By Mark St.Cyr
There are two hot topics post the U.S. presidential election. One is “fake news”, the other is Facebook™ (FB), and its involvement in it.
The accusations and the defenses against have been all over the board. Both figuratively, as well as literally.
Management from Mark Zuckerberg on down have been professing when it came to anything “fake” it wasn’t of their doing. And gee-whiz-by-golly they’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure anything “fake” never sees the “like” of day again.
Sounds great, in theory. But there’s a very real fact that must now be considered…
If “fake” news was so wide-spread, and so devoured on FB that it had the ability to not only influence, but rather, to overturn political norms and ruin the election of what everyone in media on down believed; that this election was merely a formality on paper because, it was clear to all of them, Mrs. Clinton would win not just walking away, but running?
That would mean FB now has to alienate (i.e., by now not delivering “news” these people wanted to see) millions, upon millions, upon millions of now current users. What does that imply to their now “real” (ooopsy, again!) metrics going forward?
If the above hypothetical has the ability to be true (and from a business perspective it sure has) the very fact that FB will now openly censor, mark, tag, possibly defame (whether intentionally or not), and more articles of news, or anything else shared on its platform. Two questions have to be asked:
First: How many FB customers decide they don’t need or want a “mommy” deciding what they can, or can not, read or share? Second: How fast does that process begin, and by how many?
No matter what side of the political fence you’re on matters. The only thing that matters is what all this means from a business perspective to FB’s bottom line. For as much as everyone likes “free”, without Wall Street (or the Swiss Central Bank) buying? FB moves to AOL™ status quicker than you can say “You’ve got mail®.”
As of this writing some hand writing is all ready appearing on the wall as FB announced not only will it begin to find ways to forbid fact-check. But it has now joined forces with a third-party to do just that. Again, all sounds good on the surface until you’re made aware by one’s own fact-checking just whom that third-party is. e.g., Poynter™.
Who are they? Personally, I’ve never heard of them prior, but it only took seeing one man’s name on the roster of backers to understand the impact it will have on a great many current FB users, as well as content generators to imagine a most assured backlash. e.g. George Soros.
Again, it doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you sit. And it doesn’t matter whether you like or dislike Mr. Soros, or anything he’s involved with. What does matter is this: How many users, along with legitimate purveyors of content currently using FB are going to allow any form of what they will most certainly view as censorship via an entity controlled (or at least think is) by people they deem hold the antithesis viewpoint to theirs? And it will be they that has the control to censor.
What’s the number? 1? 10? 10,000? 10 Million? ____________? (fill in the blank). And what do they represent in economic impact to FB’s bottom line? Does it hurt user numbers? Does a revolt in buying ads, or promoting sites, or content develop? The list of potential revenue disruptors begins to get lengthy when you truly ponder the potential impact. And Wall Street doesn’t like things that have the potential to hurt the bottom line. Non-GAAP or not.
Remember: The argument is “fake news” (and FB is now considered the poster child for where it ran rampant, whether rightly, or wrongly) had so much influence in this election that it cost the presumed victor millions of votes.
So if you take that logic as being possibly true. Then that means millions of FB users are consumers (For they must have consumed, no?) of that type of content. And if they now know FB will some how either remove it, or make it so burdensome to access they won’t see it? Whether they agree with FB’s conclusions or not? Are you beginning to see how this could run?
Then add to that one of the parties responsible for that form of censorship which they will be subject to as for what they may, or may not read – is being decided by an entity presumably controlled under the auspices of Mr. Soros? The potential for both FB content consumers along with content creators getting upset maybe an understatement. Even among the so-called “legitimate” voices. FB could have an outright revolution of revulsion on their hands. Think about it.
What happens if rather than FB being the provider or outlet for calls of boycotts or other social protests when it comes to advertisers and more, suddenly finds those roles reversed where it can be the recipient of those calls? And how do advertisers view those prospects? This whole “fake” has truly opened up a very real can-of-worms for FB in my opinion. A very real and potentially costly “can” at that.
Don’t think things have a potential for explosive reactions? Just try telling someone (anyone) they’re not allowed to see or read something. Forget politics, I mean anything. Watch how fast any argument of “It’s for your own good” lasts, or works.
There are other considerations I’ll bet a lot of people have yet to even ponder. So, for those who don’t remember ancient history. Or care about “marketing.” Let me leave you with this:
One of the best marketing and sales generating campaigns for the written word ever discovered fell under this same category” i.e., “You can’t read that – we forbid it!” Or, “Book burnings begin tonight!” Or my personal favorite “Banned in Boston!”
Personally, I don’t use FB. However, with that said – I will be the first one to put up on my site in large letters “Banned by FB” Or “FB says Don’t Read This!” Or, something of that sort should one of my articles ever get shared and some form of signaling or notation is made accordingly. It would be a badge of honor. Besides…
You couldn’t ask for better marketing. All at FB’s expense, and quite possibly, literally.