Does Facebook Have An Obligation To Political Activists?


by Zoe Pollock

Alexis gets the inside scoop on how the Jasmine Revolution was aided by Facebook, and seriously compromised when the country's Internet service providers ran "a malicious piece of code that was recording users' login information when they went to sites like Facebook." Alexis spoke with Facebook's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan about their fix and the larger implications:

"We get requests all the time in a few different contexts where people would like to impersonate someone else. Police wanting to go undercover or human rights activists, say," Sullivan said. "And we, just based on our core mission and core product, don't want to allow that. That's just not what Facebook is. Facebook is a place where people connect with real people in their lives using their real identities." ...

Facebook certainly [doesn't] seem to be under any obligations to provide special treatment. But if Facebook really is becoming the public sphere -- and wants to remain central to people's real sociopolitically embedded lives -- maybe they're going to have to think beyond the situational technical fix. Facebook needs to own its position as a part of The Way the World Works and provide protections for political speech and actors.

(Photo from July 2010, when "bloggers Photoshopped a picture of Mark Zuckerberg to show him holding up a sign that read, "Sayeb Sala7, ya 3ammar," the slogan for a freedom of expression campaign late in 2010.")