For a while Facebook has described itself as a social network but in truth and reality it is barely that at all. It is a marketplace, an advertising platform, and as we have discovered in the past few years – a purveyor and seller of personal information, a tax dodger and a protector and disseminator of hate speech. Maybe it’s time for a new platform to push it asunder and offer the service that Facebook once did – a space for friends and family to catch up and share information.
And here’s the rub, like billions of others I have a Facebook profile. I don’t post any more but I do like seeing posts from people I know – photos from those overseas, reflections, announcements. That’s the reason most of us still cling to Zuckerberg’s cash cow that has made him far more influential and important than he deserves to be. The idea he stole from his college associates was a good one but the business behaviours he clings to are toxic. Tom from Myspace was a far more decent sort of chap than the bloke whose network gave a terrorist in our country a free and immediate outlet for his atrocities and no subsequent apology or recompense.
This week, New Zealand’s largest media group, stuff, announced it would suspend using Facebook and its other owned and affiliated platforms, such as Instagram to promote its stories.
“Stuff editor in chief Patrick Crewdson said there was no fixed end date to the experiment. ‘It’s the sort of thing we’re going to monitor week by week and see how it goes’. The boycott decision was made in the context of the ‘various unhealthy things’ seen on Facebook such as fake news, hate speech and fraudulent advertising, Mr Cewsdon said.” (Source: “Stuff stops all activity on Facebook in trial ‘inspired by principle'”, stuff.co.nz, 6 July, 2020).
This news followed close on the heels of rolling announcements of global and local companies disengaging and disassociating from Facebook’s toxic brand. Why? Because unlike other platforms, such as Twitter, that have moved to curb inaccurate, misleading and hateful speech, Facebook has tied itself to the mast of a sinking ship, claiming it is not a mediator or arbitrator of political messages. Which is double talk for bullpucky. Zuckerberg’s smugness and pigheadedness will hopefully signal a substantial sea change in online choices and behaviour. There was a world before Facebook and there will be one after it, no matter how much its autocratic CEO mouths off about its necessity to commerce.
So, well done stuff – but that’s just the start. The government needs to continue the good work it did in calling Facebook to account after the Christchurch Mosque Shootings and impose serious measures to curb its blatant tax dodging. Even the proposed 3 percent rate is a joke. If we allow a company to operate here, no matter if the space is digital, then it should pay its way in tax for the hundreds of millions of dollars it accumulates in advertising revenue. Local companies do, so why does Zuckerberg’s enterprise get a free ride? They are part of the same field, so they should pay the same as New Zealand owned advertising and marketing companies. The time for the dishonest leaching is over.