The only surprise here is quite how naked the insistence is.
Facebook’s launch of a new section on its flagship app dedicated to “deeply-reported and well-sourced” journalism sparked immediate controversy on Friday over the inclusion of Breitbart News, a publication whose former executive chairman explicitly embraced the “alt-right”.
Facebook News is a separate section of the company’s mobile app that will feature articles from about 200 publishers. Friday’s launch is a test and will only be visible to some users in the US.
The initiative is designed to quell criticism on two fronts: by promoting higher quality journalism over misinformation and by appeasing news publishers who have long complained that Facebook profits from journalism without paying for it. The company will pay some publishers between $1m and $3m each year to feature their articles, according to Bloomberg.
The argument being used is that Breitbart publishes some material not entirely in tune with the zeitgeit of the American media.
Which, given that the US media votes 70 to 90% Democrat (reportedly, the 90% is at the WSJ) isn’t a surprise. As with Fox News, the aim of Breitbart is to be determinedly against that general media consensus.
The point that the attempt is being made upon is that someone that far out of he mainstream just shouldn’t get any visibility. The Overton Window is being defined as what a certain highly partial group insists it should be.
In short, Breitbart publishes things we don’t agree with, therefore Facebook shouldn’t add them to the new service.
There’s even that underlying insistence that if people publish icky stuff then people will start to have icky ideas. Thus by limiting the spread of icky media the spread of icky ideas will be curbed.
All of which is entirely wrong, of course. The thing to understand about media bias is that outlets pursue, not cause, the prejudices of their audience. Murdoch didn’t set up Fox News to turn America right. He noted that there was no TV channel playing to the prejudices of the right. Breitbart doesn’t cause anything, it follows.
The idea that millions of people should not be pleasured by their chosen media, as millions of others with fashionably acceptable prejudices should be, is simply wrong.
And, of course, this is why Facebook is doing it. Whatever else we might say about Zuckerberg he’s not stupid. Which is why a well trafficked media site is inside his walled garden. Because to have such a significant part of the media outside it would create a nucleus for someone to build a competitor system around.
There is of course a final point here. This new Facebook News is a Facebook product, It’s up to the management of Facebook, those hired by the shareholders to advance their interests, to determine the products Facebook launches. So, who in buggery are you to say who should be included or not?