Facebook drove hundreds of thousands of voter registrations with a 17-word reminder in a multi-day campaign. It sounds great right? And in this specific case it is. But it also demonstrates the immense power that Facebook and other deeply integrated tech companies like Google have in our democracy. Along with the voter registration campaign you can also see their power directly with things like the SOPA blackout.
The real danger, however, lies within what we can't see. Manipulation of Google search results and Facebook timelines, whether intentional or unintentional, plays a massive role in determining the future of countries in which they have a large user base. The thing is, as users, we have virtually no say in what these powerful companies do. Nor do we have any transparency in to what they are doing. This puts the power of information discovery in the hands of a very few large corporations with no control by the populace. This is a direct affront to our democracy.
A true democracy can only function when the populace has transparency and a significant amount of control in anything that has a powerful influence over their lives. Without that, those in power can easily manipulate the populace to do whatever they want them to do and that will certainly lead to the downfall of the democracy.
In the past the best way to do this was control of the media to put out propaganda and prevent the populace from seeing information undesirable by those in power. But with the advancements in technology the corporate class has another avenue to manipulate the populace, one potentially more powerful than control of the media. This power is the ability to not only control the information we receive but also to directly manipulate personal communications and even our emotions.
Corporations will always act in the interests of those who control it. And a corporation controlled by the elite is always going to act in the interests of themselves and not those that it employs.
The demise of the democracy may be a slow change into a plutocracy as it has in the US, or come from a corporate authoritarian, or even spur a fascist-lead popular uprising. The process begins with the eventual, inevitable influence of corporations in politics. It may never evolve past a plutocracy but it may also evolve or jump straight to an authoritarian leader who is able to consolidate the corporations and gain full control. Or it may even spur a populist revolt in favor of a fascist that parades populist economic plans but once in power instead consolidates the corporations to strengthen their own power. Regardless of which outcome takes place they all eventually lead to the end of democracy unless the citizens are able to regain control of the corporations before it's too late. And today those corporations have more ability to gain control than ever before.