Facebook’s recent move to re-weight the News Feed again, this time with unhelpfully euphemistic new values like “trusted sources” and “time well spent,” will likely put an end to the idea that news companies are not dependent upon Facebook to survive.
The latest changes will instead “serve as the final deathblow to almost two decades of delusional thinking,” as VentureBeat writer Chris O’Brien put it.
Facebook has become the gate keeper between news sources and viewers. Much, if not most, of news organization’s views come through social media shares. This gives Facebook and all the other social media services massive influence over what any of us see. With opaque algorithms filtering what we see, designed to keep us watching. Designed to keep our eyes on their site so they can sell those eyes to advertisers
About those subscription-based models: There are people out there who believe the media’s only hope is to organize, as a union would, and collectively enforce a giant paywall, denying Facebook and its hacker ethos the oceans of free content that are its lifeblood.
We need to break up Facebook, the same way we broke up Standard Oil, AT&T and countless other less-terrifying overgrown corporate tyrants of the past. The moral if not legal reason is obvious: A functioning free press just can’t coexist with an unaccountable private regulator.
Here Taibbi frames the problem very well, Facebook has become a defacto regulator of media, the unaccountable company is poised to determine what is and is not “fake news”. Having an institution regulate the information of 2 billion people which is beyond the reach of those people doesn’t seem like a good idea.
The difference is Facebook doesn’t push Nazism or communism or anarchism, but something far more dangerous: 2 billion individually crafted echo chambers, a kind of precision-targeted mass church of self, of impatience with others, of not giving a shit.