Facebook this week filed papers to start its own political action committee. The company claims they have done it as a service for their employees, to give them a voice in the political arena. Others claim Facebook is going to use their power to sway politicians to give them more access to your personal information online. (But I’m not sure how much more information there is for them to take that they haven’t already laid claim on.)
The fact is, any large corporation in America either has its own PAC or supports one. The idea is that by funding specific political committees they can indeed sway politicians, but usually this swaying is done to help their bottom line, not give them more power over individuals. Although this point can be debated.
The fact is, social media companies are growing more and powerful because they are making more money than ever before. The time was that these companies were unsure exactly how to generate revenue. In fact, Twitter still has a problem creating a plan for revenue production. Facebook, however, with their 750 million users, has a good business plan and knows how to wring every dollar they can from it.
The political mainstream is moving more and more toward a more public forum. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have all had success motivating users to become involved in the political process. Given that these social media are both big corporations and major social media networks, it seems only reasonable that they will want to flex the political muscle any which way they can.
My question for you is: What do you think of the new FB PAC?
In all these events (well, save the Sandberg fundraiser — that you weren’t invited to), the lines between Facebook user and Facebook employee, between Google.com and Google Inc. were so blurry as to not exist.
Should these sessions set off more alarm bells? Perhaps. Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn — these are web platforms that Americans use and enjoy a great deal. But one imagines what would happen were the Obama White House to announce a “townhall” session moderated by AT&T’s CEO where citizens could call and ask their president a question (provided that they could get a cellphone connection). People would probably complain; AT&T registers in the public imagination as a corporation, with the usual attendant corporate interests.
Of course, in practice the thing to watch for what sort of candidates Facebook will be channeling money to and which public policies they’ll be putting their dollars behind. The company said yesterday that it’s too early to say. (A Facebook rep also declined to respond on the record to the idea that maybe Facebook users could pick the candidates and issues through a Facebook poll.) Falling under the rubric of “promoting the value of innovation” that Noyes laid out could be: H-1B visas, STEM education, or even spectrum reform. But what of “mak[ing] the world more open and connected”? That can get tricky. Facebook Inc. and Facebook’s 150 million U.S. users might not see eye-to-eye, for example, on the value of the data privacy measures currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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