Screenshot 2024-05-02 at 3.09.08 pm

Meta News Dummy Spit ‘Dangerous and Hypocritical’

At a time in history when the imperative for truth in all forms of media has never been greater, Meta’s decision to end payments for content produced by Australian media outlets and journalists is dangerous and hypocritical.

Facebook, like other social media platforms, has leveraged traditional news media content globally for years, which has helped grow its legitimacy not only as a forum for social and human connection but also as a platform for trusted and vetted news.

While the company says that only 3 per cent of its content is news-related, Facebook’s more than 2 billion daily users share an enormous 4.57 billion items every day and a significant amount of commentary and posting on Facebook is news-related.

So, if Facebook does turn off the tap for Australian news outlets, what will be the outcome for Facebook users? Well, according to some media experts in Canada, where Facebook initiated a news ban seven months ago, Australian Facebook users can expect to see next to no vetted, trustworthy news, and an explosion of viral misleading clickbait content.

Mark Zuckerberg says his company Meta will no longer pay media outlets for their content. Credit: Mark Lennihan/AP

Mark Zuckerberg was once quoted as saying: “We didn’t build services to make money, we make money to build better services”. Now, it seems Zuckerburg couldn’t care less if the information on these “services” is inaccurate or classed as misinformation.

Facebook’s response to the critics about fake news is that it believes it has little legal responsibility for that, as it claims to “only provide the vehicle for consumers to re-share content”. That attitude shows an absence of integrity and is indicative of where the social media giant is heading and its attitude toward corporate responsibility.

Meta referred to the reasons for cancelling the news deal, as “part of an ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most”, it also said that news consumption on the sites in Australia and the US had dropped by 80 per cent in 2023. A drop of 80 per cent might seem statistically significant, but as it’s Facebook’s own algorithms that control what we see in our timelines, that claim should be viewed with scepticism.

While Meta is nominally a free platform, as the saying goes in the tech world: “If something is free, you’re the product”. And its revenue figures prove it. Last year Meta had revenue of more than $US134 billion, an increase of 16 per cent from the previous year, all reaped from advertisers.

Meta talks about freedom of speech, transparency and creating community, but what it is really saying is it will only provide that if you pay for the privilege and it will not be partnering with traditional media companies to be part of the media ecosystem.

This is dangerous for any democratic society as the remaining “news” content on these platforms will be created by unverified and unregulated sources. On the other hand, traditional Australian media are bound by legislation and strict publishing laws. They employ trained journalists to create and publish fact-checked content and there are significant consequences; reputational, legal and monetary, if they get this wrong.

Meta is now leaving the door open for peddlers of disinformation, conspiracy theorists and other disreputable outlets. And this all comes in a year when it’s expected that half of the world’s population will be voting in national elections in 64 countries.

As Australia gears up for its own Federal election in 2025, we must ensure that Meta and Facebook are held to the standards of other publishers and if that means triggering the provisions of the News Media Bargaining Code, then so be it.

Donna Bates is a Strategic Planning Consultant & Integrity expert.

Click here to read this article in The Western Australian

Donna Bates

Donna is a Strategic Planning Consultant, whose talents have been refined over 25+ year corporate career.

She is an Award-winning, Business & Marketing Growth Strategist who specialises in consulting with company's going through growth, change & upheaval.

Being a “legacy leader” she has mentored talented people across a wide spectrum of industries globally, helping them to grow & pivot their businesses, to stay relevant & profitable.

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