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Vocapedia > Technology > Internet > Social media




parent company

of Facebook, Instagram, Threads

and WhatsApp







Illustration: Dan Sipple

Ikon Images/Getty Images


Post-Election, Overwhelmed Facebook Users Unfriend, Cut Back


November 20, 2016    6:34 AM ET



















Illustration: Ben Wiseman


How Facebook Warps Our Worlds


MAY 21, 2016

















Facebook Is 'Too Big.'

Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes Tells Us Why

NYT    9 May 2019





Facebook Is 'Too Big.' Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes Tells Us Why

Video        NYT Opinion        The New York Times        9 May 2019


Facebook’s co-founder, Chris Hughes,

is calling to break-up the company.


The company has grown too big and too powerful,

and is posing a threat to democracy,

the economy, and privacy.


In this video op-ed,

Hughes argues that there are two simple steps

that could right the ship for Americans.


0 May 2019
















Cambridge Analytica whistleblower:

'We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles'

G    17 March 2018





Cambridge Analytica whistleblower:

'We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles'

Video        The Guardian        17 March 2018


Christopher Wylie,

who worked for data firm Cambridge Analytica,

reveals how personal information was taken

without authorisation in early 2014

to build a system that could profile individual US voters

in order to target them

with personalised political advertisements.


At the time the company was owned

by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer,

and headed at the time by Donald Trump’s key adviser,

Steve Bannon. Its CEO is Alexander Nix


















How Facebook is Changing Your Internet

NYT    18 September 2017





How Facebook is Changing Your Internet

Video        Times Documentaries        The New York Times        18 September 2017


Behind the scenes,

Facebook is involved in high-stakes diplomatic battles across the globe

that have begun fragmenting the internet itself.


















How to Edit Your Facebook and Twitter History

NYT    19 June 2014





How to Edit Your Facebook and Twitter History

Video        Molly Wood        The New York Times        19 June 2014


Molly Wood explains how to download and delete

activity on Facebook and Twitter.

Produced by:

Vanessa Perez, Rebekah Fergusson and Jason Blalock


















Across the social web

– on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

Reddit, Instagram and Pinterest










Meta > social-networking site > Facebook - founded in 2004        UK / USA
























































































































now-scammers-are-using-it-to-target-people-around-the-world - September 22, 2021


how-facebook-undermines-privacy-protections-for-its-2-billion-users - Sept. 7, 2021





















































































facebook-firefighters-corona - March 17, 2020































































































































cambridge-analytica-how-turn-clicks-into-votes-christopher-wylie  *****


















watch?v=Q91nvbJSmS4 - G - 20 March 2018










watch?v=FXdYSQ6nu-M - G - 17 March 2018





















watch?v=cR_XVGemAnw -  NYT - Sep. 18, 2017


100000005082185/how-facebook-is-changing-your-internet.html -  Sep. 18, 2017


























100000005048668/facebook-live-killings.html - April 18, 2017
















































































































































































































































































































platform        USA


































Facebook's new corporate name > Meta





























The Facebook Papers        September 2021


thousands of internal Facebook documents

that NPR and other news outlets have reviewed.


The documents,

known collectively as the Facebook Papers,

were shared in redacted form with Congress

after whistleblower Frances Haugen,

a former Facebook product manager,

disclosed them

to the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Haugen alleges

that the trove of statements and data prove

that Facebook's leaders

have repeatedly and knowingly

put the company's image and profitability

ahead of the public good

— even at the risk of violence and other harm.


Some of the internal documents

initially emerged last month

in The Wall Street Journal.


They include

internal research findings and internal audits

that the company performed on its own practices.





































