Facebook Isn't So Sure It Wants to Be a Platform for Revolutionaries

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The Washington Post has an interesting take today on whether or not Facebook is embracing its role as the platform of choice for activists in the Middle East. They don't have any direct evidence from inside the company, but I suspect that Facebook's ambivalence is real. The site's heart is not configured to deal with the kind of problems Egyptian activists encounter.

It's not that Facebook's developers or product managers would have antipathy for protesters and/or revolutionaries in the Arab world. It's more that they can't even begin to imagine those use cases. And in the drive to provide a consistent user experience across all geographies, Facebook defaults to flattening out difference.

I'm reporting in California this week, but expect a lot more on this issue in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here's the key Post excerpt:

But Facebook, which celebrates its seventh birthday Friday and has more than a half-billion users worldwide, is not eagerly embracing its role as the insurrectionists' instrument of choice. Its strategy contrasts with rivals Google and Twitter, which actively helped opposition leaders communicate after the Egyptian government shut down Internet access.

The Silicon Valley giant, whether it likes it or not, has been thrust like never before into a sensitive global political moment that pits the company's need for an open Internet against concerns that autocratic regimes could limit use of the site or shut it down altogether.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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