February 18

Facebook has always sucked but maybe now you know it does for sure

This one’s going to be a short one because I have work to do, deadlines to meet. By now you might have heard that Facebook is blocking its Australian users from sharing links from anything it deems a news site. Caught up in the filter at one point or another were government websites, including sites that contained health information which is not important because it’s not like we’re in the middle of a global pandemic or anything*, the Bureau of Meteorology, indie literary magazines and even satire outlet The Betoota Advocate.

I can’t say any of this surprises me. When Facebook first started showing its, er, face in Australia I was extremely sceptical about its motives and super reluctant to get on board**. At the time it touted itself as a watercooler that brought together everyone you knew, which not only turned me off instantly as a serial social compartmentaliser, but also aroused my suspicions in the ‘if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product’ way.

Nevertheless, it persisted. The only way it could monetise itself was through advertising, which is why one in every four posts I see are ads, and through getting organisations to pay to boost their posts to their own audience. To incentivise this, they throttled organic views; an organic post that used to reach 16 in every 100 people who Liked the page now only reaches 4.

As with so many things, the first hit is free. They promoted the fact that brands and organisations could build communities on the platform for free and effectively communicate with them. And that was largely true. Until they tweaked the algorithm and made people pay to play.

This is a taste of how social media can control your life, by influencing what you see and don’t see and if you’re not getting information from a variety of sources – if you relied on waiting for a flawed algorithm to serve it up to you – then you know now how dangerous that can be for your news diet.

Facebook is a business, not a public service and we should never have put so much time, attention and resources into it as we have. The fact that it has now shown itself to be okay with serving a large portion of fake news while blocking access to people – not just media brands – sharing links to news sites should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

*Yes this is sarcasm.

**My friends started a Facebook Group called ‘People who think Adeline T or A Teoh should join Facebook’ and it was only because I had to join to be an admin for a work page that I’m there at all. Ironically, those friends have left the platform but I’m still there because I joined some groups that don’t exist off it.

Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

Posted February 18, 2021 by Adeline Teoh in category "Opine

About the Author

Adeline Teoh (aunty/she/her) is a writer who lives in Parramatta on Dharug land. She drinks tea, practises tsundoku and is not afraid to walk there if she must. (Find out why this blog is called Unfinished writing by Adeline.)