10 years of Facebook: What does it mean for Internet freedom?
The world has changed in a number of major ways since Facebook's start in 2004 but the social media platform's effects continue to be felt felt around the world.
Social media seems to be an ever present force on the Internet and in the daily lives of many. It is rare to go an entire day with participating in some form of it. A simple tweet or message on Facebook seems to be so engrained in society, that it is funny to think that at the turn of the century, Facebook was still four years out of its conception.
Much has changed since the popular social media outlet was first launched from a Harvard dorm room. Regime's have come and gone in many countries, new platforms like Twitter were launched, and the ways that businesses market to their customers has changed considerably. When Facebook started, the iPhone was still three years out from its initial launch – now, Facebook is installed on millions of smart phones.
There are any number of trends that have been brought on by Facebook's fast rise to power, however, one of the most important is how it has impacted the Internet itself on a global scale.
The growth of Facebook
When the social media platform first began, it was limited to the Harvard University campus. Now, the Associated press reported that there are 1.23 billion users worldwide, which makes up about 17 percent of the world population.
"People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way," Founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly wrote on his Facebook wall. "I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world."
The implications of this global growth are enormous. It means that someone in the U.S. can maintain fast and easy communication with another person in an entirely different part of the world. However, there are negative effects of having one's personal profile tracked and documented online. Governments are increasingly tracking these online profiles to gather information about users. This can be seen in the National Security Administration's PRISM program and data mining efforts. Other governments have worked to implement similar programs, much to the dismay of Facebook users and the company itself.
Despite the global growth of the social media outlet, there are still parts of the world where it is blocked to citizens. Over the first 10 years of Facebook's life, authoritarian governments have grown concerned about what people have chosen to post on their profiles. Because these accounts are used as places where individuals can express their personal beliefs, many have used them to express their political concerns. In extreme cases, this has even led to widespread protests, which these oppressive governments wish to suppress.
The Index on Censorship recently published a list of 10 countries where the social media outlet is banned. China, for instance, is one of the largest countries where Facebook is inaccessible, because of what has been called the "Great Firewall of China." The site was blocked in July 2009 when protestors were though to have used it to mobilize.
Another country where it is blocked is Iran, despite the fact that many of the country's leader's have profiles. Facebook, along with Twitter, was blocked in 2009 following and election that resulted in protests because of what many thought was a corrupt process.
So while Facebook has come a long way on an international scale, there is still a far ways to go. Touted as a place where individuals can express their opinions online, the social media outlet needs to be able to reach everyone to truly be a global connecting force.