The People Speak...and Are Heard?

There’s NOTHING I love more than seeing democracy in action. Unfortunately, it’s a social networking site that’s following democracy, and not our government. But I digress.

To say I am proud of the Facebook owners and lawyers would be an understatement. Let me put it another way: I want the people who run Facebook to take over leadership of our country. I hear we’re in need of a few good men right now. You know, men (and women) who will actually listen to their constituents? I’m not sure if that’s more of a compliment for Facebook or a dig at our government.

Take it as you will.

Here’s the bottom line. We, the people…Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Anyway. We, the people (of Facebook), are the constituents of Facebook, so-to-speak. By joining Facebook we agreed that they would have some control over the content that we posted to Facebook so long as we remained members. As the “constituents” of Facebook we would like to think we are heard if we have a complaint. Especially when that complaint is about something important like the terms of use deciding who controls OUR content…and when. (As opposed to a change in the design of Facebook which might have taken some adjustment and been a bit annoying, but wasn’t detrimental to our rights.)

Last Sunday, The Consumerist posted this article regarding the change to Facebook’s terms of service (TOS). That article set off a firestorm of protests. People in the hundreds of thousands were e-mailing the Facebook founders, setting up groups on Facebook in protest, and writing blogs and articles themselves to protest. (According to Facebook there are currently more than 175 million Facebook users world-wide.)

Thankfully, even though the protesters were a small portion of overall Facebook users, they still listened recognizing that the vocal minority probably represented a majority; especially as the numbers of protesters continued to grow.

The article explained how the new TOS for Facebook now gave them complete and unfettered control over all of the content you posted to Facebook, even if you closed your account. That made Facebook vastly different than other social networking sites which, like Facebook, maintain control over your content so long as you are a member, but agree to relinquish such control if you decide to cancel your account.

Not only that, but if you have a blog in their networked blogs section (as I do), then you give control of ALL OF YOUR BLOG CONTENT over to Facebook SIMPLY because you have it linked through Facebook. The same would apply if you have a button on your blog that allows users to easily link your latest blog or article back to Facebook. ALL of your content then becomes Facebook even though you never actually posted any of it on Facebook.

The only company with a more ominous statement is Google. They have said publicly (not in their TOS but separately) that they can forever archive all of your information, but don’t maintain control over it if you decide to cancel all of your accounts with them. In other words, what you put on any Google-controlled entity will be (or “could” be) forever archived by them, but of course they won’t use it. My only question for Google? Why archive if you don’t have any intent on using the content you’ve archived?

If you don’t read the TOS for social networking sites, servers, hosting sites & blogs and news organizations where you post comments, I would HIGHLY encourage you to do so immediately. You cannot protect your rights if you don’t know what they’re supposed to be. Likewise, you can’t protest to maintain ownership and control of YOUR content if you don’t know what you agreed to in the first place and what they’re trying to take away now. I KNOW how tempting it is to just bypass that LONG and seemingly incredibly boring babble and just scroll down or click “yes” that you read and understand the TOS. I KNOW I’m the odd man out in that it took us 4 hours for our first home closing because they refused to get the paperwork to me beforehand and didn’t believe me when I said I would read every word of the contract. I KNOW I’m the odd man out when I take 5-10 minutes to read the TOS before joining a site. I would encourage you to also become the “odd-man”. Read what you’re agreeing to!

But again, I digress. What can I say? I like to do that.

When I logged into Facebook today, this is what I was greeted with on my home page:

"Terms of Use Update

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities."
Kudos Facebook! And THANK YOU for listening to your “constituents”! Some of our congressmen and women as well as our former and current presidents could stand to learn a LOT from you.

I have jointed the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities group so I can have input into their new TOS. I would encourage you to do the same. (Unless you don’t mind me speaking for you.)


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