Learnings From Facebook’s Fiasco in Australia

For the past year it has become clear who runs the internet: Big Tech. Amazon, Facebook, and Google are essentially self-governed and they seem almost impossible to stop. What they have each built is incredible, connecting the world like never before and creating new and exciting opportunities that have never existed before.

With the good also comes the bad. Social media and the internet have empowered great confusion as to what is factual and what is fantasy with mixed messages everywhere. It’s led to addictive behaviors and increased rates of depression. And it’s left people wondering who’s in charge here?

Well, last week Facebook made it very clear that they are in charge of regulating their own platform. The Australian government introduced a new law called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which essentially requires platforms like Facebook and Google to pay news content publishers if they are going to host their content.

Google responded by beginning to work out agreements with news organizations and Facebook decided to just cut news out of their platform altogether for any Australian users. While this wasn’t yet needed, it was a Big Tech power move to discourage the passing of this potential law. This reaction by Facebook not only affected “news media,” but many others as Facebook’s new Artificial Intelligence filters seemingly cut off anything remotely close to news-based content. This unexpected change created a frenzy along with significant challenges for many organizations that had become dependent on Facebook as their primary communication platform.

After a few days of fierce posturing between the Australian Government and Facebook, the news filters were turned off and all is “back to normal.” This is far from over and the issues extend far beyond Australia. Here are some things that organizations need to be thinking about as they plan for the future around social media:

1. We cannot count on governments to effectively regulate social media.

Big Tech has been unregulated for so long that reining them in is almost impossible at this point. Even if they could be reinged in, government officials seem to continue to prove their ignorance to these infrastructures, as Big Tech can’t be regulated in the same way that previous media channels have been able to. More regulation is needed and coming, but that won’t solve all of the problems that might affect your organization when it comes to social media, and it’s likely that it will only create additional challenges moving forward than what you might have experienced to date.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is policing social media, not people.

Have you seen the movies that depict the future of robot cops? That’s now our reality online. Big Tech is creating digital robot cops, defining the laws on their platform, and expecting them to automatically enforce them. In many areas like deciphering what is news or hate or fake, do we really want artificial intelligence making those decisions? Social media has created a lot of gray areas that aren’t easily solved, but AI is just in its infancy, and as we continue to use the internet we have to adapt and adjust to automated decisions being made.

3. Social Media is rented Digital Property and we can be evicted immediately without notice. 

This should be the biggest takeaway if you haven’t yet realized it. Does this mean we should abandon social media? No! With more than half of the world’s population actively using social media it can be a great tool for your organization to accomplish its goals. It just can’t be your only tool and probably shouldn’t be your primary tool. There are great opportunities that Big Tech has created and continues to create and we need to take advantage of those opportunities. We just have to do it with our eyes wide open understanding that today’s opportunities might not be here tomorrow – and that’s okay.


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