More Mea Culpa: Facebook’s Terms of Service debacle

By 02/18/2009 Social

Even if you’re the most casual of Facebook users, you’ve no doubt seen one of your friends, a journalist or a “social media expert” (I hate that phrase) sounding off on the social networking giant’s rolling changes to its Terms of Service.


Last night, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally yielded to a growing user revolt, just a day after he attempted to clarify changes to the Terms of Service in a blog post. Despite his explanations, users still were unhappy and concerned about their privacy.

With more than 50,000 users complaining. Users win.

Zuckerburg wrote last night that Facebook would revert the terms of service back to its previous version, adding however that the site is determined to update its terms of service, but this time would seek input from the community of Facebook users first.

“If you’d like to get involved in crafting our new terms… you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we’ve created–Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I’m looking forward to reading your input.”

In all honesty, I’m glad Zuckerburg was quick to act and not just because I personally saw some holes in their new terms of service. I’m glad he did it because it’s the right thing to do from a best practice standpoint.

It seems that Facebook and Zuckerberg have learned something from the Beacon problem two years ago.

What Facebook did wrong with it’s roll out of these new terms of use is what some other popular free Web sites have done in recent months – it neglected to adequately warn users of a reasonably major change to the site. The initial blog post that came on February 4 that simply told users that the change happened was not enough to give users ample time to remove content they wouldn’t want to fall under the new terms of use. And all explanations aside, the change was significant.

Hulu faced a similar negative response when it failed to notify its users that it had to remove older seasons of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” in January. Granted, “Sunny’s” parent network, FX made the request that the episodes be pulled and Hulu simply complied. The problem was that they failed to communicate the change to any community members. Seeing as “Sunny” is one of the most popular shows on the site, the community was rightfully upset and in quite an uproar at Hulu’s mismanagement of the situation.

Hulu made it’s Mea Culpa blog post just four days after pulling the episodes. They ended up working out a deal with the network to add the episodes back for an abbreviated period to allow users the chance to get their fix before the episodes made their exit.

What all this comes back to is the need for sites and services to communicate to their users, even if there is nothing terribly important to say. I don’t care if your service is free or paid. iTunes forces me to agree to new terms on a seemingly weekly basis and to be completely honest, I adore them for it. I always know where my privacy stands with them. Facebook should have done the same thing.

Muhammad Saleem pretty much sums up everything I think that Facebook should have done before rolling out changes to their terms of service in a blog post he did following the Hulu incident: “HOW TO: Survive a Social Media Revolt. He nails it on every point. Now, lets see where we go from here.

Photo by Zirak

Join the discussion One Comment

  • DaveMurr says:

    Its good to see Mark address the masses. My concern is that this is the 2nd time FB has made changes without welcoming input from its audience. The 1st strike was their cosmetic change (something I’m still not happy about). Now this… in all honesty I don’t really care about their TOS, what does concern me is they turn deaf ear to their users – whom they really on. Its a lopsided relationship and one that doesn’t make a strong community. Lets hope FB learns from this.

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