Facebook group        USA


facebook-firefighters-corona - March 17, 2020












Facebook friends        USA

















Facebbook > app > messenger chat service        UK










Facebook > app > Messenger Kids        USA


















Facebook > advertising        USA


ad targeting based on politics,

race and other 'sensitive' topics










Facebook's advertising tools        USA


















Cambridge Analytica        UK









cambridge-analytica-how-turn-clicks-into-votes-christopher-wylie  *****








Election-Related Russian Ads / Russian Election Interference Probe        USA
























Facebook reality        USA

100000005082185/how-facebook-is-changing-your-internet.html-  Sep. 18, 2017





Facebook files        UK        May 2017






on Facebook






of racist and sexually offensive

Facebook messages        USA






make a nasty comment

about N on Facebook        USA






follower        USA
















trending news        USA












transparency        UK










real news        USA

















Facebook > fake news        USA


























Facebook > viral rumors        USA










Facebook > conspiracy theories        USA




























disinformation        USA





























Facebook's cybersecurity policy


















Facebook > ban        UK / USA










Facebook lifts ban

on posts claiming Covid-19 was man-made        UK

Social network says policy comes

‘in light of ongoing investigations into the origin’ of virus























































Facebook Ban On White Extremism        USA










ban        USA





























Facebook's Facial Recognition software /

users' facial-recognition data /  face-recognition system        USA














trending topics        USA

















hate speech        USA










hate campaign        UK






hate groups        USA










white nationalist organisations on Facebook        UK


















moderator        UK






editor        USA






censor        USA






remove        USA






be suspended / removed / deleted        UK



















Facebook marketplace        USA


now-scammers-are-using-it-to-target-people-around-the-world - September 22, 2021
















Facebook reality        USA


watch?v=cR_XVGemAnw - NYT - Sep. 18, 2017















chatbots        UK






Instant Articles        USA






Web access > Drones        USA






Facebook's suicide prevention tools        USA








content        USA

100000005048668/facebook-live-killings.html - April 18, 2017





Facebook’s decisions to block or allow content        USA






block        USA






Facebook’s News Feed        USA

















Ray-Ban Meta glasses         USA


















metaverse        USA


Think of it

as the internet brought to life,

or at least rendered in 3D.


Zuckerberg has described it

as a "virtual environment"

you can go inside of

— instead of just looking at on a screen.


Essentially, it's a world of endless,

interconnected virtual communities

where people can meet, work and play,

using virtual reality headsets,

augmented reality glasses,

smartphone apps or other devices.


It also will incorporate

other aspects of online life

such as shopping and social media,

according to Victoria Petrock,

an analyst

who follows emerging technologies.


"It's the next evolution of connectivity

where all of those things start to come together

in a seamless, doppelganger universe,

so you're living your virtual life the same way

you're living your physical life," she said.










standalone virtual reality headset > Facebook >

Oculus Quest 2 VR headset        UK
















Facebook buys virtual reality gaming firm for $2bn        UK        25 March 2014

















guns > Facebook        USA


hosting sprawling online arms bazaars,

offering weapons

ranging from handguns and grenades

to heavy machine guns

and guided missiles.










guns > Facebook Announces

Ban On Private Gun Sales        NPR        January 30, 2016










guns > Facebook > The social network is one of the world’s

largest marketplaces for guns.        USA         5 March 2014

















messaging > Messenger app        USA















Facebook buys WhatsApp for $19 billion    February 2014        UK / USA














Facebook > gender identity online        USA        2014










Facebook > News app        USA        2014










USA > Facebook > political ads        UK / USA












Facebook > Ads        USA        2014










Facebook > Search feature        USA        2013










Facebook mobile applications        USA        2013










Facebook mobile applications > mobile advertising        USA        2013-2014












How Facebook became the world's

biggest social network - animation        UK        15 May 2012



is hitting the stock exchange

with its IPO later this week

- and the latest estimates

increase its potential valuation,

making it the biggest floatation ever.


But how

did the social network get so big

- and can it possibly get any bigger?



















