The Pope tweets, and Facebook users fail to get out the vote

Pope Benedict XVI clicks on a tablet to send his first twitter message during his weekly general audience on December 12, 2012 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican.

Call it a sign of the end of the world, or a sign of new beginnings...the Pope will likely be trending on Twitter today. Benedict the 16th will be tweeting official answers to followers' questions in 8 different languages. Twitter's head of social innovation Claire Diaz-Ortiz is at the Vatican making preparations. She's been focused on working with religious leaders ever since realizing a few years back that some of Twitter's most shared tweets were faith-based.

"I've spoken with a number of pastors," says Diaz-Ortiz, "that say it's kind of amazing how many great bible verses naturally fit within 140 characters."

Diaz Ortiz assures us the pope himself does approve messages going out via user @pontifex. But is there some gilded room in the Vatican filled with robed clergymen furiously tweeting on laptops?

"You've got robes, but the guys in the robes are lobbing jokes at you right and left," says Diaz-Ortiz. "I expected a much more conservative, closed institution. Instead it's completely vibrant. It's not exactly Silicon Valley, but it's a lot closer than I anticipated."

Other Catholic leaders have already been using the social media to reach out. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, says Twitter is a form of communication with a primeval parallel.

"In the ancient world when preachers or orators had to address large clouds, the people in the front would hear the message, would turn around and repeat it like a wave through thousands and thousands of people," says Father O'Malley. "I think that's the way Twitter works for us."

You can always tweet your questions to us at @Marketplace Tech--though we can't promise answers as pious.


Facebook maybe a community but it's no longer a democracy. Members were given the chance to vote on changes to the company privacy policy, and though the overwhelming majority did reject the changes--it wasn't big enough. 30 percent of all members had to vote or the whole process would be null and void. 

"That is a ton of people," says Slate's Will Oremus. "Facebook has a billion active users. That's 300 million people who would have had to vote on this thing in order to carry the day."

Oremus did the math, and that's approximately 2.5 times the number of people who voted in the last national presidential election. Granted, Kitchen Aid isn't asking us for input on changes, and most of us don't mind. Oremus points out that Kitchen Aid is also not doing things with our personal data that we might need to pay closer attention to. 

"I think a lot of people don't necessarily need to have a say what Facebook's doing with their data," he says. "They just want to know that Facebook's treating them O.K."

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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