Friday, 03 May 2019 10:06

Facebook critic Husic unable to place ads on platform Featured

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Ed Husic: "We have seen time and again that Facebook has not been willing to genuinely respond to concerns about the way they operate." Ed Husic: "We have seen time and again that Facebook has not been willing to genuinely respond to concerns about the way they operate." Courtesy ABC

Australian Labor Party MP Ed Husic says he has been unable to place any ads on Facebook during the election campaign, adding that he had been told it was due to "administrative changes".

Husic, who has been a critic of Facebook for quite some time, told the ABC's Afternoon Briefing program on Thursday that when he tried to advertise on the social media platform, he came up against a blank wall. "You know I've been trying since the start of the election and been told there's a whole lot of administrative 'apparently' changes that have been made that have been literally insurmountable to resolve," he told host Patricia Karvelas.

He said he had tried numerous times to get Islamophobic content taken off the site. This was content, he said, "that related directly to me, [but] I couldn't do it and when I've tried to advertise on the site to promote the type of views I believe should be in the public space, [I've] had trouble doing it."

Husic, who is Labor's Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy, said as a critic of Facebook he thought it was it was right that the platform should be criticised about the way it operated. "The way that they have, I believe, a very loose approach to user privacy, the fact that they are not committed to user privacy as they should be despite so-called recent attempts by the chief executive of that organisation to deal with that.

When Karvelas asked Husic point-blank, "Do you think they're targeting you?" he seemed hesitant to give a direct answer.

"No, I don't... well, look... I was going to say that I just find it funny that that's happened," he said. "Maybe there is a good reason for why that's the case and I'll be more than happy to apologise to them profusely.

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Patricia Karvelas interviewing Ed Husic on the ABC's Afternoon Briefing program on Thursday. Courtesy ABC

"But I can't help but look at instances where others have been critical of the platform — and I don't liken myself to this person whatsoever — but when Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat candidate, criticised Facebook and said it was time to break them up, she had... her ads that made that same point [were] refused on the site and the only way that she came to be back on Facebook was because of public pressure on them."

Husic said this showed that it was right to ask such questions, "about how they manage their platform and the content on there. You know, when people are concerned about some of the content that exists there that won't be taken down, but critics have their views or their ability to place items on the platform blocked, well... Facebook, over to you to explain."

He said it was time for serious action to be taken to regulate the way that Facebook operated.

"It all goes to show the power of this platform, and the fact that they do not move in responding to public criticism about the way they operate demonstrates that Facebook does.. like we do need to take serious action about the way it operates because it is having an impact, you know, be it on election outcomes because we've seen in certain instances, or the way that they impact on businesses, as we've seen the focus of the ACCC digital platforms inquiry. It's time to deal with this head-on."

Asked about Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg's recent pivot to privacy and what he thought about it, Husic said seeing was believing.

"The problem with Facebook is there is a quite standard approach to the way that they deal with issues that have been levelled at them. First, they'll deny, then they'll say, yes, we acknowledge there is an issue and we have to deal with it, and then they don't do anything and we go back to square one.

"We have seen time and again that Facebook has not been willing to genuinely respond to concerns about the way they operate."

Husic said the social media giant had show scant respect for people's data. "And they have just not respected data. I think this is the big challenge for the tech space, the demonstration of respect for data. That users' data will not be milked to the nth degree for the purpose of monetisation of it and there are no bounds or boundaries whatsoever.

"I think we have got to re-evaluate the way that data is being treated. It's why you are seeing some people call for consumers to be able to have their own data monetised and a lot more control about their data, knowing who's got their data, which third party has been given access to their data and how it's being treated and the ability to regain the data that has been harvested off them."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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