In early March, Barack and Michelle Obama appeared in an exclusive Facebook video from the White House. The topic was bullying prevention, and it was by far the highest profile in the series of online conversations the social-media behemoth has produced with various members of Congress and federal and state officials in recent months. “You can participate in the conversation online,” the President said, “right here on Facebook.”
That endorsement is one of the most provocative examples of how Facebook is changing the way the social-media industry is throwing its weight around in Washington. This week, the company’s 10 Washington staffers moved into a gleaming 8,500-sq.-ft. office near the White House, equipped with a studio for upcoming Facebook Live episodes with lawmakers. In recent months, the company has hired several experienced Washington hands, including Marne Levine, a former aide at President Obama’s National Economic Council. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, is a former Clinton Administration official. And the company is reportedly courting Obama’s former spokesman, Robert Gibbs.