Facebook Prepares to Add Friends in Washington

The New York Times


Facebook has layered its executive, legal, policy and communications ranks with high-powered politicos from both parties, beefing up its firepower for future battles in Washington and beyond. There’s Sheryl Sandberg, the former Clinton administration official who is chief operating officer, and Ted Ullyot, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who is general counsel, among others. The latest candidate is Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former White House press secretary, whom Facebook is trying to lure to its communications team.
“Information is the gold or the oil of the economy in the information age,” said Paul M. Schwartz, a law professor and expert in information technology at the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Schwartz said Facebook seemed to have learned quickly that demands for regulation would pile up, not just from users and advocacy groups but from competitors.

“What they’re doing is pragmatic, and it’s pragmatic to do it sooner rather than later,” he said.
Other policy analysts say that, substance aside, Facebook’s efforts will add up to significant influence.

“The practical implication is it’s going to make it more difficult for advocates to convince members of Congress that Facebook presents a privacy problem,” said Chris Jay Hoofnagle, director of privacy programs at the Center for Law and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. He said politically connected executives would not only be granted audiences with government officials to discuss substantive issues but, in the case of elected officials, would also have the chance to reinforce the idea that Facebook can be a powerful campaign tool.

 “One of the big points is to show lawmakers that Facebook is important to their own campaigns,” Mr. Hoofnagle said. “Once that fact is established, Congress will not touch Facebook.”