Facebook claims to have 1.8 billion users worldwide and it is seeking to expand that number, particularly in the developing world. More than a billion people access Facebook each day. There are 16 million Facebook accounts from Australia. It also has 5 million active advertisers. It is
Reference: Farhad Manjoo. ‘Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?’ The New York Times Magazine. 25 April 2017.
the largest and most influential entity in the news business, commanding an audience greater than that of any American or European television news network, any newspaper or magazine in the Western world and any online news outlet. It is also the most powerful mobilizing force in politics, and it is fast replacing television as the most consequential entertainment medium.
Facebook is used by two thirds of US adults and two thirds of these access Facebook’s news, which amounts to 44% of the adult population. Facebook enables people to communicate with friends, display their family photos, maintain contacts, and keep track of events and dates.
Facebook’s is worth over $400 billion, with income in 2016 of over $27 billion, making it one of the world’s most valuable companies.
“Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.” And the newsfeed on Facebook is becoming “more intense”, including more fringe ‘news’ sources that often have no presence outside of Facebook, and encouraging urgency and action. “They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands… Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people.”
Many of these pages are not aimed at promoting a brand or as clickbait for advertisers, but rather getting visitors to share their pages for political purposes. Others are primarily clickbait aimed at attracting visitors to click on links to websites that are carpeted with advertisements that earn the publishers an income.
Facebook is particularly useful in finding like-minded people, and it promotes that facility. This has been used effectively for uprisings like the Arab Spring but also enables violent extremists and racists to find each other. Facebook can help “turn a disparate group of individuals” into dangerous political force.
Adam Schrader, a former Facebook journalist has said, “I think that Facebook and algorithms are partially responsible if not, you know, the main reason why, there's this shift toward hyper partisan belief systems these days”.
© 2017 Sharon Beder