John Cole



17 May 2012


John Cole

is the editorial cartoonist for The Times-Tribune,

and is syndicated nationally by Cagle Cartoons.
















market value of Facebook and Instagram’s

owner Meta        UK










stock market > Facebook's stock        USA










stock market offering > Facebook flotation / IPO > Facebook falls        2012










Facebook > revenue and profits        USA










stock market offering > Facebook flotation / IPO        May 2012        UK / USA





















cartoons > Cagle > Facebook stock        May 2012






Facebook  timeline for couples        UK / USA








Facebook’s new Timeline feature        USA        2012

















News Feed - the first page every user sees upon logging in        UK / USA














search feature / tool > Graph Search        USA










Facebook account        UK












President Donald Trump's accounts        USA


























fake account        USA


















take down  / shut down / bring down / shut        USA














lock        USA












delete        UK



















Facebook page        USA











post        USA














post        USA










Facebook bullying of headteachers on rise, says poll        UK        2011


Survey finds that burden

of monitoring online threats

is putting schools under strain










Facebook unveils a media platform

that will allow people to easily share

their favorite music,

television shows and movies,

effectively making the basic profile page

a primary entertainment hub

- USA        September 2011










Facebook in China        UK / USA





























Facebook > privacy / private information / user's data / spying        UK / USA





how-facebook-undermines-privacy-protections-for-its-2-billion-whatsapp-users - Sept. 7, 2021


















































































search feature / tool > Graph Search > privacy concerns        UK / USA
















data breach        USA


















profile        UK










the Guardian's Facebook app        UK        September 2011


















Russia >  cut off access to Facebook / ban Facebook        USA














Corpus of news articles


 Technology > Internet > Social media






Facebook Meets

Brick-and-Mortar Politics


June 9, 2012

The New York Times




I HAD just finished a panel discussion on Turkey and the Arab Spring at a regional conference here, and, as I was leaving, a young Egyptian woman approached me. “Mr. Friedman, could I ask you a question? Who should I vote for?”

I thought: “Why is she asking me about Obama and Romney?” No, no, she explained. It was her Egyptian election next week that she was asking about. Should she vote for Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, or Ahmed Shafiq, a retired general who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and was running as a secular law-and-order candidate? My heart went out to her. As Egyptian democracy activists say: It’s like having to choose between two diseases. How sad that 18 months after a democratic revolution, Egyptians have been left with a choice between a candidate anchored in 1952, when Egypt’s military seized power, and a candidate anchored in 622, when the Prophet Muhammad gave birth to Islam.

What happened to the “Facebook Revolution”?

Actually, Facebook is having a bad week — in the stock market and the ideas market. As a liberal Egyptian friend observed, “Facebook really helped people to communicate, but not to collaborate.” No doubt Facebook helped a certain educated class of Egyptians to spread the word about the Tahrir Revolution. Ditto Twitter. But, at the end of the day, politics always comes down to two very old things: leadership and the ability to get stuff done. And when it came to those, both the Egyptian Army and the Muslim Brotherhood, two old “brick and mortar” movements, were much more adept than the Facebook generation of secular progressives and moderate Islamists — whose candidates together won more votes than Morsi and Shafik combined in the first round of voting but failed to make the runoff because they divided their votes among competing candidates who would not align.

To be sure, Facebook, Twitter and blogging are truly revolutionary tools of communication and expression that have brought so many new and compelling voices to light. At their best, they’re changing the nature of political communication and news. But, at their worst, they can become addictive substitutes for real action. How often have you heard lately: “Oh, I tweeted about that.” Or “I posted that on my Facebook page.” Really? In most cases, that’s about as impactful as firing a mortar into the Milky Way galaxy. Unless you get out of Facebook and into someone’s face, you really have not acted. And, as Syria’s vicious regime is also reminding us: “bang-bang” beats “tweet-tweet” every day of the week.

Commenting on Egypt’s incredibly brave Facebook generation rebels, the political scientist Frank Fukuyama recently wrote: “They could organize protests and demonstrations, and act with often reckless courage to challenge the old regime. But they could not go on to rally around a single candidate, and then engage in the slow, dull, grinding work of organizing a political party that could contest an election, district by district. ... Facebook, it seems, produces a sharp, blinding flash in the pan, but it does not generate enough heat over an extended period to warm the house.”

Let’s be fair. The Tahrir youths were up against two well-entrenched patronage networks. They had little time to build grass-roots networks in a country as big as Egypt. That said, though, they could learn about leadership and the importance of getting things done by studying Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party, known as A.K.P. It has been ruling here since 2002, winning three consecutive elections.

