Facebook Backtracks On Terms Of Use After Protests

By: By BARBARA ORTUTAY
By: By BARBARA ORTUTAY

NEW YORK (AP) - In an about-face following a torrent of online
protests, Facebook is backing off a change in its user policies
while it figures how best to resolve questions like who controls
the information shared on the social networking site.

The site, which boasts 175 million users from around the world,
had quietly updated its terms of use - its governing document - a
couple of weeks ago. The changes sparked an uproar after popular
consumer rights advocacy blog Consumerist.com pointed them out
Sunday, in a post titled "Facebook's New Terms Of Service: 'We Can
Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever."'

acebook has since sought to reassure its users - tens of
thousands of whom had joined protest groups on the site - that this
is not the case. And on Wednesday morning, users who logged on to
Facebook were greeted by a message saying that the site is
reverting to its previous terms of use policies while it resolves
the issues raised.

Facebook spelled out, in plain English rather than the legalese
that prompted the protests, that it "doesn't claim rights to any
of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help
you share information with your friends, but we don't claim to own
your information."

Tens of thousands of users joined protest groups on Facebook,
saying the new terms grant the site the ability to control their
information forever, even after they cancel their accounts.

This prompted a clarification from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's
founder, who told users in a blog post Monday that "on Facebook,
people own their information and control who they share it with."

Zuckerberg, who started Facebook while still in college, also
acknowledged that a "lot of the language in our terms is overly
formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service
to you."

But this wasn't enough to quell user protests, and the site also
created a group called "Facebook Bill of Rights and
Responsibilities," designed to let users give input on Facebook's
terms of use. It also apologized for what it called "the confusion
around these issues."

"We never intended to claim ownership over people's content
even though that's what it seems like to many people," read a post
from Facebook on the bill of rights page.

The latest controversy was not the first between the rapidly
growing site and its users over its five-year history.

In late 2007, a tracking tool called "Beacon" caught users
off-guard by broadcasting information about their shopping habits
and activities at other Web sites. After initially defending the
practice, Facebook ultimately allowed users to turn Beacon off. A
redesign of the site last year also prompted thousands to protest,
but in that case Facebook kept its new look.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook is privately held. Microsoft
Corp. bought a 1.6 percent stake in the company in 2007 for $240
million as part of a broader advertising partnership.


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