Australian pre-election leaders' debates take to Facebook, not telly

Because even democracy is an opportunity for Facebook to learn more about its users

Update: Opposition says no, now what? Facebook is about to learn the flavour of disappointment, since it apparently reckons a pre-election debate between prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten will let it plant tracking cookies on any Australians who bother to tune in.

The prime minister has just announced that following discussions between Facebook and Murdoch outlet News.com.au, an “online forum” will take place some time next week.

The decision comes after the pathetic failure of the televised leaders' debate which, at the end of the broadcast, was being watched by around 0.01 Australians per square kilometre.

Prior to that, a televised community forum in Western Sydney was a moderately popular format with everybody but the stumbling hopeful prime minister.

The decision to turn to an online debate hosted by Facebook – instead, we should add, of the live debate on offer for tomorrow in Brisbane – might spare the PM from the ignominy of turning up for a TV show nobody watches. Just how Australians will react once Facebook scans their comments to divulge political leanings is another matter. At least Facebook is unlikely to score many more users or carriers for its Datr cookie**, as Australia is already pretty much saturated with users.

A more likely source of big and useless data will be social media fans celebrating the significance of Facebook's seeming victory over ye olde television:a zillion identikit LinkedIn posts will surely all offer "insights" about the death of mainstream media.

Brace, also, for ugly outbreaks of hate speech: so vile was one recent comment made on Facebook to an aboriginal senator that the author was charged.

The idea looks increasingly like hand-waving than strategy, however. Since this article first appeared, opposition leader Bill Shorten has said he's sticking with the Sky TV forum on offer tomorrow, and will front the cameras in Brisbane with or without Turnbull. ®

Bootnotes *”The worm” – Practically the only feature of interest in any televised leader debate in Australia's history, as it showed live aggregated live audience sentiment during pat leaders' debates.

**The Datr cookie – A core part of Facebook's strategy, because everywhere there's a “like this” button, there's the cookie. ®


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