Elder statesmen do it, movie stars do it, beauty pageant contestants do it and U2’s Bono does it; when you are as big as Facebook, it is only natural to wonder if it’s time to begin thinking about making a contribution to world peace. The initiative is called dot peace, and it’s a joint venture between Facebook and Persuasive Technology Lab of Stanford University will.

Facebook’s idea is that its services happen today to be in the unique position of being able to help people get in touch and gain some much-needed understanding. The world is filled with entire regions that have traditionally lived lives riven by social differences: border disputes between India and Pakistan, Israel and all its neighbours, Russia and Chechnya, and so on; Facebook’s social networking abilities could help many people in these societies gain sympathy and respect for the dignity of the other side by talking to one another through the Internet, or so the idea goes.

The dot peace homepage lays out a large section dedicated to comments and friendships made in troubled regions around the world. This area regularly posts how many friendly connections have been made between the citizens of nations in trouble. Religious differences are not ignored either. Even when there is no war in a specific region, Facebook members still can talk to one another and form friendships across barriers of language, religion, beliefs .

These contributions are hardly to be disputed: the problem really is that Facebook is a company that looks out for its own bottom line; this kind of control could induce the company to exercise editorial choice over what gets discussed. It could also tempt the company to choose which topic to feature prominently, or which to reject as unpublishable. Perhaps the better idea in all of this would be to completely open up the company’s database of user posts to researchers and to allow them to gain insights into the real lives of people in a way no opinion poller ever could. Facebook does not consider this a possibility however. Is this a good reason why leaving major social movements in private hands can be a bad idea?