Source | LinkedIn | David Kirkpatrick
Here’s why Mark Zuckerberg cannot run for president any time soon even if he wanted to. If he did, it would highlight a simple and disturbing fact. The company, if it chose, could engineer the results of any election in the world. Facebook controls the information flow to a huge percentage of the citizens in most of the democratic world, including the United States. Unless and until Zuckerberg takes concrete action to make the way his service works more transparent to the world, to run for office would invite scrutiny he has to avoid. The same holds true for his high-profile deputy Sheryl Sandberg, whose political ambitions have been the subject of speculation for considerably longer.
Facebook and Google present a dilemma to the world. Billions depend on them for communication, entertainment, and information. They have vast influence on society, including, it increasingly appears, some very unpalatable effects on social dialogue and politics. But they answer to nobody but themselves. And nobody inside or outside of the companies really has a good idea what we as a society should do about it.
Similar concerns surround Amazon, though for now they are less politically focused. It has an inordinate influence on commerce, commanding 40 percent of all online purchases in the United States. It is building vast databases about the preferences and purchases of hundreds of millions of citizens. That information enables it to extend its reach into a wide range of other industries. It’s a major producer of TV shows and movies. Its Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting and enterprise software business is often the default choice for companies that want to operate “in the cloud.” A significant percentage of American companies store crucial data in Amazon’s servers. Even its video rival Netflix uses AWS.