Monday, October 25, 2021


If you think Facebook is in deep trouble because of recent revelations of bad behavior, allow me to take you back ten years to a different media scandal:
Allegations that News International journalists were involved in hacking people's phones for information led to the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid in 2011 and a trial costing reportedly up to £100m....

It was some nine years ago that the News of the World published a story about Prince William's treatment for an injury, based on information that it could only have come by because one of its journalists had listened to the prince's voicemails.

The ensuing police investigation ... uncovered "a vast number" of other victims.... The News of the World was closed down in 2011 after its owners, Rupert Murdoch's News International, admitted the scale of hacking that had been going on, dating back many years.

The paper's original position - that rogue staff had acted alone - could not stand. Eventually Rupert Murdoch decided he had no choice but to close the newspaper down after it emerged Milly Dowler, a teenager who was abducted and murdered, had her voicemails hacked.
Here were some of the headlines in 2011:

People really believed it was possible that a massive, sociopathic media organization that routinely works hand in glove with national governments and major political parties could be brought down by uncomfortable headlines. It didn't happen. It was never going to happen. The Murdoch family had too much power in too many countries to suffer more than minor injuries from this scandal.

There's anger at Facebook among citizens in various countries who care about politics and media, but Facebook is too useful and entertaining to too many people to fall easily, and it has too many resources to allow itself to go down without a massive fight.

It's fun watching Mark Zuckerberg squirm, but he knows he'll wriggle out of this. Maybe things would be different if the right-wing and left-wing critics of Big Tech could identify common ground and work together to limit the tech giants' power, but that will never happen because even the angriest right-wing tech critic doesn't be seen working with Elizabeth Warren, for heaven's sake!

So indulge fantasies of Zuckerberg's downfall if it makes you feel better, but remember that they're just fantasies.

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