Canada

Should news organizations be the next to delete Facebook ?

As the Facebook privacy furor continues, publishers are grappling with whether they should post their content. But the allure of the social media's 2 billion users is strong.

Publishers grapple with whether to post content to the embattled social media site

Some news publishers would like to abandon Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook and build their own alternatives. Channel 4 news editor Ben De Pear suggested publishers could collaborate on a site that could be called 'Newsbook.' But it's hard to turn away from Facebook's audience of 2 billion. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

As Mark Zuckerberg continues his apology tour, speaking to select journalists about his company's failure to protect the data of 50 million users, there's one news organization that claims the Facebook CEO has refused to even acknowledge their request to be interviewed.

That would be Channel 4 in London, which along with the Guardian newspaper broke the story of Facebook's data disaster earlier this month, leading the company to lose $100 billion US in value since its yearly high in early February.

Now, the channel's news editor, Ben de Pear, has been quoted by online site The Drum suggesting that news organizations should quit posting their material on Facebook altogether, which he says has become "too toxic" and has a "cult-like sense of its own infallibility."

"It's probably unrealistic but should all news be in one place? [A place] where you see a multitude of opinions but where it is verified news and not just made up, like so much of it was on Facebook," De Pear was quoted as saying.

It's easy to dismiss the comments as sour grapes, but news organizations — including the CBC, which boasts more than 2 million subscribers on its Facebook page — have long wrestled with how to manage what the site has become: an available audience of more than 2 billion people, but without much differentiation between real and fake news.

De Pear suggests that news organizations around the world should develop alternatives where subscribers can be assured of quality controls.

"All the news organizations need to talk to each other and maybe we can come up with a separate platform — I don't know, call it Newsbook?"

How is the tech industry addressing data privacy and how much boils down to personal responsibility? Watch The Investigators Saturdays at 9:30 pm ET and Sundays at 5:30 pm ET on CBC News Network. 3:24

That's where the conversation seems headed for news organizations, but for most people the recent stories have prompted a more general question: "Who has obtained my data, and what's being done with it?" The Channel 4 report showed data taken from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica had been used to try to influence elections with targeted political ads, even fake news stories.

CBC, which operates one of the most-visited online sites in Canada, says it does collect data from subscribers. In response to the question from The Investigators with Diana Swain, CBC said the data is collected and kept within a "protected and monitored infrastructure" it never sells "people's personal information to third parties" but that the data is used to "show visitors more relevant ads and better search results," largely based on where they live.

Kurt Wagner of U.S.-based online site Recode, which reports on the tech industry, was one of those who recently interviewed Zuckerberg. Speaking to The Investigators this week, he says he believes Facebook's CEO understands how angry some people are about the company's mishandling of their personal information.

"Facebook seems to be taking it seriously and while it's not easy for people to feel bad for Mark Zuckerberg right now, I do think that he realizes that the company screwed up and he needs to do something about it."

  • Watch the full interview with Kurt Wagner on The Investigators, Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

Whether the damage to Facebook's reputation with its users, including news organizations, can be alleviated is the question no one is yet prepared to answer. Even De Pear admits his company won't quit Facebook right away, if at all. In spite of the revelations of the company's massive missteps, it remains the biggest social media site in the world, with an audience just too large for news organizations to easily turn away from.

Also this week on The Investigators with Diana Swain: Radio-Canada investigative journalist Marie-Maude Denis has been ordered by a Quebec judge to reveal the name of a source. She explains why she's fighting the decision. And CBC News investigative reporter Dave Seglins explains how he determined the Blue Jays are getting a cut of their own tickets being scalped online.