👎 Inadvertent Leverage
Whistleblowers reveal that Facebook blocked public services pages in Australia following ‘link tax’ law
Hello Best Online Friends! This week is a little shorter, because I had to write it on a train next to a WHOLE STAG DO. So naturally I joined in, and now I’m drunk.
This week was something I could have done without 👎. Why?
Do you remember link tax? No? Well you’re about to!
If you’re new to this newsletter, it’s usually a bit meatier than this: enjoy last week’s issue, or perhaps this one about cheap and invisible labour at Google.
🙄 This is web monetisation
at it’s finest and it sucks
This week, it was revealed that Facebook used its power and influence to avoid regulation by watering down a law that was written especially for them. There’s a word for that, and it’s called lobbying.
What am I talking about? You may remember last year, when Rupert Murdoch decided he was sick and tired of Facebook and Google providing links to HIS news outlets for FREE. Can you believe it?? Consumers use social media to SHARE NEWS! Ugh.
So anyway, in light of his sheer inability to adapt to a shifting market (like a good capitalist), Murdoch decided to do some lobbying of his own. The result was an Australian law that said Facebook and Google (just those two companies) would have to pay for the privilege of sending traffic to news websites. Facebook didn’t want to pay, so they took down all news pages in Australia.
I don’t think this is a popular take, because people tend to only focus on Facebook’s actions in this story, but: what the fuck did the Australian government expect? Did Facebook become the most influential social media platform by simply bending over backwards at the first sign of regulation? Nope! I would say that everyone on all sides are equally terrible, but this recent whistleblow revealed that their news take-down also included pages on government services, including healthcare, just when they were initiating a vaccine rollout.
Facebook called this ‘inadvertent’ — I’m calling it leverage. The whistleblowers are saying that this was a strategic move to force the government to do what they wanted. What a twist: Facebook did not get what they wanted, and had to strike some kind of deal with the government where they just... gave more money to Rupert Murdoch I guess?
☝️ I would just like to add: that the way the web is monetised is completely backward, but this law is not the solution. If you tell a very powerful platform that they have to pay to show content from news outlets, what’s to stop them from paying for some, and simply omitting the ones they don’t want to pay for?
That’s all for this week — have a great weekend you GOONS