Facebook Flip-Flops! Thumbs Up!

Thumbs Up Facebook!

No sooner did we all get riled up about Facebook becoming big brother the grand master of the community steps out today and announces reversal of the new controversial Terms of Service back to the old.  In fact Mark Zuckerberg has gone one step farther and opened a new Facebook group called, Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. This will be a place for everyone to voice their thoughts on what should be included in new and improved Terms of Service.

Below is Mark’s blog post from earlier today explaining Facebook’s actions;

Update on Terms
A couple of weeks ago, we revised our terms of use hoping to clarify some parts for our users. Over the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information. Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.

More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.

You have my commitment that we’ll do all of these things, but in order to do them right it will take a little bit of time. We expect to complete this in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we’ve changed the terms back to what existed before the February 4th change, which was what most people asked us for and was the recommendation of the outside experts we consulted.

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.

I like what Facebook is doing.  I know there are no assurances that if you, I or anyone posts their thoughts on the group if they will be heard.  And I know there is no guarantee in this litigious world that the new language be any better than the first, but I do like what they are doing.  There are some lessons to learn here if we pay attention;
  • When dealing with upset customers (users/consumers etc…) speed is of the essense.
  • Sometimes you are put between a rock and a hard place.  A place with no winner.  A place between people’s fear and legal obligations to the company.  In those cases, it is wise to explain clearly the problem and ask the user what they would do.
  • Facebook understands they need to change their Terms of Service and they understand some will not like the new language.  But their listening will help them manage the change in a much smoother fashion than before.
  • Nothing was wrong with old Coke.  Facebook’s decision to go back to the old Terms was a good decision and one that will get the wolves off the doorstep.  It gives them time to regroup and have a conversation with their community.

Regardless of what happens, I like what Facebook is doing.  Sometime a flip-flop is a good thing!

One Response

  1. Martin Spradley Says:

    Hey Mark,
    I wanted to thank you for your help with that liitle guy on your page. I got a subscription to that site. NICE. Thanks for the information. I really appreciate it.

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