Mike Ko Personal Portfolio

 

Home-School Education
2001-2012
Hong Kong

University of Durham
Bachelor of Science
2014-2017
United Kingdom

2017 - 2018
United Kingdom




    Facebook: News with No Direction?

        To most of the world, Facebook still works as it normally does. Everyone’s News Feeds show a mix of posts from friends, public figures, companies and organisations that are being followed. Yet for six non-western countries, a little test is under way: the old News Feed now only displays posts from friends or sponsors. Everyone else’s posts were moved to a separate side feed, unless they paid a fee to keep the posts on the main one. There were later reports in Slovakia – one of the test countries – that posts were not showing up in the side feed. It might have been a small change, but it caused no small degree of alarm among conventional local news media in these countries. Many small-scale news media saw their reach to audiences shrink and shrivel with the loss of this platform. That by extension can plausibly translate into fewer readers. It was a reminder of how some conventional news media has become greatly dependent on social media.

        Of course, one would scarcely expect this measure to affect major news corporations. Yet even then, it would be hard to deny the influence that these media can exert through social media. Various major news media all have social media accounts nowadays, and people are gradually relying on the Facebook and its competitors for news. This was rather handily demonstrated when the fake news controversy blew up during the 2016 United States presidential election. For better or worse, social media has become part of the news media’s method.

        This can lead to a few dilemmas. Social media can act as a second layer of gatekeeping, controlling what information reaches whom. Yet unlike journalists who are guided in their coverage by professional conduct, Facebook and its counterparts are probably unfettered by these concerns. Instead of objectivity and ethics, they have algorithms to sort out information that may suit each user’s preferences. This calculated, indifferent approach was partly what led to the whole fake news debacle and also to the media infamous “echo-chamber” effect. The influence of social media in deciding what type of news that reaches people is not to be underestimated. Given this power, perhaps these new forms of media should be subjected to a set of journalistic standard as well.

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