Facebook’s Claim That it Isn’t a Media Company Is Getting Harder to Swallow

December 15, 2016, 2:08 PM UTC
Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg

Every time the topic comes up, Mark Zuckerberg strenuously denies that his creation is a media company. “We’re a tech company,” the Facebook CEO protests, waving his hands and pointing at the social network’s algorithm, the way a magician waves a handkerchief to try and distract you.

And yet, the evidence continues to pile up that Facebook (FB) not only is a media company—or at least acts a lot like one, and should probably be treated like one—but may be the most powerful media entity in the world.

Zuckerberg et al would like to pretend that Facebook is just a platform, agnostic about content, just distributing whatever its users want, and run by an impartial algorithm. But the reality is that the site routinely removes content for its own purposes (often without saying why), and more recently it has begun funding, buying and developing its own content, specifically video.

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That process began with a $30 million fund that Facebook started doling out to existing media organizations like the The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Time Inc. (the parent company of Fortune magazine) to get them to produce live video in order to promote its Facebook Live feature.

Now, it appears that the company is planning to buy, fund, or create its own TV-style content. CollegeHumor founder Ricky Van Veen, who joined Facebook earlier this year, told Recode he is looking for “video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted, and sports content, that takes advantage of mobile and the social interaction unique to Facebook.”

Yes, Facebook is a platform, and yes, it is powered by technology. But it is also a hugely powerful entity that controls the distribution of media in a way no other company ever has. And now it is funding and developing its own content. That sounds like a media company to me.


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