Advertisers should stop funding Facebook and start funding real journalism

The Guardian's relentless pursuit of Facebook in the face of potential lawsuits is the kind of thing advertisers should be funding, argues NewsMediaWorks CEO Peter Miller.

I’ve long been a fan of The Guardian newspaper, an admiration elevated in recent times by the paper’s dogged pursuit of Facebook and its failures regarding the private data breaches by Cambridge Analytica. These abject failures have thankfully now been dragged into the white light of public and governmental scrutiny.

Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had to put his day job on hold as he attends one after another government inquisition on both sides of the Atlantic to defend Facebook’s record and promote its prosed remedies. He has at times been apologetic, often declaring “we must and will do better”.

Stock analysts have been busy at times marking down the stock and then marking it back up as they bet on advertiser’s continued support for the platform.

One is reminded of the firebrand NSW Premier Jack Lang’s advice: “In any race always back the horse called self-interest”.

Given the gross, serial failures of Facebook and its subsequent admissions, which included admitting to the fact that The Guardian had actually understated the scale of Facebook’s betrayal of an estimated 87 million global citizens, you’d imagine there might be a few questions asked by advertisers who after all fund the platform.

There were a celebrated few who announced their withdrawal of advertising from Facebook. Elon Musk generated some publicity for Tesla. So too did Sonos; Mozilla and Commerzbank. No doubt there were some hard conversations, but that nag called self-interest probably came roaring down the straight right at the end.

Of course, great newspapers toil away as did the Guardian for over a year, whilst being threatened with lawsuits by the now defunct Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, to bring wrongdoing to light. And great newspapers, when they are onto a big story, keep running with it until it’s done.

And so it was last week The Guardian revealed that Facebook had announced in its first quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report that it had closed 583 million fake accounts. Since January.

You’re probably thinking this is a misprint. I mean, Facebook is thought to have 2.1 billion users globally. Surely it cannot be that more than 25% of them were fake?

Perhaps this news is enough to stimulate some advertiser discussions with their media agencies about Facebook, and whether they might be better off directing that 25% of their advertising budgets to more trustworthy media, like the newspapers who relentlessly originate well researched public interest news content for actual readers.

Peter Miller is CEO at NewsMediaWorks. 


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