Terms of Service and civic rights

The most recent Facebook faux pas has been analysed as a lesson in customer managment for online businesses. (This post is adapted from my comment there.)

I argue that there is a larger context in which this issue resides. Clues to its existence can be found in John Sviokla’s observation that Facebook is ‘the 6th largest “country” on the planet”, and that ‘every firm will eventually have a social media strategy’.

Social media is creating a public sphere of unprecedented dimensions, with characteristics that make regulation difficult and which challenge notions of ownership, and which has powerful agency for change.

This online public sphere exists almost exclusively in proprietary spaces. Online terms of service, regulation, and notions of ownership will need to be framed not just in terms of consumer rights, but civic rights.

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