The latest FB move is a cause for celebration, says Tom Hodgkinson, and reckons Adam Curtis would agree
You may well have seen the headlines yesterday. Facebook has decided to block news-sharing in Australia as part of an ongoing dispute with the Australian government about publishing revenue. “Facebook ban on news in Australia provokes fierce backlash,” said the FT.
An Australian website called MacroBusiness put it more wittily and accurately: “Facebook lifts Aussie news quality by banning itself.”
Now, rather than rejoicing in the fact that Facebook had banned itself, as MacroBusiness rightly did, various commentators in Oz played into Facebook’s hands by whingeing. The FT reported: “Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said her organisation had been mistakenly blocked by the platform. ‘Australian workers cannot now find out about their rights at work via Facebook. This is disgraceful & needs to be reversed immediately,’ she wrote on Twitter.”
How utterly ridiculous. If Facebook and Twitter – both privately owned American ad sales companies – are the only ways that Australian workers can find out about their rights at work then things have come to a pretty pass. The Australian Council of Trade Unions should never have given Facebook and Twitter this sort of power in the first place. Why don’t they just put their info on a website and communicate with their members by email? Why go via The Machine?
There was another Facebook story in the FT today, headlined: “Facebook reported revenue ‘it should never have made’, manager claimed.” This is a reference to a court case in the States where Facebook is being accused of misleading customers about the reach of their ads.
Now if I were filmmaker Adam Curtis I would be feeling quite smug at this point. When I interviewed him two years ago for the Idler, while he was making his new series, he was critical both of Facebook and of those who criticised Facebook. It was the time of the Cambridge Analytica story. He reckoned the scandal did Facebook a lot of good because it made people think the platform was so great at manipulating human behaviour that if you gave them enough money, you could become President of the United States.
With Adam’s new series available now on iPlayer – I’ve seen the first two parts and they’re brilliant – it seems like a good time to republish our interview in full. It’s already been enthusiastically shared by Cory Doctorow and other tech writers. Take a look here for some real wisdom, originality and insight. We’ve added some new material since reposting a couple of weeks ago.