On April 11, 2015 SND, the Society for News Design, announced Facebook as the World’s Best-Designed News website at its Best of Digital Design competition.
Reaction was wide ranging — mostly critical. But is was clear that Facebook was described as a news website whether you liked it or not.
A couple of weeks ago the Norwegian daily, Dagbladet, posted on Facebook the iconic picture of the nine year old vietnamese girl, Kim Phuc, fleeing naked from napalm bombing on June 8, 1972 during the war in Vietnam.
Minutes after the photo was published it was censored for nudity. Dagbladet was asked to remove the image, after it had been deemed inappropriate by underpayed Facebook staff who have less than one second (0.9 second, to be exact) per image to judge its quality. This shows the reasoning Facebook have, when it comes to news. And you could argue pro or con. I do not believe it is editing.
News should be edited by editorial staff with enough time on their hands to make qualified decisions.
On the other side
But there is another side to the story. Dagbladet protested against the censored picture and so did a lot of Scandinavian colleagues, editors, commentators and others. And in the end the decision to censor the picture was revoked by Facebook.
Now you could argue that it was the end of the story. I do not think so. For centuries news have consisted of gathering information, evaluate information, editing information and presenting news. What Facebook is doing is only gathering and presenting information. Delivered by news oganizations all over the world. And for free.
If, as a news organization, you choose to use Facebook you should also accept the conditions that Facebook have. And these conditions include not showing nudity. So in fact Facebook is not doing anything wrong. They are only playing by their own rules. And you as a news organization should know.
Play by the rules
All news organizations have their own rules. When it comes to what you, as a news organization, publish of letters to the editor you have your rules and you decide what to publish, how and when. The same way as Facebook do.
I find it quite entertaining, that news organizations do not accept to play by the rules of Facebook and still defend their own right to publish, what they think is the right to publish. And “censor” other opinions.
In this example Dagbladet in fact wanted to – and managed to – edit another digital news site. In other words Facebook.
Then you could ask, if Facebook is a news site or just a provider of news. I think they are merely a distributor of news that others create. But Facebook still have their rules of which you have to accept.
And you as a news organization can choose not to use Facebook as a distributor of news that you do not get paid for.
In the end it might be a better deal – and it might pave the road to better revenue – for your company and not for Facebook.