I recently did the geekiest thing ever and voted in Facebook‘s election on documents of governance. It was an interesting exercise in becoming a citizen of a new public place. Whilst I still take the whole thing with a grain of salt, I was impressed concept of ‘opening up’ the ruling of facebook to its constituents, unlike myspace and some of the other online social networks. Issues of ownership over IP/Copyright came up in both networks that i’ve been part of and, unlike Myspace which was basically Rupert saying ‘like it or lump it you young hippies’, Facebook decided to create a new set of ‘governing’ documents – terms and conditions – which clarified a lot of the issues recently raised. As a user of Facebook (or citizen, in political terms), we each have the choice to vote on the form of rule. It’s a process that reflects in some part those that happen in real life public/political environments.
That in itself i find incredibly interesting.
But, in reading the documents, this line jumped out at me:
“You are bound by the laws of the country that you live in. You may also need to comply with the laws of other jurisdictions, including the laws of the United States (because our headquarters are based in the U.S.).”
Global citizen just took on a whole new meaning, really.
I remember when the US election was on – all of last year, practically – there was a lot of online bluster about the rest of the world voting for the president, given how many times the US stuck their nose in everyone else’s business and that who got in would effect everyone else.
To be honest, i wasn’t all that fussed. I figure that it’d be best to lead by example and mind my own business, and to support my US friends in their process from afar. But since knowing – or having been explicitly reminded – that i need to comply with the laws of jurisdictions for my online public life, I realised that, actually, this means that i also need to have a say in that jurisdiction, according to democracy at least.
Which raises some fascinating legal and political ideas about the public sphere, both in www and a geo-political sense.
The obviously important questions are:
Can the power-based be shifted, by shifting the server?
Might tuvalu become the world’s greatest political power in 5 years time, thanks to the selling of its upper level domain to half of western media content?
As a user/member of facebook (and accoutable by US laws), does this open up other areas of remote legal jurisdiction?
Seeing as I’m married on Facebook, does that mean i’m bound by the jurisdiction of marriage according to US law too?
But seriously, in terms of political/public space (as opposed to a broadcast space), what does this mean? What are the rights and responsibilities of internet users back into real life spaces?