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Saturday, 20 February 2021 07:32

Facebook: should Scomo take the issue to the UN Security Council? Featured

Facebook: should Scomo take the issue to the UN Security Council? Image by 995645 from Pixabay

If the initial reaction to Facebook's sudden decision to cut Australians off from the site on Thursday was idiotic, it became even more ludicrous on Friday, with reactions from politicians and the media competing to be dubbed the silliest of the lot.

Primacy must go to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who dug his heels in and reiterated his determination to pass the news media code into law. Scomo was big on Facebook lingo in some of his statements, saying: "It is not OK to unfriend Australia because Australia is very friendly. We would like to remain very friendly and it is time for them to friend us again." Truly, a man of the times.

And in a report that just came online, Australian politicians have said they are halting their ads on Facebook because of the ban. Now, that should make Mark Zuckerberg really worried about how he will meet next month's payroll.

He also said he had the support of "world leaders" on the matter, citing Canada, the UK and India. So what do these leaders plan to do – send their armies to invade Facebook's offices in the US and arrest Mark Zuckerberg?

Remember, when Zuckerberg was asked to appear before the parliament of the UK, surely a much bigger and more powerful player on the world stage than Australia, he just ignored the request. His presence was sought in connection with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which was made out to be much more serious when it was a hoax championed by a hysterical reporter, and was, in truth, a close competitor to the Russiagate rubbish.

What does Morrison plan to do next? Take the issue to the UN? Call for a Security Council resolution? Exactly how silly can you get over a fracas like this?

The narrative being spread is that poor Australia is being victimised by the awful Facebook and Scomo is trying to defend the country's sovereignty.

What happened to support from Australia's greatest ally, the US of A? I doubt there will be a word out of Washington DC, praising Scomo's tenacity. The truth is that when the rubber finally hits the road, the US Government will not take a single step against the social media giant – it is too valuable in terms of publicity for all American politicians and, more than that, campaign contributions. You know, money. Dollars. Moolah.

We've seen hints of how the US defends technology companies, with the threats that were made against France when it levied a tax on these big tech firms.

Before I forget, for all those who have been living under a rock for the last few days, Facebook announced, early on Thursday morning AEDT, that it would restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on its platform.

The curbs were said to be because Australia was trying to put in place a news media code — officially known as the News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code — that would force Facebook and Google to pay for news content.

A Facebook official has now apologised for nuking a number of Australian sites that had nothing to do with news and shown the necessary remorse so that this can be spun as a positive for Australia. We have willing media organs to perform this role and wave the Australian flag.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was active on Friday too, tweeting (our Josh likes to tweet): "The Australian Government remains firmly committed to legislating & implementing the mandatory media bargaining code. This is all about levelling the playing field, protecting public interest journalism & ensuring journalists are rewarded for generating original content."

There was a gem from the Herald Sun too, with the demands made by Facebook (what are they? Facebook isn't saying) likened to the list of 14 demands made by China for it to restore good ties with Australia. In other words, Zuckerberg is as bad as those lousy Communists, the truculent Xi Jinping, and his cohorts. A childish reaction if anything.

Another over-the-top reaction came from the verbose Paul Kelly, who called Facebook's action "an assault on Australia’s civic life"! Did someone say hyperbole?

In a narcissistic world, where "look at me" has come to dominate, Facebook is the refuge of many a soul. You can't change that. It's probably easier to give up using the site than stopping smoking (and I know how hard the latter is, because I gave it up in the 1990s). There is no alternative. This is a hard truth that nobody has highlighted, the decline of society to the point where people are reduced to communicating in text messages and other such impersonal ways.

I've asked many of my serious friends, mostly nerds, why they use Facebook and they all had the same reason: to keep in touch with family and friends. They are not into the sillier features offered by the site, but this is a valid reason for any human being to have an account.

All that is left in this drama is for the Australian Greens to suggest that this country should set up its own national social media site. The party made an equally silly suggestion at the beginning of the month, when it said Australia should set up its own search engine. And they want people to take them seriously!

Update, 21 February: The US reaction is in: the dispute is seen as a business negotiation between private companies and the Australian Government. Special relationship, indeed!

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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