Facebook Australia was a defining moment for the web, journalism and democratic sovereignty


ald mountain in Blaine County Idaho provides one of the best – if not the best – natural runs for skiing anywhere in the world. The lure of the great outdoors, the thrill of the descent, the dazzling sunsets and crystal Rocky Mountain air is enhanced by a certain bohemian chic. The nearby resort of Sun Valley was once the home of Ernest Hemingway and hero journalist Martha Gellhorn, who lived there rent-free in the town’s ski lodge in the 1930s on the rare occasions when they were not in some war zone or other dangerous spot.  

You or I might, therefore, imagine Martha Gellhorn spinning in her proverbial grave when in July 2016 Murdoch met the head of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, in his private Sun Valley villa to see if they could end the cold war over control of the global news industry which had been escalating between them for a decade.

Murdoch and Zuckerberg were not so much unlikely as wildly inappropriate bedfellows. The former had reduced journalism to a type of “criminal enterprise”, as a leading British parliamentarian put it, brought to a new low in the estimation of the public everywhere; the latter had ripped the financial guts out of the entire news industry, meaning that large parts of the press, especially at its grassroots was in danger of disappearing entirely.  


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