Facebook just expanded its position as the most powerful media

The social media giant once again made some trouble in the world of legacy media and free speech by censuring an iconic war photo.

Photo manipulation / Nick Ut

Facebook is not just about monitoring you and all your movements to make money on you with extremely intimidating advertisements. But it’s a good place to start if you want to understand what the mega company is up to.
 
Zuckerberg the CEO is meeting world leaders and talking about bringing internet to rural parts of the world beamed from space rockets and autonomous airplanes, artificial intelligence in virtual worlds or whatever is in vogue on the edge of technology.

The kind of disruptive ambitions that’s expected by the market and employees when you call yourself a technology company. And Facebook is celebrated as exactly that by the endless number of tech media that has flourished in a kind of gold rush on the news constantly breaking from the world of technological breakthroughs.

The founder and executive in the hoodie has become a superhero like major sports stars and music celebrities. And he deserves it all, if you ask me. He’s extremely talented and fiercely ambitious. And he’s continuously doing a lot of seemingly crazy stuff while confidently building one of the strongest and most recognizable companies in history. Facebook now has a market capitalization of approximately 357 billion dollars.

But so far they are making all the money from classical advertising.

Which is why it’s not a technology company (yet!). And if it really is as disruptive a company as Mark Zuckerberg makes it sound, we still need to see more evidence to prove it, people ask. As an example the company has not revolutionized the health care industry or the energy sector with all their regulations and standards. And it hasn’t turned up side down banking and finance yet. So far the havoc created is in the media industry. But to be fair that’s no small dent in the universe either.

In fact Facebook has sparked a genuine revolution that has pulled the rug out from under an entire industry. The company’s product is really just an empty shell for a lot of other products to fit into. Because of that they have hijacked most of people’s attention to a single platform as never seen before in history. And thus lured away most of the advertising money that finances the media companies of the world — both publicists and the entertainment business.

Actually Facebook will soon swallow every advertising budget out there, except for the part they leave for Google about which in many ways is the same story.

That’s why Peter Kafka argues that Facebook is in reality a media company. A mighty one that is. Build on eminent technology and engineered by the most skilled and technically savvy people you can get for money.

But the business model is that of the media industry.

Last week an iconic photograph of a naked girl from the Vietnam War was removed by Facebook by it’s censorship corps. That made the editor in chief of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and several other editors with him call for Zuckerberg to meet his responsibilities as the man in charge of the world’s most powerful media.

Now all these great editors that are struggling to make a business now that Facebook has taken away their advertising dollars actually asked the very same Facebook to behave more like them, more like a real medium, with an eye for freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

That’s great. Free speech does not come easily and if the press is not defending it who is.

Facebook obliged and put the photo back up. Just like they’ve done in other cases. The executive management of the company obviously learned something of value here as is the nature of Mark Zuckerberg. And so did the sophisticated algorithms of the 10 year old News Feed.

A beautiful victory for freedom of expression. And a valuable improvement of the Facebook strategy and technology.

The question is what this means to the hard working media companies?


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