- Rupert Murdoch reportedly confronted Mark Zuckerberg in front of witnesses in 2016, demanding Facebook adjust its business model to be a better partner to the publishing industry.
- The conversation seemed to spur some action at Facebook, though not enough, and Facebook is expected to make a number of updates to its news feed throughout 2018.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has heard from a lot of frustrated news organisations and leaders in media about the role Facebook has played in spreading fake news – and some of the strongest words reportedly came directly from Robert Murdoch, the media mogul and founder of News Corp, according to a Wired report by Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstei.
Shortly after Facebook’s Vice President of Product Management Adam Mosseri published Building a Better News Feed for You – an explainer about how the platform would try to prioritise posts from friends and family in users’ news feeds moving forward – Murdoch and News Corp CEO Robert Thomson reportedly confronted Zuckerberg at an annual conference in Sun Valley in a room with others present.
The story detailed the tumultuous two years that Facebook and Zuckerberg have faced, and described the conversation in which Murdoch and Thomson explained to Zuckerberg that his platform’s treatment of digital advertising was threatening good journalistic work:
According to people familiar with the conversation, the two News Corp leaders accused Facebook of making dramatic changes to its core algorithm without adequately consulting its media partners, wreaking havoc according to Zuckerberg’s whims. If Facebook didn’t start offering a better deal to the publishing industry, Thomson and Murdoch conveyed in stark terms, Zuckerberg could expect News Corp executives to become much more public in their denunciations and much more open in their lobbying. They had helped to make things very hard for Google in Europe. And they could do the same for Facebook in the US.
Zuckerberg apparently took the threat seriously, because he reportedly came back to Facebook’s offices and handed out orders to rethink Facebook’s publishing model and hire employees to handle news partnerships. The task proved to be more complicated than Zuckerberg expected, however, and the issue wasn’t immediately sorted out. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. 21st Century Fox and News Corp. declined to comment on the Wired report.
This year, Facebook is expected to make a number of announcements about updates to the news feed and the amount of control given to publishers, although it’s unclear just how much Facebook will give to them. According to Wired, Facebook executives had reason to believe Murdoch’s people were tied to a 2007 investigation into Facebook’s practices once before, which, if true, would highlight how much power the media mogul has in the industry.
At a dinner with News Corp and Facebook executives, a little over a year after the Sun Valley conference, Zuckerberg reportedly made a toast to Murdoch’s accomplishments, sharing an anecdote about a tennis match that made him aware how unwise it was to underestimate what Robert Murdoch was capable of.
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