In what is an astonishing development, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media sensation, Facebook, has been slowly and quietly clamping down on the use of the site for political purposes. Kellen Giuda, an architect who started the NY Tea Party, has a column today in The Daily Caller to expose the Facebook hypocrisy, and to announce an alternative social medium to replace the FB void after a series of policy and site changes that are designed to limit the scope of use of Facebook related to political purposes.
What makes an American entrepreneur’s blood run cold is the quote from Facebook’s Adam Conner to the Wall Street Journal last month:
Meanwhile, Facebook is talking with potential Chinese partners about entering the huge China market, where the government has been cracking down on dissidents. That crackdown has come in response to the uprisings shaking authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes, movements that have used U.S.-based social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter as organizing tools.
“Maybe we will block content in some countries, but not others,” Adam Conner, a Facebook lobbyist, told the Journal. “We are occasionally held in uncomfortable positions because now we’re allowing too much, maybe, free speech in countries that haven’t experienced it before,” he said.
“Right now we’re studying and learning about China but have made no decisions about if, or how, we will approach it,” said Debbie Frost, Facebook’s director of international communications.
It’s chilling enough that a social medium that has played such a high profile role in political interaction decides that one country is “experienced” enough to be allowed free speech, and another isn’t. But considering Facebook’s attitude towards the Tea Party and other groups that are not being offered the privileged “upgrade” that allows them to keep their contacts intact, this begs the question of Mr. Conner… just what part of America, and our founding based on free speech, requires nanny censorship by a self appointed arbiter? Is this country not “experienced” enough in the eyes of the Facebook authorities.
Facebook isn’t foolish enough to outright lay on political censorship. As Guida points out, it’s been a series of steps that unmistakenly is aimed at political use of the medium. And he further suggests that the overt ties to liberal political beliefs may play a large part in thwarting Tea Party organization.
The company has changed the way Facebook’s group, newsfeed and event features work, and it has restricted the ability of users to communicate with people (via messages and wall posts) who are outside of their real-life social networks.
What’s more, it’s become clear that Facebook itself is dominated by liberals:
•98% of political donations from Facebook employees went to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
•Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s co-founders, headed up Barack Obama’s successful website during the 2008 campaign. In 2009, he was featured on the cover of Fast Company magazine as “The kid who made Obama president: how Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes unleashed Barack’s base — and changed politics and marketing forever.”
•Facebook’s former attorney for privacy issues, Chris Kelly, ran for attorney general of California in 2010 on a far-left platform.
Many Americans and Tea Party organizers are waking up to this liberal culture at Facebook, which was on display at the recent Facebook townhall where Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fawned over each other.
And speaking of this new a’political philosphy, if Facebook is so all fired dedicated to free speech and staying away from politics, why the heck are they interviewing the POTUS on political issues, and livestreaming it on Facebook anyway?
And what happens to all those Congressional owned Facebook accounts? Aren’t they entirely political in nature? Or is it only “organizing” they seem to oppose?
UPDATE: To hedge off any additional misreadings and misconceptions that have been repeatedly addressed in the vast comments below, yes… I know that FB doesn’t “guarantee” anyone “free speech” as a private company. Nor is political ideology a protected class under federal or state civil rights. I suggest none of this. This post is about Facebook’s hypocrisy – their supposed “pro freedom” beliefs that runs counter to their idea that some are capable of handling “free speech” and others are not in the US. If Facebook wishes to advertise itself as a liberal political organizing platform, that’s fine. But the overt disconnect of saying they are “pro freedom” (but may be giving some “too much free speech”), while picking and choosing who may or may not keep their organizing contacts with the privileged upgrades, is not representative of who they claim to be. Now… returning you to the program, already in progress….END UPDATE
What becomes more ironic about FB’s attempted control and tiptoe away from politics is the very political nature of both the company, and of Conner himself… who is one of Facebook’s lobbyists on staff. It was only last week that Facebook hired on two more lobbyists, both Republicans, to complement their two Democrat lobbyists, for more influence in Washington. Perhaps they see the writing on the wall for 2012, and an era that is likely to usher in even more conservatives to what has been an unhealthy Democrat balance for too many years.
Facebook now has four registered lobbyists. The new Republican hires join Democrats Tim Sparapani and Adam Conner. Facebook has 12 staffers in its Washington office, including administrative support.
“At Facebook, we’re committed to explaining how our service works; the important actions we take to protect the more than 500 million people who use our service; and the value of innovation to our economy,” spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement. “This work occurs daily in Washington, at the state level, and with policymakers around the world.”
The company spent $230,000 lobbying in the first quarter, according to a recent filing with the House clerk’s office.
Apparently the company is allowed to be political for their benefit, but they do not wish to offer that same freedom of content use to their subscribers…
Prior to Facebook, Adam was the Director of Online Communications for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Chairwoman of the Rules Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He previously served as the Deputy Director of Online Communications for Forward Together, the presidential exploratory committee for former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Adam holds a bachelor’s degree in political communication from the George Washington University.
Additionally, it was Egypt’s Wael Ghonim, Google’s ME marketing guru and anonymous Facebook administrator, who is credited with driving the Egyptian “Arab Spring”.
Ghonim thought Facebook could be the ideal revolutionary tool in Egypt’s suffocating police state. “Once you are a fan, whatever we publish gets on your wall,” he wrote. “So the government has NO way to block it later. Unless they block Facebook completely.”
I wonder if Ghonim ever envisioned that it would not be a government that blocks content, but the Facebook execs themselves.
The hypocrisy of such back door censorship flies in the face of the Facebook executives actions themselves during that event, where it was reported they “..took unusual steps to protect the identity of protest leaders during the Egypt uprising.” Apparently, it is their policy to monitor, meddle and control with the content sniffs of politics. Or is this their idea of a self-imposed “fairness doctrine”?
Granted, Giuda’s own Daily Caller column is a blatant advertisement for his attempt at a political “Facebook” alternative, Freedom Torch. But considering how firmly entrenched FB is in today culture, and it’s now famous association with what many consider a political success for organizing both the US Tea Party movement and rebellions overseas, it’s going to have a serious uphill climb in replacing the vast audience Facebook has already captured.
Paraphrasing Dr. Johnny Fever’s infamous line in the old WKRP sitcom, “when you move the mission, you need to remember to tell the drunks”. There’s the potential that a lot of communication with political activists could be lost. It’s difficult to drive traffic for a political organizing cause to another social medium when the originating medium is making it difficult to convey that message to begin with by stripping them with the majority of their contact database.
Or is that Facebook’s intention?