The Social Networking Buzz
By Staff News & Analysis - December 30, 2010

The SEC is reportedly investigating trading on secondary markets like SecondMarket and SharesPost in the stock of social media companies Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Zynga. My colleague Steven Bertoni profiled SecondMarket creator Barry Silbert in the June 7 issue of Forbes, noting that connecting buyers and sellers in the shares of privately-held tech companies was the company's fastest-growing market … The SEC is said to be focusing on whether the secondary market trading has brought the number of shareholders in a company like Facebook above 500. Reaching that threshold triggers requirements for more public financial disclosures, a requirement that in the past has driven companies like Google and Microsoft to pursue IPOs. – Forbes

Dominant Social Theme: The SEC stays on the job.

Free-Market Analysis: Social networking as epitomized by Facebook is "hot." Mark Zuckerberg, the ludicrously young inventor of the Facebook is on the cover of Time Magazine as the Person of the Year. There is even a huge, hit movie out about him. Now we learn the ever-vigilant US Securities and Exchange Commission has cast its eye on private equities trading of "social network" trading companies like Facebook. Leaving aside the larger issue of whether the SEC should be involved at all, the lingering implication is that these companies are a kind of "catnip" for investors currently.

We think we can tell a sub dominant social theme when we see one. Social network companies get a lot of press and attention because they represent the controllable side of the Internet, in our view. Social networking is the "softer side" of the Internet from a power elite standpoint. A small intergenerational, familial elite has seen its secrecy ripped asunder by the Internet. But these sites, especially Facebook with some 500 million users, are far less challenging to elite plans for global centralization. If anything, one could argue that such networks offer the kind of naïve openness and frivolity that the elite is pleased to take advantage of.

Social networking is perhaps a preferable Internet construct. It is an Internet full of self-revelations about social events, parties, drinking and music and movie "favs." It is self-revelatory in the most basic way and often mundane in terms of what is discussed among friends and electronic social circles. For these reasons, we believe this sort of activity is actively encouraged. It seemingly undercuts the Internet as a tool of serious research and historical revisionism. It also provides a far more controllable template for manipulating public use of electronic communications.

Basically social networking seems to provide people with prefabricated and tightly constricted personal websites. Is it by design? It is open knowledge within the Internet community that such fast-growing companies attract the attention of the American intel community – and often attract funding as well.

The two companies that are whispered about the most within this context are Google, which apparently has set up an insider network for US intelligence agencies, and Facebook which allows US intel officials to set up numerous information-tracking facilities of social network users. Here's an article excerpt from Global Research back in 2009 describing the growth of Facebook:

Facebook's first round of venture capital funding ($US 500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome 'The Diversity Myth', he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC. The second round of funding into Facebook ($US 12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company's key areas of expertise are in "data mining technologies".

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the Internet. Dr. Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel's board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence. She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

It was when a journalist lifted the lid on the DARPA's Information Awareness Office that the public began to show concern at its information mining projects. Wikipedia's IAO page says: "the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralised location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data."

The Facebook saga has all the hallmarks of a controlled promotion. Promising companies are discovered at Harvard, which funnels brilliant young individuals into a controlled environment where they can be noticed and noted by intelligence authorities. The backstory regarding these companies is that they are in fact the inspiration of these agencies; but they are not.

Outfits like the CIA never create such ventures, it seems; but they do apparently encourage the growth of the ones that they deem most useful. In the process, they can cultivate the founders and ensure that the entity remains complaisant with the values and goals of the larger military-industrial complex and the Anglo-American power-elite itself.

After Thoughts

The explosion of social networking websites, especially Facebook, may be a welcome event for the powers-that-be. But as ubiquitous as these social networking sites are becoming, they are still by design fairly rigid in their formats and restrictive in terms of content. Thus the larger Internet with its flexible, customized websites, remains a formidable alternative. Facebook-style sites may offer an Internet experience, but not one in our view that at any point will be able to fully co-opt the larger truth-telling of the Internet.