April 28, 2009

Controversial Changes to Facebook’s Terms of Service Put to Vote

Print More

Facebook got a facelift in February, and the new site layout elicited many a group in its opposition. Though less visible, changes in the site’s governing documents also generated controversy. The new language in Facebook’s Terms of Service implied that the site owned all content, even after profiles were deleted. Site officials recently put the change to a vote, inviting all 200 million members to decide between the existing governing documents and the controversial proposed ones. The week-long voting period ended last Thursday. Participation was low, with only 600,000 ballots cast, but the old terms were reinstated with 75-percent approval.
According to Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s chief legal consultant, the approved terms will be online within the coming weeks. The site’s founder Mark Zuckerberg stated the importance of the site’s governing documents and their importance to Facebookers worldwide.
“More than 175 million people use Facebook,” Zuckerberg stated, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. “If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protects our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world.” According to Harvard Prof. Jonathan Zittrain, law, allowing users to vote on the site’s Terms of Service does not give them any real power.
“Facebook still holds the quill and frames the choice,” he stated in his blog for The Chronicle of Higher Education. “But the fact is that most companies wouldn’t dream of going as far as Facebook just has, because the kinds of public pressures that create privacy crises can also be elicited when cynical choices are presented.”
As for the new page layout, Facebook has not yet determined if it will revert to the original. But, according to the New York Times, a third-party application polling users has received 1.2 million thumbs down to the site’s new style.