Politics

You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies

The title of this post refers to the tag-line used to promote the film “The Social Network” which catalogs the impressive entrepreneurial rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and co-founder of Facebook. The website’s stock was opened to public purchase in May of 2012, becoming the largest initial public offering (IPO) in Internet history and making Mark Zuckerberg nearly $1 billion. Now one of the most wealthy and influential figures in the world, everyone wants a piece of Zuckerberg. This demand for Zuckerberg and his influence has and still includes many prominent figures in American politics, stretching all the way to the Oval office.

President Barack Obama and his party greatly benefited from embracing and utilizing various social media avenues back before the 2008 election. This, of course, included Facebook, at the time the most popular form of social media. Through Facebook, then Senator Barack Obama and the democratic party were able to spread their message of “hope” and “change” to a broader audience. The Republican party, underestimating the impact that social media currently has in this day and age, were caught flat footed and missed out on an opportunity to reach a larger amount of people from a vast array of demographics. Barack Obama once again took advantage of social media and Facebook during his re-election campaign, with Mitt Romney repeating the same mistake John McCain and the Republicans made back in 2008.

Obama and Zuckerberg’s relationship does not simply begin and end with the Democratic Party’s wise decision to utilize Facebook in their campaigning strategy. Zuckerberg has been vocal about policy issues, sometime in support of the President while other times criticizing the practices of his administration and the federal government. Zuckerberg’s main policy cause was trying to stir support for comprehensive immigration reform. A little over a year ago, Zuckerberg was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” During the interview, Zuckerberg described immigration reform as one of the “biggest civil rights issues of our time.” Zuckerberg helped to fund FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group that pushes reform to encourage growth in the technological sector. And although his cause hit a few roadblocks, he continued to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Later in the same interview, Zuckerberg showed empathy toward the Obama Administration in regards to the botched roll-out of healthcare.gov. He stated that “sometimes stuff doesn’t work when you want it to” and that “The right thing here is just to keep on focusing on building the service that you think is right in the long term.” While these statements share the exact sentiment of the Democratic Party’s view on immigration reform and the launch of healthcare.gov, the rest of the interview was not so flattering to the president or federal government. Zuckerberg went on to say that the government “really blew it” when it came to hidden surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA).

“I honestly think that they’re continuing to blow it in some ways, and I hope that they become more transparent in that part of it,” he said.

Since then, both the political and social landscapes have greatly changed. Twitter has solidified itself as the clear rival and alternative to Facebook profiles and the 2014 mid-term elections saw the Republican party taking control of Congress. Obama pushed through his own version of comprehensive immigration reform by bypassing congress and unlawfully abusing his power of executive orders. In fact, to announce his press conference where he would describe his executive actions, the White House posted a video to Facebook. When asked if the video was Obama’s way of saying “thank you” to Zuckerberg for his support, Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied “No, I think this is an opportunity for us to reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.” Regardless of any ulterior motive, President Obama’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s relationship has been greatly beneficial to both highly influential individuals.

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