What even the A.K.P.’s biggest critics will acknowledge is that it has transformed Turkey in a decade into an economic powerhouse with a growth rate second only to China. And it did so by unlocking its people’s energy — with good economic management and reformed universal health care, by removing obstacles and creating incentives for business and foreign investment, and by building new airports, rail lines, roads, tunnels, bridges, wireless networks and sewers all across the country. A Turkish journalist who detests the A.K.P. confessed to me that she wished the party had won her municipal elections, because she knew it would have improved the neighborhood.

But here’s the problem: The A.K.P.’s impressively effective prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has not only been effective at building bridges but also in eliminating any independent judiciary in Turkey and in intimidating the Turkish press so that there are no more checks and balances here. With the economic decline of the European Union, the aborting of Turkey’s efforts to become an E.U. member and the need for America to have Turkey as an ally in managing Iraq, Iran and Syria, there are also no external checks on the A.K.P.’s rising authoritarianism. (Erdogan announced out of the blue last week that he intended to pass a law severely restricting abortions.)

So many conversations I had with Turks here ended with me being told: “Just don’t quote me. He can be very vindictive.” It’s like China.

This isn’t good. If Erdogan’s “Sultanization” of Turkey continues unchecked, it will soil his truly significant record and surely end up damaging Turkish democracy. It will also be bad for the region because whoever wins the election in Egypt, when looking for a model to follow, will see the E.U. in shambles, the Obama team giving Erdogan a free pass and Turkey thriving under a system that says: Give your people growth and you can gradually curb democratic institutions and impose more religion as you like.

Facebook Meets Brick-and-Mortar Politics,






Facebook Gold Rush:

Fanfare vs. Realities


May 19, 2012

The New York Times



IT’S an old line on Wall Street: If you can get your hands on a hot new stock, you probably don’t want it.

This bit of Street wisdom came to mind last week, as Facebook went public amid so much fanfare.

The stock eked out a 23-cent gain on its Day 1, to $38.23. This suggests that many professional money managers viewed all the hype as just that. Whatever the long-term prospects of this company — an issue over which reasonable people reasonably disagree — the idea that small-time investors might get rich fast struck the pros as absurd.

It is true that initial public offerings have increasingly become a game for early investors and their Wall Street enablers. Since the 1980s, average first-day gains on new stock issues have risen steadily. According to one 2006 study, the average first-day return on I.P.O.’s in the 1980s was 7 percent. By the mid-1990s, it was 15 percent. In the 1999-2000 dot-com boom, it was 65 percent.

We all know how that last one turned out.

It’s no coincidence that as those averages were rising, individual investors were becoming more enamored with the stock market. The great democratization of the equity market, which began in the 1980s, lured small investors into the game.

A lot of these people got burned. Academics at the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida recently compiled a list of about 250 companies that doubled — at least — in price on their first trading day. Many quickly fell back to earth.

Going back to 1975, the list provides some of the greatest hits in I.P.O. land. The top 10 first-day gainers all went public in the Internet boom. They included VA Linux, which rose almost 700 percent, to a market capitalization of more than $1 billion, and The Globe.com, which produced a gain of 606 percent on its first day as a public company. Foundry Networks and WebMethods soared more than 500 percent.

Some of the companies on the list have disappeared or have been acquired. Others are still around, to lesser and greater degrees. TheGlobe.com trades at less than a penny a share. VA Linux is now called Geeknet and, as of Friday, had a market value of $94 million.

Why did Facebook get a relatively slow start out of the trading gate? One possibility is that the investment bankers who priced the stock considered the history of private trading in the shares before the offering. Facebook was unusual in this way, Laszlo Birinyi of Birinyi Associates pointed out last week.

“There was trading before the I.P.O., so many investors have some feel, some idea of pricing,” he noted. Most offerings are priced based upon what the company and its bankers guess the stock will fetch.

Indications are that Facebook was bought primarily by individual investors, not institutions. Indeed, institutions that had invested early were big sellers in the I.P.O. To many market veterans, this showed that the smart money was getting out while the getting was good.

With investors still believing the advice of Peter Lynch, the former Fidelity fund manager who told individuals to buy stocks of companies they knew as consumers, it is easy to see why Facebook’s offering resonated with the public. But now comes the hard part: operating as a company that returns its investors’ favors with actual earnings.

