From our special correspondent, Wessex Man:
Cambridge Analytica’s activities have exposed the threat to democracy that Facebook’s omissions have facilitated. Zuckerberg owes us more than a squirt of soundbites on CNN. He should do an in-depth interview with one of the organisations trying to investigate what is going on in the new digital world. At the same time, civil institutions in countries across the world need to do far more to regulate what entities such as Facebook are doing. Here in the UK, the idea that the information commissioner has just 10 frontline officers to fight the regulatory and security battles to come is close to absurd. Governments, like citizens, are out of their depth. Democracies have a super-human job to do to preserve the glories of the internet while preserving us from the abuse, filth and criminality that we now know is all too easy to conjure through it.
Why? Why would the owner of a company that is a rival to you do an interview with you, in the process, selling more ads, so less for Facebook, and giving you words you can edit down to the worst version to use against him, if you choose to? What’s the possible upside for Facebook?
As a journalist, I am grateful every waking day for what I am able to do thanks to the internet. But I loathe the idea that a company such as Cambridge Analytica has the capacity to work out whether I am susceptible to covert messaging that will affect the way I vote. Facebook has enabled us to secure literally billions of viewings of the news clips we post on our site. But in doing so we provide material around which it can sell advertising. Channel 4 News gets no revenue for this. Most readers of the Guardian and the New York Times read online. We all depended on terrestrial advertising to support what we do. That source of funding is evaporating. We have been arguing fiercely with Facebook, and Google, that they owe us a fairer share. Serious news, which Zuckerberg says he believes in to counter the fake news that thrives on his platform, costs serious money.
Why do they owe you a fairer share? You were invited to put content up there. They never offered to pay you. If your content is valuable, pull it, leave it on C4 news on TV and get viewers of it.
The problem is that the content really isn’t valuable. Not even this Cambridge Analytica scoop which already seems to be fizzling out. It was only valuable in the past because of the lack of competition but there’s now thousands of competitors. C4 don’t supply the whole program to Facebook,just the odd clip.So the real relationship here isn’t content being supplied by C4 to Facebook, it’s Facebook supplying PR services to C4. Hence, they want to be paid for it (via ads).
But I think Jon Snow has rather let the cat out of the bag. This was never about protecting Facebook users. It was about discrediting the new media to get them to cough up for the old.