advertising to claw back money from Google and Facebook, but it is predicated on the status quo.

Labour, National, New Zealand First and ACT have yet to announce their media policies – if they have any – and voting starts only 33 days from now. Interest.co.nz has been tracking party policies and its section on media policy is peppered with the phrase “Not yet available on their website”.

Continue reading “Where has all the policy gone?”

Trolls and fellow travellers in the general election

It’s a fair bet that the New Zealand general election will not cause much of a ripple inside 55 Savushkina Street.

That is the St Petersburg address of the headquarters of the Russian Internet Research Agency (pictured above), which played havoc with the Brexit vote and the US Presidential election.

It may well be gearing up for another campaign among the all-too-susceptible voters of the United States, but we can be reasonably certain that the only danger we face is a bit of mischief during a troll’s lunch break. Continue reading “Trolls and fellow travellers in the general election”