Richard G. Jones, Jr.
Scholar, Educator, Author

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Is "Facebookistan" a Democracy or a Dictatorship?

Nov 19, 2012

Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you…"

"Sometimes I feel like, somebody's watching me…"

There are several different song lyrics that are pretty applicable to many of Facebook's practices, and WNYC and NPR's awesome weekly podcast/radio show On the Media recently did a whole episode on Facebook, which was both enlightening and unsettling.

Rebecca MacKinnon, an accomplished reporter turned advocate for internet transparency, coined the term Facebookistan to capture the near totalitarian rule that Facebook exercises in creating policies and generally governing what happens within its social media borders. And, in terms of the number of users, Facebook has enough people within its "borders" to make it the third largest country in the world.

Here are a couple interesting facts from the episode:

It used to be impossible to delete your Facebook profile once created, but after user complaints it is now just really difficult. Click here to read Steve Coll's article "Leaving Facebookistan" from the New Yorker Online about his experiences deleting his Facebook profile.

Facebook has the largest user base in the history of the internet.

The "tag smart" facial recognition software that helps suggest who might be in photos is no longer used in Europe because of privacy concerns.

A Facebook user successfully petitioned Facebook to give him the data they had on him. It was over 1000 printed pages, and that didn't include everything.

Question to think about:

  1. How do you feel about being a citizen of Facebookistan?