InfluenceChronicles.com -- When Facebook deleted the iconic “Napalm girl” photograph because it violated policy on showing nude children, the Norwegian newspaper editor who posted it wagged a sanctimonious finger at CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
"The media have a responsibility to consider publication [of stories] in every single case," wrote Espen Egil Hansen, editor at Norway’s largest newspaper, in an open letter to Mr. Zuckerberg. "This right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California."
Facebook allowed the photo after members around the world protested -- underscoring the power of social media communities to police themselves. The outcome was as it should be.
But in reporting the reversal, most news media -- some treating the controversy like it was another Scopes trial -- failed to clarify that the commercial Norwegian newspaper was using Facebook first and foremost as a free marketing and publicity tool. “You are offering us a great channel for distributing our content,” Hansen wrote. “Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper… you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility.”
It's doubtful that Mr. Hansen read through Facebook's investor prospectus to find where it says the company is beholden to his “exercising of editorial responsibility.” Because it's not there.
Here's the thing about the internet. Over time, the relationship between social and news media will either achieve mutually-beneficial equilibrium or reshape itself completely -- just like what happened with personal home pages and other content aggregation platforms. Mr. Zuckerberg sees this as making Facebook the "perfect personalized newspaper for everyone in the world."
However things play out, we should be cautious about holding Facebook and other corporate-owned social media services accountable for not behaving like the news journalism companies they aren’t.
Delivering the milk doesn’t make you a cow.