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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 16 settembre 2014 alle ore 16:53.
L'ultima modifica è del 15 ottobre 2014 alle ore 14:06.


LONDON – Two big power shifts are occurring around the world today. First, corporate power is growing relative to that of governments. Second, ordinary people are also gaining greater influence. What does it mean that these seemingly contradictory shifts are happening simultaneously?

There is, no doubt, more power in the hands of companies than ever before. People who have not been popularly elected control more and more of our daily lives – from entertainment and energy supplies to schools, railways, and postal services. At the same time, the speed of technological innovation is outpacing that of legislation, meaning that corporate activities are routinely entering seemingly gray areas devoid of regulation.

But, counterbalancing this trend, people now have the means and opportunities to ensure that companies’ behavior does not go unchecked. They are becoming more educated and aware of how companies operate, and they are more proactive and outspoken when they believe a company has crossed the line. The public increasingly acts as the conscience of companies and industries, asking hard questions and holding them to account.

In the past several years, more effective means of collective action – such as social media, open publishing platforms, and online video sharing – have given people more levers to pull. As people pursue boycotts and disinvestment, lobby for legislation, and activate social-media campaigns with growing sophistication, they are increasingly able to influence companies’ operational and strategic decision-making, thereby imposing checks and balances on today’s enormous accretions of private power.

For some companies, this has come as a thunderbolt. Consider the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The BP spill was one of the first instances in which companies were forced to contend with the – and in which people realized the potential of the tools at their disposal. Like most companies at the time, BP was accustomed to communicating with traditional seats of power – the White House, the Kremlin, and so on – and to doing so via traditional modes of communication, such as briefing carefully selected journalists and distributing precisely worded press releases.

The Gulf oil spill changed all of that. Communities united around an issue and found a voice on Facebook. There was a massive conversation going on, and BP was neither a part of it nor able to control it via traditional communication-management methods.

Since then, there has been a marked increase in this sort of direct action. Social media spread ideas in an immediate and unfettered manner. A document, an image, or a video is shared, and suddenly what was secret or shielded is globally exposed. And, though wrong or false information spreads just as quickly as true information, corrections are often swift as well.

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