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2/26/2009
04:47 PM
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Facebook Opens Site Rules To User Voting

"The Facebook Principles" and "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" may signal a shift in social networking best practices.

In an effort to turn a black eye into an appealing new look, Facebook on Thursday agreed to let its users have a say in the site's rules.

The social networking site changed its terms of service earlier this month without notice. A furor erupted across the Internet when the legalese governing the new contract appeared to grant Facebook the right to do pretty much whatever it wanted with its users' data. The company then backtracked and reversed the changes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a blog post to quell the fury, assuring users his company's intentions were good and trying to explain the controversy away while acknowledging that the communication about the changes wasn't handled well.

On Thursday, Facebook took another swing at redemption, and may well have hit the mark. It released two new documents that will henceforth govern the site's relationship with its users, The Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. These two texts, along with a forthcoming new Privacy Policy, represent a new Bill of Rights, so to speak, for the Facebook nation.

"We're tried to do this in clear and understandable language and we think we've made a lot of progress on that," said Zuckerberg on a media conference call.

As a measure of how much legal boilerplate and legalese has been trimmed, Facebook VP and general counsel Ted Ullyot observed that the company's rules had been reduced from about 44 pages to about five.

"We try to be as clear as possible, we don't own user data," Zuckerberg emphasized.

Elliot Schrage, Facebook's VP of global communications, marketing, and public policy, conceded that the company had underestimated the sense of ownership that Facebook users feel toward the site.

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