Today, Facebook are creating an online space dubbed the "town hall" which will make changes to how the social network interacts with its users. In the last week or so, there was mass controversy over the sudden change in the terms and conditions which, essentially, allowed Facebook to do anything and everything, with anything that is uploaded to its servers.
By replacing the standard terms and conditions and all the other legal jargon to make way for two new Facebook legislature documents, this allows better representation and freedom for the user.
Elliot Schrage, Ted Ullyot and Mark Zuckerburg from Facebook were on the phone discussing these new policies a short time ago. Speaking to Zuckerburg, he said:
"We're creating a set of documents which matched our mission in sharing information and creating a world. With 175 million users already, transparency is very important to us, and there's a process to getting there. Having open systems and honesty is a step towards making sure people are included."
We've had these principles and values at Facebook for a long time and there is a strong signal as to how important Facebook is, and that the users want to be part of governing it.
We feel very bad about the problems last week, and this feels more of a silver lining after what happened".
The proposed Facebook Principles are as follows, and are designed to "reflect the philosophy and values [Facebook] aspires to" and will guide them to making the "world more open and connected".
The Facebook Principles
- Freedom to Share and Connect All users should be able to share anything and everything, in any format and any connection, regardless of where they are from or what they do, provided they both consent.
- Ownership and Control of Information Anything on Facebook should be owned by the uploader (which also covers copyright issues), and should be able to be permanently deleted if they so wish. Privacy settings should be used to limit who views what, but cannot make Facebook liable to anything which is taken off the social network.
- Free Flow of Information Opening lines of communication to others is very important for Facebook, and having efficient ways and tools to make this happen is a priority.
- Fundamental Equality Regardless of whether you're an advertiser, developer, business or just a standard user, you should have representation to information within Facebook. Everyone using Facebook should have applied the same principles and rights as anyone else.
- Social Value There should be freedom of trust and reputation, and removal of service should not be taken lightly, unless breach of the Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities has occurred.
- Open Platforms and Standards Programmatic interfaces for sharing and accessing information should be available to users. This allows greater access to developing applications for within the social network.
- Fundamental Service Regardless of how much or little a user uses the network, they still have a right to use it. Everyone should be allowed to establish a presence and communicate, share and interact with others.
- Common Welfare The rights and responsibilities of Facebook staff and all users should be consistent with the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which can be seen below.
- Transparent Process Facebook will adopt a transparent process when it considers changing plans, policies, operations, and even themes in a "town hall" process, where all information is presented in a simple manor to understand. Voting will be allowed to encourage a democratic process and encourage user input.
- One World Regardless of where you are in the world, Facebook will be made available to everyone.
The Facebook Statement of Rights and ResponsibilitiesWithout using the legal jargon which often confuses people, Facebook has made the "terms and conditions" much more cohesive with natural language. Without going into the do's and don'ts, they have published an easy to read page, which is up for discussion.
These range from safety issues and how Facebook values privacy concerns, setting out a "code of conduct" in non-legal jargon language which tells you what is acceptable within the online community and not.
However, they also hold their hands up to set themselves standards, and the sense of this new town-hall style is clear. Under 12.1, 2 of the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, they claim:
"We can change this Statement so long as we provide you notice through Facebook (unless you opt-out of such notice) and an opportunity to comment.
For changes to sections 7, 8, 9, and 11 (sections relating to payments, application developers, website operators, and advertisers), we will give you a minimum of three days notice. For all other changes we will give you a minimum of seven days notice."
In layman terms, by replacing the existing legal documents with these two new governing documents, Facebook truly trusts its users. Both the staff and the users are on the same page, and this wil strengthen the community between everyone. Allowing users to vote on changes will increase overall trust in this fantastic community.
From 44 pages of legal documents to now five and a half of easy to read language, the democratic process is certainly taking off. And with this unprecedented action being taken by Facebook in this manner, this will make users online lives into a new direction; a direction for the better.