Why The Actions of Facebook Should Concern Us All | Jordan Page
Over the last few months, social media companies have enjoyed an enormous number of freedoms, freedoms which they have, in turn, abused in order to operate entirely as publishers and not platforms, which finally accumulated in the unanimous ban of Donald Trump on almost every single, major social media outlet, whilst he was the sitting US President.
Now, there is no legal requirement for these companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, to operate as either a publisher or a platform, none whatsoever, but this doesn’t save them from regulation, something which is desperately needed.
So, why do these companies need regulation?
A 2018 inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found a stark, and rather frightening imbalance between these Big Tech firms and the rest of the media in the country, after they were pushed to investigate the impact that Google and Facebook have on the competition for the media and marketing.
Facebook has now been at war with the Australian government, threatening to withdraw all access from news for Australian users, after the Australian Senate proposed a bill that would force all Big Tech companies to pay publishers to post news content on their sites. Facebook have now made this threat a new reality, banning all Australian media companies from posting news articles onto the site, whilst restricting access for all Australian users to access news related to the country.
Google have also threatened to withdraw their services from Australia; however, these threats are yet to materialise.
The actions of Facebook set a very, very dangerous precedent, one that we have yet to see, one that trumps the banning of the former President of the United States.
In effect, Facebook are attempting to operate as if Australia no longer exists, as if the state has just disappeared from the map. By censoring and controlling the news that Australians are allowed to see, Facebook are letting the rest of the world know that they can control what news gets out, that they can control the media narrative, and if the news doesn’t align with the Facebook narrative then they will damn well shut it down.
Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, summarised the attitude of Big Tech brilliantly, claiming that they believe they bigger than the governments of the world, which they definitely are not.
Restricting access or permanently terminating an individual’s account for violating your terms and conditions is a separate issue, which doesn’t even compare to the fact that Facebook are attempting to regulate what news gets out and who is allowed it publish it. This action needs to be condemned worldwide, otherwise the situation will just get worse and worse.
However, there is some light at the end of the dark social media tunnel. Poland has recently introduced a new law that will require all social media firms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to pay up a fee worth around $13.5 million if they remove an account of a Polish national who hasn’t broken any Polish laws.
More regulation, like the actions taken by the Polish government, is needed to squash the dangerous amounts of power that these companies currently possess.