Facebook Gold Rush: Fanfare vs. Realities,






Facebook’s Prospects

May Rest on Trove of Data


May 14, 2012

The New York Times



SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief, has managed to amass more information about more people than anyone else in history.

Now what?

As Facebook turns to Wall Street in the biggest public offering ever by an Internet company, it faces a new, unenviable test: how to keep growing and enriching its hungry new shareholders.

The answer lies in what Facebook will be able to do — and how quickly — with its crown jewel: its status as an online directory for a good chunk of the human race, with the names, photos, tastes and desires of nearly a billion people.

Facebook’s shares are expected to begin trading as early as this week. Already, lots of investors are scrambling to buy those shares, with giddy hopes that it will become a big moneymaker like Google. Because of that high demand, Facebook is expected to increase its offering price from its initial range, giving the company a valuation possibly as high as $104 billion.

In the eight years since it sprang out of a Harvard dorm room, Facebook has signed up users at breakneck speed, kept them glued to the site for longer stretches of time and turned a profit by using their personal information to customize the ads they see.

Whether it can spin that data into enough gold to justify a valuation of as much as $104 billion remains unclear.

“We know Facebook has an awful lot of data, but what they have not worked out yet is the most effective means of using that data for advertising,” said Catherine Tucker, a professor of marketing at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They are going to have to experiment a lot more.”

Analysts, investors and company executives can rattle off any number of challenges facing the company. As it works to better match ads to people, it has to avoid violating its users’ perceived sense of privacy or inviting regulatory scrutiny. It needs to find other ways to generate revenue, like allowing people to buy more goods and services with Facebook Credits, a kind of virtual currency. Most urgently it has to make money on mobile devices, the window to Facebook for more and more people.

All the while, its ability to innovate with new features and approaches — to “break things,” in the words of Mr. Zuckerberg — may be markedly constrained once it has investors to answer to.

“They are going to have to think about whether they can continue with the motto ‘Done is better than perfect,’ ” said Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst at the Altimeter Group. “When you’re operating as a public company, life is very different. We haven’t seen that play out yet. It’s going to take a few quarters to figure out what a public Facebook is going to look like.”

Skeptics point out that the company’s revenue growth showed signs of slowing in the first quarter of 2012. And a Bloomberg survey of 1,253 investors, analysts and traders found that a substantial majority were dubious about the eye-popping valuation Facebook was seeking. “It’s a risky asset. No doubt about that,” said Brian Wieser, of Pivotal Research Group. “Google was less risky.” No matter. Mr. Wieser says he thinks that Facebook is worth $83 billion and that its revenue will grow by at least 30 percent for the next five years.

The comparisons to Google are inevitable. When that company went public in 2004, there were so many doubters that the company lowered its offering price to $85 a share. It closed at just over $100 on the first day of trading, and now sells for more than $600. Facebook is farther along than Google was in terms of revenue, having brought in nearly $4 billion last year, or $5.11 a user, compared with Google’s $2 billion in 2003.

One Facebook investor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of market regulations as the offering draws near, noted that when Google went public it already had a clear business strategy. By contrast, he described Facebook this way: “They have built an incredibly valuable asset — as opposed to a business they have executed well.”

The most pressing issue for Facebook executives may be the mobile challenge. Already, over half of Facebook’s 901 million users access the site through mobile devices. In regulatory filings, the company says mobile use is growing fastest in some of Facebook’s largest markets, including the United States, India and Brazil. Facebook goes on to acknowledge that it makes little to no money on mobile and that “our ability to do so successfully is unproven.”

There is not much space on mobile screens to show advertisements. And Google and Apple, two of Facebook’s biggest rivals, control the basic software on most smartphones, which could make it harder for the company to make inroads there. Facebook’s response to this challenge so far has been to aggressively acquire companies focused on mobile, including Instagram, for which it paid $1 billion in April. But it warned in a revision to its offering documents last week that the mobile shift meant it was adding users faster than it was increasing the number of ads it displayed.

