I recently read an article in the Economist that tried to compare Facebook to a sovereign government. It says that Facebook, if it were considered a nation, would have the third-largest population in the world, behind only India and China. After the population comparison though, the similarities begin to dissipate. Facebook has no police force, no actual physical land to defend, no rights for citizens, and so on. But it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.
There have been arguments in the past that as the future moves on, people will no longer-be governed by contemporary governments, but rather by multi-national corporations. These corporations will become so vast and so powerful, that they essentially will control what governments say, creating their own set of preferences in place of what the government already has. Let's take Google and China for example. If Google was able to influence enough change in China in order to get China to minimize their censorship, then one could say that Google has larger influence over Chinese government than China themselves. This would only be in one particular aspect of governmental rule, but the fact of the situation still remains the same. Of course, this is a far way away, but there are still other circumstances in which this could be applied.
Let’s get back to Facebook. The Economist article also mentions a discussion that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Mark Zuckerberg recently had (check it out here). Recently-appointed Cameron wanted to create more transparency and more citizenry participation into his new government, and he was consulting with Zuckerberg on how Facebook can contribute to this. The potential implications could be massive. What if voting no longer took place in the polls, but on Facebook itself? What if you could have real-time discussions, with people on the other side of the country, as people vote? This is of course years away but Facebook is one of the few available platforms in which such wide-ranging discussion could realistically occur and actually make an impact.
And this wouldn’t be this first time that Facebook has played a role in politics. After all, Facebook, among with the rest of it’s social networking brethren, was one of the main reasons that Obama became elected. Without Facebook as a platform to unite a major foundation of Obama supporters, it would have been interesting to see if Obama would have been able to create the success that he did.
There is one major advantage that Facebook, Google, and other multi-nationals have: how do you defend against them? If any of these corporations get that big, then how can a sovereign nation defend their agenda from the overpowering influence of these corporations? They could try to block them, only enraging the public, human right’s activists, and a plethora of other people and organizations. There isn’t really an adequate “defense”, meaning that as Facebook gets bigger and bigger, so does it’s influence over government. So although Facebook might never become a sovereign nation, it, for all intents and purposes, could have more power than one.