2 November 2014

Facebook is not a "nation" and never will be

I am always amused by the perennial news item that tries to compare an online platform to a nation. Facebook has become a favourite thing for journalists and headline writers to compare to nations. Just last week we were treated to the Huffington Post declaration: "Facebook Could Soon Be The Biggest 'Nation' On Earth" (October 28, 2014) which notes that the number of Facebook users is nearly equal to the population of China.

Of course the Huffington Post did not invent this comparison. Similar stories have been running for years, including this piece in the (British) Independent newspaper from 2012, and this article in the Economist in 2010.

But no matter how attractive the comparison may be, we are left with these unavoidable truths: Facebook is not a "nation"; Facebook is not a "country"; Facebook is not a "state". And it never will be.

In many ways this is obvious. As the Economist article stated in 2010, "[Facebook] has no land to defend; no police to enforce law and order; it does not have subjects, bound by a clear cluster of rights, obligations and cultural signals. Compared with citizenship of a country, membership is easy to acquire and renounce."