Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Facebook Breaks the Social Media Social Contract

It seems that Facebook's attempt to revise it's T&Cs has resulted in a rapid backtrack. Admitedly, Zuckerberg and his team seem to have handled this well - going straight back to the community to discuss issues rather than sticking with the "Well, it's our site" line. In the past - particularly with the redesign issue - the community's voice went unheard but with this particular issue Facebook has promised to listen to everyone.

It's interesting to draw contrasts between this situation and the OCLC response - essentially both revolve around rights issues but in the case of OCLC there's money - and a client/provider relationship - involved and that's not true of Facebook. The money in Facebook comes through advertising and not (directly) from the user.

Facebook - like many similar Web 2.0 services - is 'free'. Free software evangelists talk about "Free as in speech, not as in beer" and Facebook (and the ilk) are closer to the free beer than free speech. Although, of course, free access doesn't mean that there's no cost to users in terms of attention.

In addition, Facebook has something more complex; an implied relationship which is directly contradicted by Terms and Conditions - a kind of Social Contract for Social Media. Only when there's an attempt to enforce, change or highlight the 'actual' rules does this implicit set of responsibilities come out.

For better or worse, people have extended the Google mantra of 'Don't be evil' to other web companies. Rights grabbing and restrictions are expected of 'old' leviathans like Microsoft and (to some extent) Apple - often far more than they actually deserve.

Google may own pretty much everything we do in their part of the cloud but how many people really expect them to do anything about it? And what would the reaction to a (truly) evil act be?

1 comment:

Emily said...

i wish everyone - with a web presence or not - would follow the 'don't be evil' mantra...

speaking about facebook, did you see the $500 gift?!?! It was a picture of a multi-colored rose. For 500 dollars. Wow. That is a little evil.

Glad I stumbled onto your blog, keep posting!