The social networking company is slowly coming to terms with its role as a political organizing platform
Facebook took an active role in protecting Egyptian protesters' pages, according to emails obtained by the Daily Beast. And the company's director of policy for Europe, Richard Allan, has become a "crucial backchannel" between activists in the Middle East and North Africa and Facebook.
I think Mike Giglio's story will be seen as important evidence that Facebook is slowly taking responsibility for its existence as a political organizing platform. The company, unlike Twitter, has been reluctant to insert itself into what are seen as "political" battles, but that's becoming increasingly difficult as the site becomes actually important for activists.
"There's a bit of schizophrenia in trying to think that you're operating a neutral platform," a former Facebook employee told Giglio. "People at Facebook definitely have pro-freedom views. And there's also a desire to not get shut off."
So, the company has developed workarounds. In one e-mail, Allan assured activists that Facebook had "put all the key pages into special protection," though we do not know exactly what that means.
Activists have also long wanted to have pseudonymous profiles, which the company has fought. But the Beast article describes a workaround engineered by Allan that allowed pages like the influential "We Are All Khaled Said" to remain up. Allan wrote in an e-mail to a activist:
There is no discretion here as the creation of fake accounts threatens the integrity of our whole system. People must use the profile of a real person to admin the page or risk it being taken down at any time. It is not important to us who that real person is as long as their account appears genuine. So if they can offer a real person as admin then the page can be restored.
So, a real person, Nadine Wahab, became the titular administrator of the group and then passed that login information to activists, so they could actually run the site.