Time to Reimagine Public Broadcasting to Address Power of Facebook

Australia Institute

A new report by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology calls for a rethink of the role of the national broadcaster to provide alternate digital spaces to Facebook and other global platforms.

The paper The Public Square Project proposes a publicly funded social network built on the trust and reach of the ABC to create:

  • communities around existing content rather than outsourcing this to Facebook.
  • hubs for community-generated content as an alternative to Facebook Groups
  • opportunities for two -way citizen engagement with all levels of government.

The platform would evolve over time to become a civic online platform where registered users are served by public interest technologists and community managers to engage in a safe and civil way.

New research shows public appetite for alternatives to Facebook with:

  • 57% of Australians believing Facebook has too much power, and
  • 61% of Australians wanting to see better alternatives

“Facebook puts itself forward as a public space but it’s really a private mall where users are observed and manipulated for profit,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

“We have seen how Facebook’s algorithms exploit our desire to connect, corralling us into tribes, amplifying the loudest voices and privileging engagement over truth.

“We saw earlier this year that Facebook was prepared to withdraw access to its network to media, government and civil society to avoid regulation.

“Relying on Facebook is no longer tenable – it is incumbent on us to find alternatives and the answer may be hiding in plain sight with a reimagining of our national broadcaster.

“This paper sets the scene for a national conversation of how we can build a public interest network. This might start with the national broadcaster the ABC but could take many different forms,” Mr Lewis said.

This report is part of a broader body of work by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology to imagine digital infrastructure that serves the public interest and the common good.

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