Side Note

Justice Department: Facebook is a content creator, not a platform

If you ask a member of the media what they think of Facebook, they will get angry at Facebook, then say that Facebook was bad for the media because it figured out how to make money off of giving people the news while deferring the labor and costs associated with the actual creation of the news to news outlets. It turns out that if you asked the same question to the Department of Justice, they might say something similar.

In an August 14 brief unearthed by the New York Law Journal and filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit asking whether or not Facebook’s ad policies constitute discrimination, attorneys with the Southern District of New York argued that the social media giant should legally be considered a “content creator,” reasoning that the site “has created user content when it mines user data to ‘create’ and ‘customize’ an audience for a particular advertiser.”

In other words, Facebook is a publisher just like any media outlet — they create content and then try to make money off of it. But their content is made up of user data, assembled into packets based on certain demographics that it can then sell to advertisers. This assertion may have immediate legal ramifications — the case that the S.D.N.Y. is weighing in on involves Facebook arguing that it shouldn’t count as discrimination when they only show housing ads only to white people, which, just, oh my god why did Facebook think that would ever be okay — but if this case goes the way of everyone who isn’t Facebook, it’s going to be interesting where things head from here. Perhaps such a ruling might open Facebook up to even more liability, from both news publishers and Facebook users, and we might all be able to get something in return for all the free labor we’ve given Facebook in the form of our sweet, sweet content.

The revolution will not be a status update.