Facebook Treading the Power Corridor?

March 29, 2011, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

This is a classic case of doing things pragmatically! Politicos are turning powerhouses at the Facebook fortress. The social networking behemoth has ushered in an array of political personalities to drive business and strategy.

Facebook already has in their ranks a constellation of luminaries who make the executive, legal, policy and communications structure top class. The latest to be added are a handful of politicians of repute. High-powered political personalities from both parties may be seen as taking FB closer to the seat of power.

(Original image courtesy of Vinoth Chander)

The names might read as the who’s who of US power territory. The names include Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, (the former Clinton administration official), Ted Ullyot, a general counsel former clerk for Supreme Court Justice,  Antonin Scalia and others.

The buzz now is that Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former White House press secretary, is being roped in to strengthen the Facebook communications team. The Gibbs story has not been confirmed by guys at FB as yet, but we guess we will hear something on that any moment now.

The top honchos at the social networking major, who have been redefining the notion of privacy and treading along new avenues communications, media and advertising on the world wide web, are not doing this just for the sake of doing so.

Politicians are the best bet when it comes to safeguarding a fortress that has privacy issues and the like closely stalking it. If you have noticed, politicians have been holding their liking for Facebook aloft all through. Facebook boss Zuckerberg is a master strategist, no doubt.

Facebook has indeed found the importance of having political personalities in their management line up. This is to explain its social networking service and its privacy policies to lawmakers and regulators.

The strategy to have politicos run the FB show may be well seen as an effort to place people who can anticipate policy issues, and who are good at explaining those issues where they are needed.

As Marne Levine, a former Obama administration official, who joined Facebook last year as vice president of global public policy, has been quoted as saying, “the social networking company has hired people of different political affiliations to bring a diversity of perspectives to its policy team.”

One aspect worthy of notice is that Facebook has politicos from both the sides. The Democrats are a dominant lot though. One of those high profile personalities is, of course, Sandberg – who has deep connections in the Democratic party establishment . Sandberg focuses on Facebook’s business side.

As NYTimes reports, “politically connected executives would not only be granted audiences with government officials to discuss substantive issues but, in the case of elected officials, would also have the chance to reinforce the idea that Facebook can be a powerful campaign tool”.

Why just Washington? Facebook has established political connections in the UK too. You would remember, they had hired Richard Allan, a former member of Parliament in Britain, to be its director of public policy in Europe in 2009.

The hiring might go on, and political equations will be cemented for sure. However, there are also critics who say the company’s growing Washington connections will dampen reasonable criticisms about some Facebook policies.

All said, the social networking major is close to the seat of power. Hope these politico-executives help hold the company’s policies aloft too.

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