On Tuesday, April 10, social media giant Facebook's founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg had his first testimony before the US Congress over the recent Cambridge Analytica (CA) data leak scandal and other issues related to compromise with the users' private information.
A bench of veterans went on grilling the young entrepreneur, asking him questions ranging from his company's privacy policies to the CA data leak to the allegations of Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
Zuckerberg began his testimony with an "I am sorry" and was clearly on the defensive during the entire quizzing session. The man clearly had not many options but to stay humble and apologetic because the scandal caught him completely off guard.
Zuckerberg promised to come back to the interrogating members on issues on which he did not have a readymade reply and follow it up with action and investigation, desperately trying to restore the dented trust. But for a man who is considered one of the biggest role models in today's tech-dominated world and one who makes 'speed' a defining characteristic of his business model, the latest episode should be an eye opener - especially as the chief operator of a country.
Yes, a country. Had Facebook been a country, it would have been the largest in the world, even winning over hugely populated countries like China and India. Though it has no physical existence and neither is it sovereign, Facebook yet has a virtual territory inhabited by a 'population' and this requires it to have a 'government' as well. Given its sheer size and the diversity today, Facebook cannot just sit back and allow itself to get manipulated and defeated by 'intruders' - as it happened in the latest scandal.
More than a businessman, Zuckerberg has to act like a statesman
Zuckerberg has to don the hat of a statesman while running his show and not just confine himself within the ambit of his business. This is key because Facebook is not just a business venture but a land of tremendous socio-cultural and political diversity.
Zuckerberg perhaps has a task in his hand even harder than those ruling the most volatile of nations because he has threats and challenges that a physical nation faces but has no military at his disposal to get rid of those.
Whether Zuckerberg's 'free' business model is not apt or if his fresh round of apology should be taken seriously than the last are questions that came flying at him during the congressional testimony. On the spot, Zuckerberg could only assure the interrogators about his company's new policies to curb similar scandals from happening again. But deep within, the man must realise that only putting up eye tools might not be enough but thinking like a man determined to protect his country's borders could.
Facebook's internationalism as opposed to nationalist zeal
The paradox of Facebook is that it transcends borders at a time when nation-states are keen to shut them down as a sign of ultra-nationalism, xenophobia or security phobia - call it whatever you feel to. As nationalisms clash often and internationalism takes a back seat, it becomes doubly problematic for a platform like Facebook to live a peaceful life. Intrusions happen not just as an evil business move but also as an attempt to sabotage the rival's stability. The result of this leaves the biggest impact on Facebook which is just a vehicle to promote internationalism and world community building.
As the 'ruler' of this virtual country, Zuckerberg must secure its border first by bringing in whatever technical requirements he deems fit. But he must put into place a strict and all-encompassing monitoring mechanism to verify each of his users, just as a suspicious government of a real country does when facing threat from foes.
Zuckerberg might also need to rethink his 'free' business model after a point of time if his idea of a technical monitoring system fails to deliver. Whatever it is, the Facebook CEO has to secure his own company's interest first.
It is not easy to keep an eye on users from across the globe, many of whom co-exist with others from an enemy country. This democratic effect that Facebook has is both its strongest and weakest points and Zuckerberg needs to take an equally important measure to ensure that peace prevails in his empire despite the presence of contradictory elements. This is how a successful ruler rules.