Social media was credited with the toppling of Hosni Mubarak during Egypt's Arab Spring uprising.
New evidence suggests it could be a double-edged sword, one capable of ending liberal democracy.
The essence of liberal democracy is governance at the consent of the governed. For that to have any meaning that has to be "informed consent" freely given. If that consent can be manufactured then liberal democracy doesn't stand a chance.
I've written three posts about this: The Big Chill, Is This How Trump Rigged the Election, Really?, and We Need to Have This Figured Out by 2019. On It Rests Our Democracy.
These posts explore how Facebook and other social media can be mined. Here's one chilling passage:
“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”
Even Scientific American asked, "Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?" Consider this:
Surely the case is made for intervention, whipping Facebook and other social media into line, protecting the public from those who would use their own data to manipulate them. Remember the Great Recession of 2007-2008 and the notion of banks "too big to fail"? Compared to Facebook, those "too big to fail" banks are nothing.
A couple of years ago, Vladan Joler and his brainy friends in Belgrade began investigating the inner workings of one of the world's most powerful corporations.
The team, which includes experts in cyber-forensic analysis and data visualisation, had already looked into what he calls "different forms of invisible infrastructures" behind Serbia's internet service providers.
But Mr Joler and his friends, now working under a project called Share Lab, had their sights set on a bigger target.
"If Facebook were a country, it would be bigger than China," says Mr Joler, whose day job is as a professor at Serbia's Novi Sad University.
He reels off the familiar, but still staggering, numbers: the barely teenage Silicon Valley firm stores some 300 petabytes of data, boasts almost two billion users, and raked in almost $28bn (£22bn) in revenues in 2016 alone.
And yet, Mr Joler argues, we know next to nothing about what goes on under the bonnet - despite the fact that we, as users, are providing most of the fuel - for free.
"All of us, when we are uploading something, when we are tagging people, when we are commenting, we are basically working for Facebook," he says.