Facebook has threatened to ban news sharing in Australia. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg photo)

Facebook has threatened to ban news sharing in Australia. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg photo)

OPINION: Facebook has taken one step too far

Social network threatens to ban news in Australia, same could happen here

Can Terrace quit its Facebook habit?

Like many rural communities in B.C., Terrace relies on Facebook as a default communication platform.

Everyone uses it to send private messages. It’s the go-to site for private buy and sell. It’s the main platform for discussion and debate about community issues, event planning, and business communication.

City council meetings are livestreamed on Facebook — in fact, committee of the whole webcasts are only available on Facebook, as the City neglects to upload those to its own site like it does with regular council meetings. Even The Terrace Standard relies on Facebook to reach much of its audience.

But Facebook is not a safe, neutral platform. It’s well-documented that Facebook’s algorithm is optimized to grab viewers’ attention by any means necessary. Outrage, Facebook has learned, drives engagement, and the platform is designed to stoke outrage for profit. This contributes to the polarized, brutal political climate of 2020.

Facebook has access to any private message sent through its messenger. Those messages are routinely data-mined. Certain Facebook employees have the power to read any message they wish (and have been caught doing so multiple times).

Facebook has admitted to running predictive algorithms on a huge number of messages attempting to determine, for example, if machines can predict using messages whether a person is a drug dealer, which is so 1984 that I can’t even.

Facebook has repeatedly ignored or failed on act on evidence of its platform being used to manipulate political outcomes across the globe according to a recently-leaked memo written by a former Facebook data analyst, Sophie Zhang.

As you can see, I’m a longtime Facebook opponent. Most of my friends have heard me rant about this after a drink or two.

I don’t use it in my personal life and I am perturbed that I’ve had to resume using it for professional purposes since I started working at The Standard.

I’m trying not to be unreasonable about it. I understand the incredible convenience that Facebook offers. There’s a reason it has been adopted so comprehensively in our region. It does make my job much easier.

But recently, Facebook took a step too far. It has threatened to block Australian news organizations and regular users from sharing news articles on the platform, in response to a proposed Australian bill that would force Facebook to compensate news organizations for news content shared on the platform.

That’s a grave threat, considering the information monopoly Facebook controls.

It makes me wonder; if Terrace Standard articles were banned from Facebook, would the people of Terrace seek out alternative means of reading, sharing, and commenting on our news?

We aren’t perfect, but we care about our community and we do our very best to serve you. I hope you would follow, but I would understand if you didn’t.

This leads me to another question. If Terrace were able to abandon Facebook in favour of a neutral, ethical social media platform, what effect would that have on our community? Would we see as much disrespect and fury in discussion of local matters?

I acknowledge there will be some degree of that on any online platform, but Facebook nurtures and encourages negativity.

I wonder if the bitter disputes like those that flare up on the Terrace Community Bulletin Board group would be present on a different platform.

There aren’t many ethical alternatives right now. Some do exist, such as the non-profit diaspora* social network project, but they are essentially devoid of users, and a social network isn’t much use without any people on it.

I think we’re stuck with Facebook for now, but I challenge and encourage each of you to begin searching for alternatives, and to constantly question the impact of this ghoulish social network. The soul of our community is at stake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

A housing location for workers on the new Mills Memorial Hospital construction project has been approved by city council. (File photo)
Camp spot proposed for hospital construction workers

As many as 350 outside workers may be needed

Terrace city council are reaching out to the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson regarding councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation on Feb. 22, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
City of Terrace seeking ombudsperson investigation into allegations of systemic racism

Councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller resigned Feb. 22, citing racism

A large provincial grant will make cycling and walking safer in Terrace. (File photo)
Large grant to make walking, cycling safer in Terrace

Pathway will connect old Skeena Bridge to the downtown

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read