Media Blackmail

The current stouch between the Australian Government and Facebook, and the subsequent response by Facebook may be just the tip of the iceberg.

No doubt the social media channels are fighting to preserve their business model, and their shareholder profits. There is a certain irony in a Government disrupting the disruptors, yet also an inevitability. History is littered with the carcasses of corporations that have fallen foul of public sentiment and faced the wrath of Government. Monopolies of all types have been forced to divest and break up their divisions, and competition has been fostered through Government policy. The likes of Google and Facebook would have been naive to believe they were immune to such intervention. They may believe they are untouchable within the United States, however taking on foreign Governments or collective cross-border Governments is always going to end in failure for the corporation concerned.

Facebooks response, amateurish and heavyhanded, simply served to demonstrate the fragility of their business model. It is likely they will fight on until a coalition of concerned shareholders tell Mark Zuckerberg to pull his head in – and that will happen at the point this fight begins to cost Facebook revenue. Already moves by the Australian Department of Health to remove its advertising from Facebook demonstrate that Governments do have some understanding of the trigger points to force a stand down.

The Australian Governments decision to withdraw advertising from Facebook, while relatively punitive, also serves to underline that advertisers and news agencies do have alternatives channels to social media.

A number of charities and NGO social media channels were caught up in Facebook’s ham-fisted attempt at media blackmail. All that was achieved was damage to Facebook’s reputation, and added strength to the Governments position. Some commentators have suggested less than 25% of people relied upon Facebook as a source of news – and for good reason – considering the platform’s history for fostering fake news. After the initial flurry of manufactured shock and horror by the news media themselves, the world has calmed down, the Australian economy hasn’t collapsed as a result and most of us, despite our love/hate with Facebook have enjoyed seeing them squirm upon the proverbial spike.

There is one other aspect for nonprofit organisations to consider. Few would rely upon social media channels for their communications, however some do so more than others. Facebook’s actions provide an incentive for charities and social agencies to review how they communicate their messages.

Social media provide a convenient way to communicate, but its not an effective way to do so. Less than 20% of those the follow your social media channel, especially Facebook, actually receive your posts. Facebook’s algorithm based distribution of posts, along with their annoying advertising on your feed, has probably done more to irritate users than their latest bumbling attack upon Australian democracy.

The convenience of social channels has sometimes lead us away from more time consuming, expensive, and more effective options. Your mailing list should be your best friend for sending email messages, newsletters and notifications. Mobile phone contacts provide another channel for distributing information. Stakeholder meetings provide opportunities for face to face dialogue, and these can take place on Zoom.

This is risk management 101. Sometimes we need a kick up the bum with the proverbial size 10 gumboot to show us how complacent we may have become.

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