The Civics of Facebook

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Slate Magazine

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Last week, Vox published an interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The chat was part of a robust (for the press-wary Zuckerberg, at least) campaign of contrition following the revelations that data-consulting company Cambridge Analytica had used and brokered millions of Facebook users’ information. Zuckerberg’s apologies began with a March 21 Facebook post, then a CNN interview, then full-page ads in major newspapers, and a one-hour call with press and journalists. This week, he’ll spend two days testifying before Congress.

It’s easy to think that the Cambridge Analytica moment is a lesson in privacy, but that would miss the forest for the trees. What the scandal—and more importantly, Facebook’s reaction—really teaches us is that we’re living in a new system of global private governance platforms. Facebook might not be around forever, but something like it certainly will be. How we integrate these platforms that govern our fundamental rights into our traditional concepts of democracy and government is not a project just for Mark Zuckerberg, but for all of us.