Facebook heading towards ‘nationhood’?

With a Facebook group recently proposing that the social networking site should have a ‘Bill of Rights’, is Facebook evolving from being an online community to being an online ‘nation-state’?

Tags: Facebook IncorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  March 3, 2009

With a Facebook group recently proposing that the social networking site should have a ‘Bill of Rights’, is Facebook evolving from being an online community to being an online ‘nation-state’?

The Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities group has come about after the furore that broke out over one of Facebook’s terms of service, which stipulated that the social network owns users’ data even if they delete their profiles.

Of course, Facebook has now reverted back to its September 2008 ToS, but the above-mentioned group wants to ensure that users own the content they share on this service. The way in which they plan to protect users’ data is by drawing up rights and responsibilities in a document that will stipulate that users be given notice, an opportunity to comment, and, in certain cases, the right to vote for policy changes.

With Facebook having over 175 million users, the possible implementation of a Bill of Rights and even voting rights could result in the world’s most popular social networking site becoming a ‘nation-state’ existing in cyberspace.

Facebook, however, wouldn’t be the first online entity to have moved towards the direction of online ‘nationhood’. The Drupal project (an open source content management system) began in 2001 as a hobby project of Dries Buytaert and has flourished into one of the biggest open source projects. The Drupal project has moved into the realm of the political as well, with the Drupal Association being setup. The association briefly describes itself as follows on its website:

“By 2006, it became clear that Drupal needed some sort of body to help manage the infrastructure, funding, and promotion of the community-driven project in order for it to continue to flourish. And so, the Drupal Association was born. The Drupal Association is a not-for-profit association, registered in Belgium. Its purpose is to provide support to the Drupal project. The Drupal Association has no say in either the planning or development of the Drupal open source project itself. This is left solely in the very capable hands of the community.”

The Drupal association is divided into permanent members, a board of directors and a general assembly; and the community can vote for the president each year, meaning that Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal (who also happens to be the president of the Drupal Association), has his position up for election each year.

It’s interesting to observe how user-generated content has given online communities the power to determine the course of the platforms within which they communicate. With the world becoming increasingly globalised and people switching onto social networks in the millions, it seems as if online nation-states are not a far off reality.

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