What If the Government Ran a Social Network?


A publicly-funded social network run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation “has been proposed as one possible response if Facebook and Google limit services in Australia when the mandatory news code becomes law this year,” reports the Guardian:

Facebook has warned it will block Australians from sharing news if the landmark plan to make digital platforms pay for news content becomes law. Google has been running a public campaign against the code and launched an international campaign targeting YouTube users when the government announced it would force the company to pay news publishers for content… The proposal for a platform hosted by the ABC is among a raft of risk mitigation proposals in a report commissioned by the Centre for Responsible Technology, “Tech-Xit: Can Australia survive without Google and Facebook?”

The proposed platform would connect the community without harvesting data in the way Google and Facebook do, and could rely on the wide reach of the ABC across local, regional and national communities, as well as the trust the invested in the institution by the public. “An ABC platform which engages the community, allows for a genuine exchange and influence on decision making, and applying principles of independent journalism and storytelling would provide real value to local communities starved of civic engagement,” the report says. “[We should] develop viable alternatives to Google and Facebook, such as national online social platform hosted through the ABC…”

The report argues the arrival of the mandatory news code is a chance to push back against the profit or surveillance imperative of the tech giants and look for alternatives. “Google and Facebook’s response to the ACCC mandatory news code has placed in stark relief our national over-reliance on them,” the director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, Peter Lewis, said. “This analysis shows that two global corporations that play a dominant role in our civic and commercial institutions are prepared to threaten to withdraw those services to protect their own commercial self-interest.”

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