Facebook's News Feed Has Gone To The Dogs

I don't trust my friends to bring me the news.

08/07/2016 2:16 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST
Chris Helgren / Reuters

Mike Baird's decision to ban greyhound racing in NSW was big 'news' on Facebook yesterday. The announcement came after several investigations found animal cruelty at the heart of the industry.

In his Facebook post, Baird said:

"'In NSW in the last 12 years... somewhere between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs were killed because they were considered too slow to pay their way or were unsuitable for racing.' In the industry, they call this 'wastage'. It's not wastage: it is the unnecessary slaughtering of tens of thousands of healthy dogs."

When I read this I was so on board that I was ready to shout it from the rooftop. Kidding. I don't yell things. I 'share' things on my Facebook timeline, because it's 2016 and I reach more people that way.

But my initial excitement was tainted when I saw all the critical posts from my Facebook 'friends'. Does Mike Baird really care about the welfare of animals? Or does he care more about this specific set of animals because closing down the industry fits into some other grand plan we're not privy to.

If he does care about the welfare of animals, that's great. But why hasn't he helped resource animal shelters, such as Sydney Dogs And Cats Home, when they reached out to him? And what about Renbury Farm Animal Shelter, who have had their property "claimed by urban development".

If it's really about the animals, I want to see more. I want proof. And I'm not alone.

I know this because Facebook told me so. My newsfeed tells me a lot of things, but those things have changed. Facebook's algorithm changes mean I'm seeing more personal opinions from people I'm 'friends' with than information from the news outlets I choose to follow.

There's the animal lovers who are ecstatic that something has finally been done to address "the widespread and systematic mistreatment of animals". But then there's the Mike Baird critics who are suspicious (and have been since the lockout laws and #CasinoMike saga began) because it seems a little too convenient that Wentworth Park will now be available for development. It's prime real estate, you know. Just ask them.

We've become so cynical that our politicians are incapable of doing any 'good' deeds anymore, and when they do good deeds we suspect there might be an ulterior motive.

Saving animals from cruelty is a good deed. No doubt about that. I respect Baird for being bold enough to do something, but my Facebook 'friends' are focusing on conspiracy theories and suggesting there's more to it than the welfare of the dogs.

They don't like him as a politician and therefore don't like anything he does, good or bad. It's hard for them to separate the person from the policy, and social media doesn't make that any easier. All of his policies are announced on his Facebook page. They're attached to his name. You can't 'like' his page without it looking like an endorsement for everything he's ever done, said or stood for.

I'm not responsible for making decisions that will impact the lives of thousands. Mike Baird is. And I don't want elected officials making decisions about the future of our country while worrying what knee-jerk reaction people are going to have on social media.

The way the Facebook algorithm has changed means that, in what used to be my news feed, I am seeing the opinions of people who don't have to fact check and who can can say what they want without being accountable for the veracity of their posts.

I'm not sure if I trust my 'friends' to bring me the news. We need to ensure that Facebook doesn't become a substitute for well-sourced, reliable and quality information. I want to hear that the Premier of NSW has decided to ban greyhound racing for the reasons he says he has, and then form my own opinion.

Facebook, can I please have my news feed back?

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