Facebook becomes “The Daily Like”?

Facebook has recently announced some changes to its core News Feed application. In short, Facebook subscribers will be able to apply a limited range of filters to their News Feed, by content type and source.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalised newspaper we can.”

That’s a big call.

First, this “newspaper content” will be sourced from your friends’ activity, (or their shared photos), a music feed (largely based on what your friends are listening to), or a feed of content from any page you like, or from any person that you follow.

Second, the updated News Feed design will promote the greater use of images, which will be given more screen space.

And thirdly, the goal is to grow revenue from sponsored posts and targeted advertisements, based on your personal “likes”, and other built-in Facebook algorithms like EdgeRank.

For me, whether published in print or on-line, the core prerequisites of a newspaper are:

  • A stated editorial policy, and preferably an independent editorial board 
  • Independent, objective and unbiased fact-based reporting (including fact-checking)
  • Robust journalistic standards
  • Strong editorial quality
  • Clear separation of content type (news, opinion, advertorial, advertising, sponsorship)
  • Adherence to a credible code of practice, especially on media ethics
  • Full declarations of interest by journalists, reporters and opinion writers*

Most newspapers are subject to media regulations or licensing systems around proprietorial “fitness”, ownership control, cross-media assets and censorship. Newspapers are also subject to general laws regarding libel, blasphemy, privacy, incitement, discrimination and copyright.

There are already a number of regulatory reviews of ownership, standards and ethics by mainstream news media in the wake of alleged phone hacking and other malpractices. There is also debate as to whether on-line platforms that carry “news” should be subject to more stringent media regulation.

Apart from some issues with censorship and legal requests to remove offensive material (which apply to all content providers), I don’t see Facebook operating under a formal newspaper regime.

While Facebook may aspire to become “The Daily Like”, I don’t believe it wants to be treated (or taken seriously) as a regular “newspaper”. Otherwise, it would likely have to register as a newspaper in every jurisdiction where its content is accessed,  disseminated or uploaded. Perhaps what Facebook really means is that it wants to dominate on-line advertising (using your own content as the bait) while continuing to claim the platform is “free” to end users.

*Declaration of interest: the author is not now on Facebook (reluctantly).

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