Platform Dependency in the Big Tech Era: Lessons from Australian Facebook Blackout and Botswana Implications

Gopolang Ditlhokwa, Victoria Elizabeth Cann


The surge in social media usage for news consumption has led to a heightened reliance on these platforms for accessing information worldwide. In Botswana, Facebook has become one of the primary channels for news consumption, mirroring trends seen in various nations. However, the 2021 Australian Facebook conflict exposed the risks associated with over-reliance on such platforms for news dissemination. In this paper, we investigate the phenomenon of platform dependency, specifically examining the implications for Botswana, in the wake of the Australian Facebook news blackout. Employing a stratified sampling approach, data was gathered by tracking the volume of news posts shared across 51 selected Facebook pages throughout February 2021. The findings revealed a noteworthy trend, with an average of 5630 news items posted or shared on the platform within four weeks. This marked a growing reliance on Facebook-exclusive pages for news consumption, with minimal engagement observed on alternative websites. We argue that there is a precarious position of pages solely reliant on Facebook for news sharing, especially amidst escalating big data politics and regulatory measures that target Tech Giants. Consequently, these pages face an uncertain future, potentially hampering access to vital news reporting and information-sharing to the adaptive population. Currently, in Botswana, there is a notable dearth of academic exploration into the regulation of Big Tech and its potential repercussions for the nation. Thus, this study serves as a cornerstone in pursuing this significant area of inquiry.

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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