Charles Dharapak

Facebook's Zuckerberg has direct line to President Obama

THE US President has 42 million Twitter followers, 39 million "likes" on Facebook and a responsibility to represent the interests of 314 million Americans - but how many of them can just pick up the phone and call Obama for a chat?

Mark Zuckerberg is one. On Thursday, in a public post, the 29-year-old Facebook founder wrote of his concern over the threat the US Government poses to internet security. Unlike most who share these concerns, Zuckerberg has a means of communicating them.

"I've called President Obama to express my frustration," he said.

Social media does have the potential to aid grassroots democracy but more often it simply acts as a bigger podium for the powerful few.

Note that when powerful men like Zuckerberg want to be heard, they may turn to social media to boast about their influence, but actually to exercise that influence? That requires a telephone.

The message, whatever the medium, is clear: when I speak, important people listen.

As for the man on the other end of the line, this week President Obama took to his own online podium, a webisode of the satirical talk show Between Two Ferns.

He wanted to encourage those elusive millennials to sign up for affordable health care, but there was a secondary message to broadcast to citizens.

When the host, comedian Zach Galifianakis, said he was "off the grid" for fear the government would be checking up on him, Obama took the opportunity to set him straight: "First of all, Zach, no one's interested in your texts."

This is the ego-bruising news governments have been trying to break to us for some time.

The real horror of digital life is not that all your thoughts are out there for governments to observe. It's that they're out there and, for the most part, no one's interested.


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