Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook didn't "accidentally" switch off information sites like the Department of Health. Facebook doesn't make mistakes.
What it did, ever so slightly, was ratchet up the pressure on government. This "helped" Treasurer Josh Frydenberg realise exactly where his interests lay - in doing a deal and not in a bruising, drawn-out battle with the media giant.
Facebook wanted a deal, but only one that left it in control. Sure, they preferred not to gift money to anyone, particularly slow media behemoths that can't even get their distribution model right. But Zuckerberg can live with this, because the government's cemented his role. Facebook's now driving the media jalopy.
It's always a good rule that politicians should never get involved in business deals. What Frydenberg's ensured is that Facebook can operate as it likes while tossing a bit of money to some old media companies.
Which is why Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and Peter Costello's Nine have clambered aboard. Now they can piggyback on Facebook's distribution network rather than fix their own. This deal gives to big media according to a formula that ruthlessly cuts out stories that are costly to produce or important to be told. If a story from a local or specialist media outlet makes a splash because it exposes genuine malfeasance, it gets nothing. The money's distributed according to the old formula among the government's mates. The market is sidelined.
Instead of paying for content and stories that are actually used, the legislation cements into place a deal that rips the guts out of good journalism. It's a simple deal to police the market rather than facilitate it working effectively. There are no effective checks; no effective control. That's why the big players are all happy.
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But what's most important is that this sets an atrocious precedent: Facebook chooses the news you see and Zuckerberg will decide how it distributes the pittance it decides is "appropriate".
Labor's hitching a ride because it's not interested in real reform. The last thing it wants is to get Facebook, or big media, offside before the coming election. But the biggest joke of all is hidden in plain sight. This legislation allows the Treasurer to decide if the deals between Facebook and the media companies represent "a significant contribution" to the sustainability of news.
That's why Facebook's on top of the winners podium. Its business model is secure and untouched. Shuffling in second are the lethargic, old media; behemoths getting money for nothing. Third is the government with Frydenberg given the chance to regale everyone at dinner parties about how he "faced down" Zuckerberg over six telephone conversations.
So who's lost? Well you, obviously, but at least you're not coming last. That place is reserved for journalism.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer and a regular columnist.