Stuff closure of social media accounts about trust, editor says

6:05 pm on 6 July 2020

News website Stuff is suspending all of its activity on Facebook and Instagram until further notice.

stuff logo

stuff logo Photo: supplied

Stuff editor Patrick Crewdson confirmed the move, saying its Facebook-owned social media channels will be dormant during this trial.

He told RNZ's Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan public trust was a core value for the news website, but that was not necessarily compatible with the way the social media giant was operating.

"We've all seen plenty of examples of unhealthy things on Facebook, you know, fake news, hate speech, even ... allowing live streaming of massacres like the Christchurch mosque attacks," Crewdson said.

"We want to make sure that we're operating in an environment where New Zealanders can have confidence and trust in the veracity of what they're seeing.

"We want to trial not being on Facebook for those reasons."

Patrick Crewdson

Patrick Crewdson Photo: FAIRFAX MEDIA NZ

It meant Stuff would no longer post stories on their Facebook or Instagram accounts, but readers would be able to share Stuff stories on social media if they chose to.

"At the same time, there are 750 large companies around the world that are currently boycotting Facebook in terms of advertising, exactly because Facebook isn't doing enough around hate speech and quality of information, and [Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg has responded to those by saying 'it will blow over, we're not going to change our policies'."

Crewdson did not know how many views it could cost the news website.

"That's part of what we're going to measure, we're going to look at the impact of this. But Stuff is very lucky to have a large, loyal audience that comes to us directly each day. I think we'll probably discover that a lot of the readers who currently come to us via Facebook, also come to us directly."

Part of the company's advertising revenue was determined by how many people clicked through on stories.

"The feedback that we've had from our commercial colleagues is that advertisers are increasingly talking to them about trust and about wanting to be in environments where they're beside material that the audience has confidence in," Crewdson said.

"It's not necessarily the case that they're just going with Facebook where convenience and eyeballs are, I think a lot of advertisers will see the benefit of being on a trusted news platform."

Direct contact better - Ardern

At her post-Cabinet media briefing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a regular Facebook user, said joining the boycott was not an effective way of combatting extremism on the site.

She said she had reached her conclusion about the connections between social media and politics at the time of the 15 March terrorist attacks.

"There is change that needs to occur on our social media platforms, and we've opted for working to push for that change by direct contact with them [social media platforms]," Ardern said.

She said progress was being made.

"Do I want it to speed up - yes. Do I want more work to be done at greater pace around, for instance, algorithms because this is where civil society continue to have a number of concerns - yes. But at this stage my strong view is still that we need to try to continue make progress through those forums and my decision not to do a Facebook Live I don't believe is going to make the same inroad."

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