Why Facebook is public enemy number one for newspapers, and journalism

Facebook has emerged as newspapers’ public enemy number one. Hardly a day passes in which there is no negative article about the social media website that is luring away “our” readers and advertisers.

In the past couple of weeks, there has been something of an overload of criticism on a range of topics.

There was the blocking of the image of a girl fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam. It generated outrage from, among others, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg in the Guardian, Jane Fae in the Daily Telegraph and Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times (an excellent piece).

Facebook’s tax affairs have come under the microscope. Questions were raised about Facebook’s attack on ad-blocking software (as if that isn’t in the interest of every news outlet). And there have been plenty of critical articles about Facebook’s news feeds, notably its “trending topics” feature.

It is argued that this narrows users’ news agenda by advising (or “telling”) them what to read. Evidently, people are bound to follow the herd. According to a Pew Research Center study released in May, 66% of Facebook users get news through the site.

These choices are made by algorithms, which can monitor users’ interests and then “feed” them what it believes they wish to read while filtering out material. ….



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