The Red Lines Page

February 26, 2009

Facebook feedback

Filed under: facebook,writing — Peter A @ 10:52 pm

Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook wants to “help make the world more open and transparent”. So they say they’re going to run their service that way.  They’re inviting comment on two documents:

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. 

My initial thoughts about these documents are:

  • They’re written in plain(ish) English, and they’re enabling people to comment online, before soliciting a subsequent vote for or against the proposed changes. While I admire the intention, the implementation is not entirely clear.
  • What are the differences between then and now? Perhaps we have to consider them as a completely new starting point. Some commentators will be better-informed about what this implies than others. So are Facebook soliciting the wisdom of the crowd, or relying on the ignorance of the herd? 
  • Is it all or nothing on the vote? There is stuff in these documents that’s good and stuff that’s bad.
  • Good: Freedom and Openness extends to access, personal ownership of information, interface specifications, and worldwide usage.
  • Bad: Restrictions on Freedom and Openness appear to be inconsistent. What do they mean by forbidding “nudity”, while allowing the promotion of “alcohol-related or other mature content [with] appropriate age-based restrictions”?  But there is no restriction on references to drug use.  Can someone post a photo of Michael Phelps smoking a bong but not Michael Phelps in his swimming gear? And if shirtless Michael Phelps in just his Speedos is OK, what’s so dreadful about allowing pictures of breastfeeding (which is not illegal)?  I posted a comment about this, but that was pre-emptively flagged as “inappropriate”! So I reposted it as “br**stf**d*ng” and that seemed to slip past Facebook’s c*ns*rs.
  • Worse: There’s a whole section where Facebook seems to say “All your content are belong to us“. Or to use their words: “you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, copy, publicly perform or display, distribute, modify, translate, and create derivative works of (“use”) any content you post on or in connection with Facebook.” What a cheek! Their minor concession from the more draconian previous change seems to be that they have removed the words “irrevocable” and “perpetual” from that paragraph. However…
  • Worst: If you delete the content or your account to avoid this, “information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time”. Whatever “reasonable” means. So they still have it, and if they have  already chosen to “distribute, modify, translate, and create derivative works of ” the content, there’s no way to recover your rights to it. And could this apply to content provided through other services, but surfaced via Facebook (for example, Twitter feeds to the Status, or Flickr photos)?
  • If they only want to use the content to promote Facebook, why don’t they just say that in their new, simplified documents?

Several key issues to resolve, still. The conversation has only just begun on their forums. In the meantime, decide for yourself which is the most offensive of these three linked pictures: Phelps smoking, Phelps posing, or anonymous woman br**stf**d*ng.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for those links to the groups. I couldn’t find them at all earlier. I think Facebook is getting a little sketchy in their control of items, but I reserve complete judgment until I read everything in both groups.

    Comment by Nicole F. — February 27, 2009 @ 12:21 am | Reply

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