SPOTLIGHT: FACEBOOK, POWER + HEAT
By virtually any measure, Facebook appears to be an unstoppable force of both business and culture dominance. Not only has quarterly income nearly tripled to $1.5 billion, but Mark Zuckerberg's company can now boast that its record 1.65 billion users spend an average of 50 minutes a day on the network. Meanwhile Facebook Live promises to take over video streaming, as the FB-owned WhatsApp and Instagram networks continue to explode.
But with power comes responsibility. This past week has seen an outcry over reports that Facebook workers were routinely asked to filter out conservative-leaning news from users' feeds. If the company that so dominates our attention is imposing its slant on what we see (and not left, as we've been told, to the neutral whims of an algorithm), fundamental issues concerning democracy and the concentration of power are at stake. As the Internet changes the way information is produced and delivered, The Atlantic notes, Facebook now effectively serves the functions of both media and public utility. Zuckerberg (and friends) continue to preach their social gospel of radical sharing and global connections — and, by now, it's hard to see how the force of this particular network effect might ever slow down. But there was another story told this week that might offer a possible answer. Rahul Bhatia looked back at what The Guardian calls "Facebook's biggest setback," the attempt by Zuckerberg's company to bring what it hailed as "free Internet" to millions of people who could not afford it in India. But the "Free Basics" program, which included only a FB-dominated portion of the Internet, ultimately ran into perhaps the one force that stands in the way of the social network: state power. It's worth a read — and sharing with your friends.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)
- US President Barack Obama welcomes leaders from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland to discuss, among other things, the Nordic model on social welfare and innovation
- French President Francois Hollande will meet African leaders at a Nigeria summit on Saturday to discuss a response to militant groups in the region