Australia Fights Facebook Against Foreign Influence On Journalism
Facebook’s current fight with Australia suggests that equitable control of international news is a work in progress.
As when , the fight with Australia is again raising debate around social media networks’ enormous control over people’s access to information. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, says his country “” by an American tech company.
The geographic concentration of information technology puts these billions of non-American social media users and their government officials in an uncomfortable position. In effect, the business decisions of Big Tech can dictate free speech around the world.
Imperial Origins Of International News
Reliance on foreign media has long been a problem in the Global South – so-called developing countries with a shared history of colonial rule.
It began, in many ways, 150 years ago, with the development of wire services — the news wholesalers that send correspondents around the world to deliver stories via wire feed to subscribers. Each service generated news in its , so Britain’s Reuters would file stories from Bombay and Cape Town, for example, and France’s Havas from Algiers.
The U.S. joined the global news business in the early 20th century with The Associated Press.
These companies cornered the global market for news production, generating most of the content that people worldwide read in the international section of any newspaper. This meant, for example, that a Bolivian reading about events in neighboring Peru would typically receive the news from a U.S. or French correspondent.
The news monopolies of former colonial powers continued into the 20th century. Some Latin American countries, such as Argentina and Mexico, developed their own strong newspapers that reported on local and national events, but they could not afford to send many correspondents abroad.
Cold War Problems
Many world leaders outside of the U.S. and Europe worried that these foreign powers would use their media to intervene politically in their countries’ domestic affairs.
That happened during the Cold War. In the lead-up to a 1954 in Guatemala, the agency covertly took to the Guatemalan radio waves and to convince the Guatemalan military and public that the overthrow of their democratically elected president was inevitable.
After Guatemala, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many leaders in the “third world” – countries that aligned with neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union – began creating national news and radio services of their own.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro established a state-run international news service, Prensa Latina, to allow Latin Americans “.” He also created Radio Havana Cuba, which revolutionary programming across the Americas, including in the U.S. South.
Global South leaders also wanted to shape the international portrayal of their countries. North Atlantic news services often depicted the third world as backward and chaotic, justifying the need for outside .
In the 1970s, Global South leaders took their concerns about information inequities to , lobbying for binding United Nations regulations that would prohibit direct foreign broadcasts by satellite. It was a quixotic quest to persuade dominant powers to relinquish their control over communications technology, and they didn’t get far.
But those decades-old proposals recognized the imbalances in global information that remain in place today.
In recent decades, other countries have created their own news networks with the express aim of challenging biased representations of their regions.
Another is TeleSur, founded by Venezuela in partnership with other Latin American nations in 2005, which aims to counterbalance U.S. influence in the region. It was created after the 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, which was supported by the and .
Why Media Matters
State-sponsored media outlets have faced accusations – some well-founded – of in favor of their government sponsors. But their existence nonetheless underscores that it matters where media is produced, and by whom.
Research suggests this concern extends to social media. Facebook and Google, for example, produce algorithms and policies that reflect the ideas of their creators — who are primarily and based in Silicon Valley, California.
All of this raises doubts about whether Facebook, or any international company, can make rules regulating speech that are equally appropriate in every country they operate in. Deep knowledge of national politics and culture is necessary to understand which accounts are dangerous enough to suspend, for example, and what comprises misinformation.
Facing such criticism, in 2020 Facebook , colloquially referred to as its Supreme Court. Comprising media and legal experts from all over the world, the board has a truly diverse membership. But its mandate is to uphold a “constitution” designed by the American company by evaluating a handful of appeals to Facebook’s content removal decisions.
Facebook’s current fight with Australia suggests that equitable control of international news remains very much a work in progress.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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