Last week I wrote about Facebook's latest privacy flub which involved a change to the Facebook terms of service that didn't go over too well with Facebook users and the media.

In response to this, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued his standard apology. But that apparently wasn't enough.

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it was creating an open governance model that is designed to give users a more active role in how Facebook is run and how things such as the terms of service are written.

On the Facebook Blog, Zuckerberg wrote:

We sat down to work on documents that could be the foundation of this and we came to an interesting realization—that the conventional business practices around a Terms of Use document are just too restrictive to achieve these goals. We decided we needed to do things differently and so we're going to develop new policies that will govern our system from the ground up in an open and transparent way.

He went on:

Beginning today, we are giving you a greater opportunity to voice your opinion over how Facebook is governed. We're starting this off by publishing two new documents for your review and comment. The first is the Facebook Principles, which defines your rights and will serve as the guiding framework behind any policy we'll consider—or the reason we won't consider others. The second document is the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which will replace the existing Terms of Use.

Some bloggers likened Facebook's move to 'democracy' while others were more skeptical.

Me? I think it's much ado about nothing. Facebook's move to create some sort of democratic governance framework is idealistic and unworkable. It's also unnecessary.

This is about terms of service. We're not talking about the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence here.

What's so hard about developing a reasonable terms of service that provides your company with protection while at the same time not going beyond what's necessary (e.g.taking rights away from users for no good reason)?

Thousands upon thousands of websites have terms of service agreements. Facebook isn't the first company to be criticized for having an overbearing terms of service but most companies never run into problems. They have reasonable agreements.

I agree with ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick, who wrote that "Facebook appears to forget that it's just one of many ways people use the internet".

Facebook seems to make everything more complicated than it needs to be because it appears to believe that everything it does is revolutionary.

That isn't the case. As impressive as Facebook is as a service and company, Facebook isn't doing anything that demands more than a standard terms of service and a set of reasonable, common sense policies.

Follow the law in the jurisdictions you do business, get a royalty-free license from users so you can display the content users upload and let users remove their content (and their accounts) if they so choose.

What's so difficult about that, Facebook?

Patricio Robles

Published 27 February, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)


Rachel Burkot

I see what you're saying, but what's so wrong with letting facebook users have a say in the policies? After all, the users are the ones who keep it going. Yeah, it's not as high-scale as running a country, so I can understand your frustration that facebook is trying to be all democratic, but I don't see the problem with making facebook's rules and policies a little more open for discussion.

over 9 years ago



Isn't it obvious why they have done this? It's a rather cynical PR stunt, an attempt to align themselves as the key supporter of UGC content 'connecting people' just as the mission statement on the homepage states. They have been getting so much negative press attention over their use or mis-use of people's data, from Beacon onwards, that they're obviously thinking only a bold and, yes, over-the-top move like this will counteract it. It may not be needful, but the reasons for it are clear as crystal.

over 9 years ago

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