Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s post titled ‘Building Global Community’ went live on February 16 and has since been shared over ten thousand times, along with over ninety thousand likes. The post in a nutshell talks about the importance (and need) of people coming together in these changing times to join hands and walk together on the road to progress. The idea is multi-layered. It talks about integrating social communities with governments and people to create a safe, well-informed, civically-engaged, and inclusive association that is mutually beneficial for one and all.
While there is no surprise in the fact that the global community that he talks about is Facebook, what is definitely different about the polished post are the political undertones that it carries. In the recent past, Zuckerberg has come out in support of religions of the world, claiming that he is no longer an atheist, hired political advisors, started to donate to political campaigns and very recently, even started to tour the country with the aim to meet people to get to know them better.
Make no mistake the post that he has put out is Utopian, and if the things that he has spoken of are actually done, it would go a long way in making the world a better place to live in. But then we do not live in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia nor are we headed in that direction anytime soon. If the events of the last few years have taught us anything then we are headed towards a very Orwellian, 1984 –like dystopia.
And here is where Zuckerberg, with his digital messiah image, becomes an interesting topic of discussion. Is he readying to launch himself into American and eventually world politics?
I remember the first brush India had with Mr. Zuckerberg was during the Free Basics debate. In short, Facebook was to team up with the government to provide certain websites free of cost to everyone on their mobile devices but everything else would be charged individually (think a cable TV package). The idea proposed to the people looked nice, but it eroded the basis of accountability and the ability to question people with everything being controlled by the corporate structures and government that were funded by them. Free Basics didn’t take off in India and he was disappointed at the stark resistance that it was met with. But that was back in 2015 and since then the world has changed a lot.
With the combined ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook has essentially become a media behemoth. To Mr. Zuckerberg’s credit, he did speak out against fake news and spurious content being shared on Facebook with a promise to work towards getting rid of it. The only question remains who decides what is spurious and what isn’t. Sure, there is common ground on the point that there is a lot of sensational content that is created just to spark anger based out of fear and ignorance in people, but there is a lot of content that is logical and there are also voices of dissent that are shut down just because those in power can do so. There are enough examples to cite in this case, from the silencing of students in India, to those from the Gaza Strip, from Syria to South America dissent is categorically shut down all thanks to the AI that Mr. Zuckerberg talks of improving.
There is certainly a very visible ruffle amongst the ranks of corporations, media houses and politicians now that he has put the post out. Will we see Mr Zuckerberg running for President in 2020? Currently he is not registered to vote for any particular party, but will that change in the future? Will the idea of creating a vast global community mean that anyone who voices a concern about it would be looked upon as an enemy of the state? The bigger question is, if something like this does happen and if Mr Zuckerberg does indeed turn out to be the prophesised digital messiah of the modern Orwellian world order, then who would override his authority if things change in the future. Such scepticism arises from the fact that the world is currently reeling under the after effects of electing a freak show capitalist disguised as a politician ready to deliver his people to the Promised Land.
Pardon the cynicism Mr Zuckerberg, but the world has yet to meet a capitalist who comes bearing ideas of social good or to deliver on his promises without power corrupting them.