Monday, September 25, 2023
September 25, 2023

Editorial: Good Riddance

If you’re reading this, thank you, and congratulations on choosing to access your local community news without use of Facebook.   

In a fascinating moment for Canadian journalism, Meta — the company that brought us such innovations as “boost this post for $36” and “the secret harvesting of 87 million users’ personal data for Cambridge Analytica” — has decided to pick a fight with its northern neighbour.   

The Facebook parent company named so self-referentially has responded to the federal government’s legislative attempts through Bill C-18 to share its boundless revenue with news content creators by blocking them from sharing links through Facebook’s $1-trillion market cap platform. It’s certainly a hardball negotiating tactic, which some have suggested is extortive. However, if it provides an opportunity for media companies and others to explore alternative ways to connect readers with their content, it might not be such a bad thing.   

The reporting of news — particularly community news — is a public good (and service) that retains value largely because it strives to be accurate, even succinct. We respect the readers’ precious time, and are grateful to be invited into your homes every Wednesday — or at any time, via our website — to share it.   

But Facebook’s value proposition comes from engagement, the clock critically spinning as time is spent looking and clicking. More clicking, more viewing, more attention, more money. News will never “win” in a competition for attention on such a playing field. A factual news brief will never beat a salacious, rumour-filled post, complete with dazzling graphics, deliberately inflammatory “headlines” and questionable comments.   

Nor should it. Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada, said, “We know the people using our platforms don’t come to us for news.” We agree, because Facebook has its own important roles to fill, both for arguing about how other people drive and possibly seeing whether a restaurant is open.    

In the meantime, no need to share this on Facebook.    


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