Facebook has unfriended Australia.
It has every legal right to do that. It is a commercial company which makes decisions in its own commercial interest.
But have no doubt that its hot love affair with the dollar translates into a coolness towards democracy.
The communities which will suffer most will be those small towns throughout country Australia where the local trusted source of news has already closed down or been weakened.
In those places, Facebook has become the medium of communication - it is the media - but without the ability to gather news in a reliable way or to make sense of it. The algorithm rules, not a human being with a brain. Whatever gets clicks, gets more clicks.
Without access to reputable newspapers and broadcasters, the citizens of small towns will be relayed all the gossip and falsity pushed out by the usual suspects. The floor is cleared for the loudmouths and the ill-informed, the people with opinions but not facts. Every loopy conspiracy will get an airing.
There may be a benefit. People may realise what they have lost, and they may turn to the websites of the reputable media. And the reputable media may continue to realise that Facebook is a false friend. Its embrace is the kiss of death.
The general idea when social media was the coming thing was that it would enhance democracy ... How forlorn that hope now looks.
Facebook has been cack-handed in its wielding of the big stick - shutting down the pages of health authorities during a public health crisis. The public relations consultants to whom Facebook pays copious dollars will enjoy their Zoom meetings discussing that masterstroke.
Nobody knows how this bare-knuckle fight will end. There may well be an outcry from those, particularly the young, who rely solely on Facebook for news - but the research shows that there are not many of them. Most people get their news from a variety of sources.
For some time now, Facebook has been playing catch-up as outrage has grown about the poison which appears on its site. It has tightened the rules when bad publicity erupts.
In September, The Washington Post reported that one of Facebook's software engineers had "watched with growing unease as the platform has become a haven for hate".
"I'm quitting because I can no longer stomach contributing to an organization that is profiting off hate in the US and globally," Ashok Chandwaney wrote in a letter posted on the company's internal network.
It should be said that the company disagreed.
The politics of this stoush will be interesting. Facebook may be depending on a public outcry - but the people doing the crying out are unlikely to be those with the big political clout.
On the other hand, Australian media has a loud voice, and none so loud as Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch versus Zuckerberg is a heavyweight bout, but the old media mogul (in contrast to new media - no reflection on Mr M's age) packs a big punch against the Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.
Mr Murdoch's papers have already given a sense of the fight. "Mark Zuckerberg's spectacular Facebook own goal a win for news" roared The Australian. "Thanks for the Memories FB but you can Zuck yourself" said The Daily Telegraph (more crudely).
The general idea when social media was the coming thing was that it would enhance democracy. It would give a voice to the many. How forlorn that hope now looks. It has given a voice to the ignorant and the loud and the purveyors of falsity - sometimes ignorant falsity but often deliberate falsity. That barroom bore now has 30,000 followers.
Now, Facebook seeks to defy the will of an elected government in a great democracy. There can't be any backing down in the face of such contempt.
I already don't use Facebook, because I find it so dispiriting. It too often brings out the worst in people. They say foul things about complete strangers, including me when I was the sole reporter in a small country town on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. I felt like I needed a good shower after Facebook.
I was never a friend of Facebook. I remain well informed. I don't need it. A full life is possible without it.
Don't let it bully Australia.
- Steve Evans is a Canberra Times reporter.