Tuesday 18 September 2018
Freedom of Speech on Facebook – But Only at a Price?
A few weeks back I was banned by Facebook for thirty six hours for posting too much. A twenty four hour total ban, even on comments and an extra twelve hours from posting links etc. Most of my posts are links to this blog, which I post into several Facebook political groups. I’ve seen comments on Facebook from others who have had bans on posting of varying length, one person got banned for a whole month.
I’d say about 80% of people who visit this blog come from Facebook referrals, so to get a ban is pretty devastating for traffic to the blog, so I try not to post too much, and avoid getting banned. I know others who do the same. Why are Facebook so strict on people harmlessly posting into groups that they are members of? Well, I suspect it is a commercial decision.
Facebook doesn’t seem to like you getting something for nothing. While serving a ban from posting, you are still allowed to ‘boost’ previous posts, for a fee, of course. It is not as though I make any money from this blog, it is not a commercial site, so I don’t see why I should spend money on Facebook. If it was, then I would have to weigh up whether it was worth investing in Facebook to bring in a greater amount of revenue. But it isn’t, and I’ve never spent a penny on the blog.
I suppose because I use Facebook so much, it has become, in effect, my publisher, although I only thought about that recently. I am trying to increase traffic from other sources, other than Facebook, but with only modest gains so far. Facebook unfortunately is the easiest and most effective medium for attracting readers. Readers are important to me, there seems little point in writing if hardly anyone reads it. More important though, one of the main aims of this blog, is to spread ideas.
This blog, like most blogs, has an email feed facility, but not many have taken it up. I suspect this is because people want to discuss the posts with others in their Facebook groups, which is great, but it does tie me to Facebook.
Groups are the hardest feature of Facebook to replace, since they serve a wide range of purposes for different people. There aren’t really any other platforms that that offer the group type facility, although some claim to. Have a google and check it out yourself.
The latest platform for writers is called Civil, apparently run by the New York Times. As their site says:
‘Civil is a blockchain-based economy that involves the direct, peer-to-peer exchange of value between journalists who report articles, make videos, record podcasts, and the people who read, watch, listen and support their work.’
In practice you have to buy ‘tokens’ which are a kind of crypto-currency, to be able to take part. I don’t think I really fancy the sound of that.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader has said that if Labour gets into government it will consider making a publicly owned rival to Facebook, which is a good idea.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is widely credited as being the inventor of the world wide web, is said to be developing an alternative to Facebook, called Solid. But the motivation appears to be protecting users data from being misused, as happened with the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is not clear to me whether it will seek to replace the groups function on Facebook.
Some bloggers get most of their links from Twitter, and although I have been building my following on Twitter, it has only increased a little. So, at the moment at least, it looks as though I’m stuck with Facebook, for all the problems that it gives me. Which reminds me, a few of us small left media outlets and bloggers have set up a Facebook group specifically to spread our work.
You can find the group here Real Independent Media UK, please do join.