Facebook wants to rob us of our democratic news

Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim
Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim
Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim

Realizing how dependent the masses have become on Facebook for daily news updates, the social media giant now aims to partner with news companies to host news material.

Personally, I can’t help but be highly skeptical of big corporations coming together for sensitive causes like informing the masses. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but something about Facebook proactively consolidating and controlling what news counts as worthy of our attention seems a tad Nineteen Eighty-Four.

With the uprise in independent media outlets, major news publications have been under increasing public scrutiny. It’s no secret that on numerous occasions, narratives pushed through large media outlets tend to be biased. Now that Facebook plans to forcibly upload pieces of these same news articles onto our news feeds, they stand to sway public opinion to a large extent — yet another attempt the network has made to control our entire media experience.

Today, social media offer consumers the ability to create and share content that is important to them. This has fostered a more democratic media environment, one with values that major publications do not oftentimes reflect. Facebook could therefore abandon a fundamental source of attraction users had to it in the first place.

My issue with the proposed partnerships is the fact that as a profitable corporation, Facebook will more than likely be influenced by corporate interest in posting news, leading to dollar-driven stories permeating user feeds. Historically, commercialized information has frequently been exposed as misleading — a potential risk in trusting a company as large as Facebook to curate news-worthy material.

Facebook inherently says that their algorithms trump the work done by users.

Secondly, Facebook implies that they know exactly what interests users, using that information to ‘suggest’ posts on our news feeds. In my experience, many of those suggestions prove bothersome and fail to actually appeal to my interests. With the news partnerships, the site would now have the power to ‘suggest’ what is news-worthy and what isn’t. Judging from the track record Facebook has in taking my interests into consideration, I’m not too excited to see what news they think is important to me.

The network also seems to be working on the assumption that users visit the site for news because they trust the site itself. What the company fails to realize is that the site is trusted because its content is largely user-curated or created. Facebook inherently suggests that their algorithms and codes trump the work done by users to create an experience. This falsity defies the whole concept of media that is social.

You could argue that one could simply turn to other sources and ignore Facebook news. However, by virtue of Facebook’s other services that command so much attention, users will inevitably find news stories while scrolling through their feeds, making the issue unavoidable even for people who have other news source options.

Undoubtedly, the social network has discovered what may be a lucrative business opportunity by capturing even more marketing dollars through millions of clicks. In hosting an array of other publications, Facebook stands to become an even larger media monster than it currently is. But in terms of news content, I feel as though the website should aim to maintain its position as simply a news platform rather than an actual news reporter.