Which of these causes you most anxiety?
- At the end of June 2017, the number of active Facebook users (visiting the site at least once a month) passed 2,000,000,000
- WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram — all owned by Facebook — have 3,000,000,000 users
- 66% of American adults are on Facebook
- 45% of them get their news from it
- >50% of the UK population access Facebook at least once a month
- The average Facebook user is on site for 90 minutes every day
- In mobile social networking, Facebook and its subsidiaries control 75 % of the American market
- Amazon controls 65 % of all online new book sales
- Google’s market share of USA online searches is 87 %
Who can now seriously doubt that Facebook is a publisher as opposed to what it likes to say it is: a tech platform? Niall Fergusson writes:
"According to Zuckerberg, Facebook is ‘a tech company, not a media company… We build the tools; we do not produce any content’. Yet in practice, according to a recent Reuters investigation, ‘an elite group of at least five senior executives regularly directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls.’ In the words of Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Zuckerberg is now ‘the world’s most powerful editor’."
My answer to my original question it's that fully 30% of American adults get their news from Facebook. That's mind-numbing in more senses than one. As Robert Harris recently said about 1930s Germany:
"You got spoon-fed the news that you wanted and it was all very comforting. One gets that now: everyone can get the news they want. They don’t have to think: they are just comforted in their prejudices, and there is a totalitarian vibe in the air."
For more on all this, read Niall Fergusson whose new book, The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (Allen Lane) – and Sam Leith (talking to Robert Harris about his new book, Munich, Hutchinson).