Look what Facebook just did. While staying very very coy indeed about its internal meeting yesterday over privacy issues, it’s just launched a Congress on Facebook page that will “highlight innovative uses of Facebook by members of Congress, list members’ pages and communicate news and information about Facebook and Congress.” It’s a beard-strokingly clever move by the social media site, with links to Congressmen’s and Senators’ pages–Hi Nancy!–as well as specific committees, and this is why.
Mark Zuckerberg is aware that the knives are being sharpened for him. Call it Tall Poppy Syndrome, call it About Time Too, call it what you will, but the firm is going on a charm offensive in Washington. First of all, came the lobbyist, ex-FTC chair Tim Muris, and now comes the Facebook page. Ostensibly, it posts a bunch of news on its wall about stuff that’s relevant to either politics or social media. Particularly oleaginous is this post: “A big thank you to all the congressional staffers who attended our Facebook briefing today. You asked great questions and we look forward to continuing the conversation.” That’s a big suck-up in my book.
However, it’s the links to the politicians’ pages that really does it. Is this something that Facebook could use in the future to argue that its site is used by the political classes to connect with their constituents and citizens, and isn’t that a form of acceptance? I’m not sure whether that argument would wash–after all, politicians are public servants–and public figures. They probably have their own private pages that are hidden from the rest of the world, and you can be damn sure they wouldn’t like those to be visible to any old joe.
There is a right old kerfuffle going on right now about Facebook’s privacy issue–or seeming lack of it. Bloggers the web over are giving their reasons why the blue peril should be avoided at any cost, with everything from past conversations regarding privacy from the student Zuckerberg coming to light, to open letters to the Facebook founder–some serious, some tongue-in-cheek. Ironically enough, no details of the social media monster’s internal meeting yesterday have come to light, but we’re hoping that Zuck decides that Facebook’s own privacy settings are set to the same level that Facebook users’ pages are.