Facebook wants us to know that it's the real victim here

Look, Facebook is the real victim here, being picked on by the mean, nasty press. Don't you feel sorry for these unaccountable billionaires?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I'm sure like many of us, Mark Zuckerberg has turned over a new leaf with the New Year, ready to approach the world with a new humility, and learn from his mistakes.

Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives are fed up with The New York Times after weeks of what they see as overtly antagonistic coverage that betrays an anti-Facebook bias, several sources at the social media giant tell me.

Oh, right. So, it's the other thing then.

Facebook sources believe some of the paper's reporters willfully ignored nuances about how the internet works in order to cast Facebook in the worst-possible light, either because the paper is hell-bent on crippling the social media network or because it is gunning for a Pulitzer Prize.

Not considered: that Facebook is an insanely powerful company with a truly global reach and an unprecedented influence over global affairs. Zuckerberg's dorm room baby is literally the sort of power that newspapers are duty-bound to call to account.

Has all the New York Times's reporting been perfect? Of course not. Journalists can sometimes take an almost perverse pride in not understand the technical aspects of the internet, as I encounter all too often in my own work. And yes, Facebook's rather cavalier treatment of the news business over the past few years has inflamed tensions between journalists and Facebook.

Are other companies worthy of this scrutiny? Of course. Google, in particular, has been given rather an easy ride given its own data collection history.

None of that in any way means that the news industry should lay off Facebook. If we are at fault, it is in the twin mistakes of not taking it seriously enough early enough, and helping to boost its growth by relying on it for too much audience development. Challenging, reporting and investigating Facebook is absolutely worthwhile journalism.

As Xeni Jardin put it on Boing Boing:

Facebook can handle it. And Facebook deserves it.

What's more concerning is the idea that senior management at Facebook see themselves as the victims here. And it appears that they do:

If senior executives at Facebook are really having these sorts of conversations, then we should all buckle up, because that means they really haven't taken the revelations of the last year nearly as seriously as they should have, and that, in turn, probably means there's plenty more hostile reporting of Facebook to come…

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.