Is Facebook stifling democracy?

Posted by STARR KESHET

Grass-roots activists have accused Facebook of anti-democratic behavior for disabling key features on corporate boycott pages.

Indeed, the popular social networking site recently locked-down sections of a page that been created to boycott Target until the company ceased funding [allegedly] anti-gay politicians, such as Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Jeffrey Henson - who runs the controversial group - told Politico that FB was banning new discussion threads, preventing members from posting videos and barring administrators from sending updates to boycott members.

Is Facebook stifling democracy?"It slices the [virtual] vocal cords," claimed an angry Henson. "Our page [members] are now outraged over the website's actions." 

Nicholas Lefevre, an avid promoter of the Target boycott, expressed similar sentiments.

"Facebook is interfering with the function of a page dedicated to individuals organizing in response to corporate action to which they object.

"With the limited avenues for such expression and organization and the importance of the Internet to that ability, anything that threatens that expression is dangerous."

However, a Facebook spokesperson told Politico the pages were restricted because they didn't comply with the site's (stringent) terms of service.

"Facebook Pages enable public figures, organizations, businesses, and brands to share information, interact with interested people, and maintain an engaging presence on Facebook. 

"They're...optimized for official entities' needs to communicate, distribute content, engage people and capture new audiences. To protect people from spam and other unwanted content, we restrict Pages that represent ideas or positions - rather than discrete entities - from publishing stories to people's News Feeds."

But Ilyse Hogue of the liberal grassroots group Moveon.org said she believes democracy clearly "works best" when every single citizen's voice is weighed equally.

"[Unfortunately, it seems as if] the whole [FB] system is titled away from those individual voices," added Hogue.