Facebook's platform played the bigger role in Hosni Mubarak's downfall. It was the "We Are All Khaled Said" page Ghonim set up in June to memorialize a businessman who died in police custody that became the cradle of the revolution. But Facebook the company, unlike Google, has hardly embraced the honor. Last fall, it removed the crucial page rather than allowing the administrator to protect his identity. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois sent Facebook a letter requesting that it amend its no-anonymity policy to protect democratic activists in the Middle East. Facebook said no. When the Tunisian government used a virus to obtain passwords of activists, Facebook couched its response in terms of protecting user privacy, not challenging a vile regime.
Facebook is such a powerful organizing tool that the question of its attitude toward those who use its product is in some ways irrelevant. But it is worth pointing that the company has never shown any sign of having the kind of core commitment to liberty that Google does. Where Google voluntarily pulled out of China, Facebook—which is blocked there—is desperate to get in. This, too, reflects the background and worldview of its founder. Mark Zuckerberg, a child of privilege, has never known a lack of political freedom. He has no obvious ideological leanings and his big outside investors include a radical libertarian and a junior oligarch. It is difficult to imagine Facebook—or most other technology companies, for that matter—passing up a major business opportunity because of concerns about human rights. Facebook's overriding objective is the much more typical one of expanding its market while avoiding bad PR and staying out of trouble with governments that set the rules.