19 February 2021

Probing the polls: Skywhale flights and Facebook fails

| Genevieve Jacobs
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The Skywhale family

Skywhale family outside the National Gallery of Australia on 7 February 2021. Photo: @canberrie.

Skywhale has flown again in Canberra’s skies and the multi-mammaried balloon was joined by Skywhalepapa, an equally nurturing male version of Patricia Piccinini’s Canberra centenary commission. But not all Canberrans approve.

The first balloon prompted deep divides in the community between those who saw Skywhale as a nurturing, cheerful presence and those who believed it was a foolish waste of money.

The original Skywhale, which became a Canberra pop culture icon, cost the ACT Government around $350,000, but the second was a National Gallery of Australia commission. The pair were originally intended to fly together in 2020 but only briefly took to the air a fortnight ago.

“With a single Skywhale figure we have a character, but with the two we have a relationship and a narrative,” artist Patricia Piccinini said. “One of the things that I love about Skywhalepapa is that it is a sculpture, but it is also a performance — an event.”

We asked What do you think about the return of Skywhale and the new Skywhalepapa? A total of 1585 people voted.

Your choices were to vote They’re joyous and enlivening and they drive tourism. Bring it on! This received 38 per cent of the total, or 603 votes.

Alternatively, you could vote They’re silly representations of a government too focussed on appearances. This received 62 per cent of the total, or 982 votes.

Today we’re wondering about Facebook’s snap decision to shutter all news content on Australian sites.

The social media giant has been locked in a battle with the Federal Government over paying news organisations for content. Social media users all over Australia woke to find that organisations ranging from the Bureau of Meteorology to the Australian Council of Social Services had been shut down.

Region Media is less dependent on Facebook than many other media organisations and local news traffic has remained steady. However, many groups have been hard hit across the community.

ACTCOSS acting CEO Craig Wallace said they viewed Facebook’s decision as “an abuse of power” that hit low income, isolated and vulnerable people hard during a pandemic.

There’s been particular criticism about the decision with regard to health information as most government social media sites were hit by Facebook’s action, including ACT Health.

NickWest said: “It’s concerning that we seem to have forgotten that we can get information directly from the source, for example in the story above where the BoM advise people to get their weather forecasts from, wait for it, the BoM’s own website. Absolutely nothing of value will be lost from users getting their information directly from the provider, instead of filtered through Zuckerberg’s advertising machine.”

But yamaam said:Why would you end your use of Facebook? Facebook is not making this decision to stop sharing links to news articles. It is the Aus Government requirements. If anything, lobby to have this overturned at the federal level”.

This week, we’re wondering how you feel about the decision. Our question is:

Are Facebook within their rights to shut down local news?

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“They’re silly representations of a government too focussed on appearances”

…ok, except that the Territory government didn’t commission or pay for Skywhalepapa?

News organisations seem to think the public should fight their battle for them. I’m yet to find anybody who is overly concerned that the trash that passes for news these days is missing from their facebook feeds. Maybe if the news just started being the news again, rather than agenda driven misinformation bordering on propaganda, and ideology driven rather than factual, people will start to care again.

The other amusing bit is that government orgs and others who have been caught up in it. Facebook is under no obligation whatsoever to carry your information. Nobody is being “disadvantaged” by facebook not hosting information for ACOSS or the BoM. They can host their own content on their own sites. Nothing prevents “low income, isolated and vulnerable people” from accessing a website other than facebook. The suggestion by Craig Wallace is idiotic.

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