Facebook Turns the Other Cheek

Yesterday, after writing this post suggesting that Facebook’s changes to the terms of service would adversely impact bloggers and agencies, I joined the People Against the News Terms of Service (TOS) Facebook group. This group, created by Anne Petteroe, gained the ear of the Facebook management, and submitted “Three big questions for Facebook”. These were canvassed from the rapidly growing group membership – which at this point stands at over 60,000 members (and continues to grow).

This group, along with the many blog posts and a burgeoning Twitter stream convinced the Facebook management team to revert to their previous terms of use. The above announcement will appear when you next login to Facebook – giving you the option of joining the Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities group – and contributing to the discussion. Interestingly, it has taken a large scale backlash (again) for Facebook to actually listen, notify and begin to engage with the members who are the foundations on which their success is based. There are clear lessons for any business here.

So, what were the three big questions for Facebook? Anne put the following forward to the Facebook management team:

3 Big Questions for Facebook:
To Mr. Zuckerberg and the Facebook Legal Team,
After reviewing and categorizing the responses from the protest group members, please see the following 3 major issues that we would like to see addressed, by you, and resolved through modification of Facebook’s Terms of Service:
1. Advertising and Commercial Rights:
“If the TOS doesn’t mean I give Facebook the rights to use pictures of my family/friends/kids why does it give so many people that impression? Will I wind up seeing pictures of my niece staring at me from a bus stop at some point and be told I shoulda read the fine print?”
~ Rich Griffith
“Let’s say that 10 years down the road, I become famous. Let’s also say that, despite Mark Zuckerberg’s well-intentioned promise, a large multinational corporation buys out Facebook…per these new TOS, my likeness, photographs, etc, could then be used, for all eternity, to hock Sony products in any way they want.”
~ Brian (Coast Guard Academy)
2. Bands, Artists, Photographers, Writers, Filmmakers etc:
“For a [band \ artist \ photographer \ writer \ filmmaker] with a page on Facebook, there may be no privacy settings (i.e., everyone can see your page). What stops Facebook from distributing the [artistic works] posted on Facebook band pages for profit?”
~ Matteo
3. “Share” on Facebook:
“Many bloggers submit their blog content to their profiles via RSS or by third party applications – or even using Notes. In many instances, blog content is licensed under Creative Commons, however, it appears that this content would also fall under the terms of service.”
~ Gavin (Australia)
“[One could argue] in a credible sounding way that your Terms of … lay claim to content provided on a third party site if that site uses a ‘Share on Facebook’ link. Is this true? If so, how do you intend to remedy it?”
~ Jim (Raleigh / Durham, NC)
We are aware that Facebook’s CEO and its other representatives have clarified the company’s intent on the use and ownership of User Content. However, these assurances aside, Mr. Zuckerberg himself has called the legal language in the TOS “overly formal and protective.” Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker has characterized his reply as “the modern version of ‘Ignore the fine print, ma’am, just sign here.’”
Regardless of Facebook’s current intent, the legal language in the Terms of Service must be changed in order to address the above issues. As Facebook is a leader in Social Media, doing so well help to set an industry-wide standard for user content use for other online services providers. Consumers cannot be expected to rest on the assurances of the good intentions of companies without having any kind of enforceable legal recourse. As we all know, corporate strategies adjust, CEO’s change, Boards of Directors shuffle and companies get bought out. We’re just looking for some legal assurances in writing that if and when that happens, we won’t be left in the cold.
~ Facebook Users Against the New Terms of Service – 02/16/2009

One thought on “Facebook Turns the Other Cheek

  1. Never really thought of the extremity of the change to the POS – but this is truly scary. How can someone so deeply involved in media make such a cock up? Regardless that they have changed it back Facebook’s trust level has fallen dramatically.

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