has rolled out yet another change to
its newsfeed, which they say will give greater visibility
to posts from “friends and family.” The subtext is that it will
decrease visibility to pages run by publishers and news sites,
escalating the social media giant’s running battle with
the publishing industry.
influence of Facebook over the success or failure of publishers and news
sites has expanded astronomically over the past few years. Consider
this: at the inauguration of President Trump, Fox News’ coverage
attracted the most viewers on cable news – an
average of 8.8 million. But their Facebook
video of the same event attracted almost
twice that number: 16 million. In 2017, the most-shared news
video on the platform was viewed no fewer than 67
million times. Facebook now has the power to
make or break publishers.
the latest newsfeed change is anything to go by, they’re now keen on
breaking them. The change is going to slow the spread of content from
all media outlets across Facebook, in a move that The
Hill has speculated may
be due to the pressure the platform is under to stop the flow of “fake
news.” Given that attempts to target individual publishers can lead
to charges of political bias, something which in the past almost
led to a Senate-led
investigation of Facebook, the platform might be
trying to get around the problem by diminishing the reach of all
means that Breitbart News’ 3.7 million Facebook fans will have to
manually navigate to our Facebook page in order to find our articles,
instead of having them automatically appear in their news feeds. They
will not have a choice in the matter: Facebook will not allow users to
stick with the old system, even if they prefer it.
Facebook’s change threatening to rob news sites and publishers
(including Breitbart News) of potentially millions of views, the change
only further underscores Facebook’s extraordinary influence over the
media landscape. No other organization in history, save
perhaps the politburo of the Soviet Union during the era of the Warsaw
Pact, has had this much influence over so many news outlets at the same
influence over news is also influence over politics, which is why
Facebook’s initial ban, and then reinstatement of a pro-life
movie caused such a stir. Facebook, with over 2 billion
active users, has become essential to the promotion of political causes
and content. Like it or not, that gives them the power to both promote
or crush grassroots movements, should they choose.
of today’s news coverage and political pressure concerns the
alleged affects of Facebook on American elections, particularly
with regards to the ongoing Russia panic. But Facebook has just as much
power beyond America’s borders: the
Philippines has nearly 41 million active
Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 65. Those are
election-swinging numbers, and in a country where the President’s
political views, like Trump’s, are pretty far from Mark Zuckerberg’s.
initially tested some of its changes to its newsfeed in late 2017, in a
six countries. One of these was Cambodia, a country where opposition
politicians are essentially barred from broadcast media, and rely on the
internet to develop a serious presence. Facebook’s changes to newsfeed almost
killed independent content creators in Cambodia,
and indisputably strengthened the authoritarian ruling party.
why the comparison to the Soviet Union is relevant. The propaganda
ministries of the USSR didn’t just influence the news in Soviet Russia,
but in Poland, Hungary, the GDR and even Cuba. Facebook’s influence over
the news is, if anything, even more extensive. And whether they like it
or not, they can now choose to strengthen the political establishments
of foreign countries – to the point of nearly snuffing out opposition
media in Cambodia’s case – or weaken them.
not just about authoritarian regimes in Asia though. If Facebook
retreats from news, removing the potential for new publishers, news
sites, and content creators to grow, it is closing the door on a
system that allowed new voices to thrive. It is, in effect,
handing power back to the political establishment and old-school media
gatekeepers. Having experienced a brief loss of power, and a populist
rising tide, expect those gatekeepers to be more controlling than
has taken a financial hit from its decision. The company’s stock fell by
4.5 percent upon the announcement of its newsfeed changes, personally
shaving $3.3 billion off Mark Zuckerberg’s personal net worth. That
suggests that Facebook is happy to suffer financial pain in order to
step back from their de facto role as the megaphone of new publishers.
far, politicians in both the E.U. and the United States have been
pressuring Facebook to increase, rather than decrease its censorship.
Germany wants Facebook to follow its draconian
hate speech laws, while politicians in the U.S.
want the platform to tackle so-called “Russian
meddling.” Hopefully Facebook’s conception of a “Russian bot”
is more nuanced than Twitter, where engineers believe that any account
tweeting about “God,
guns and America” must be a Russian agent.
Facebook’s real power lies in what it suppresses, not what it
allows. With its latest newsfeed change. publishers are about to get a
reminder of just how much power the social network currently wields over
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