What Facebook already has — more than any other digital company — is a spectacularly rich vault of information about its users, who cannot seem to stay away from the site. Americans, on average, now spend 20 percent of their online time on Facebook alone, thanks to the ever-growing menu of activities the company has introduced, from playing games to sampling music to posting pictures of baby showers and drunken escapades. Some 300 million photos are uploaded to the site daily.

How Facebook exploits its users’ information — and how those users react — is the next reckoning. David Eastman, worldwide digital director for the advertising agency JWT, said Facebook would need to give marketers more data about what kinds of users click on what kinds of advertising, and about their travels on the Internet before and after they click on an ad. Most brands want to have a presence on Facebook, he said, but they do not quite understand who sees their pitches and whether they lead to greater sales.

“They need to make the data work more,” Mr. Eastman said. “They need to provide deeper data. Right now the value of Facebook advertising is largely unknown.”

While the bulk of Facebook’s revenue comes from North America, it is banking on international growth. The company has expanded its global footprint so rapidly that four out of five Facebook users are now outside the United States. It is the dominant social network in large emerging markets like Brazil and India, though it shows no signs of penetrating China — where it would face not only government censorship but stiff competition from homegrown social networks.

Mr. Zuckerberg, who has studied Mandarin, signaled his ambitions to crack the vast Chinese market as far back as 2010. He suggested that Facebook would first try to advance deeper into markets like Russia and Japan before it took on a country as “complex” as China.

With international growth comes international regulatory headaches. Facebook already faces audits in Europe on whether the company is living up to promises made to consumers about how it uses their data — and now, a stringent new data protection law. In India, it has been sued for spreading offensive content. And in the United States, it faces privacy audits by the Federal Trade Commission for the next 20 years. In its offering documents, Facebook repeatedly warns of legislative and regulatory scrutiny over user privacy, “which may adversely affect our reputation and brand.”

Maintaining brand loyalty is excruciatingly difficult in the Internet business. Across Silicon Valley, investors are plotting the next big thing in social networks. Already, the clock may be ticking for Facebook.

“There is no consumer-facing Internet brand or site that ever keeps consumers’ attention for more than 10 years,” said Tim Chang, a managing director at Mayfield Fund. “It is not hard to imagine that in 10 years, people are going to be off of Facebook even.”

Mr. Zuckerberg has an answer to that. In the video for investors released this month, Mr. Zuckerberg hinted at the ambitions he had for the company. Facebook, in his vision, will hook itself into the rest of the Web, making itself indispensable. Already Facebook serves as a de facto Internet passport, allowing users to log in with their Facebook identities and explore millions of other Web sites and applications.

“I think that we’re going to reach this point where almost every app that you use is going to be integrated with Facebook in some way,” Mr. Zuckerberg says in the video. “We make decisions at Facebook not optimizing for what is going to happen in the next year, but what’s going to set us up for this world where every product experience you have is social, and that’s all powered by Facebook.”

    Facebook’s Prospects May Rest on Trove of Data, NYT, 14.5.2012,






Facebook Offers

More Disclosure to Users


April 12, 2012

The New York Times



Facebook, seeking to address concerns about the personal information it collects on its users, said Thursday that it would provide any user with more about the data it tracks and stores.

In a posting on its privacy blog, Facebook said the expanded archive feature would be introduced gradually to its 845 million monthly active users. It goes beyond the first archive made available in 2010, which has been criticized as incomplete by privacy advocates and regulators in Europe.

The archive Facebook published two years ago gave users a copy of their photos, posts, messages, list of friends and chat conversations. The new version, Facebook said, includes previous user names, friend requests and the Internet protocol addresses of the computers that users have logged in from. More categories of information will be made available in the future, Facebook said.

Online social networks offer free services to users and make money primarily through advertising, which can often be directed more effectively using the information the network has collected on them.

Facebook, which is preparing for an initial public stock offering, most likely in May, has been trying to accommodate government officials in Europe, where privacy laws are more stringent than in the United States.

Facebook’s data collection practices have tested the boundaries of Europe’s privacy laws. The social networking site, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is Europe’s leading online network, according to comScore, a research firm in Reston, Va.

In December, the Irish Data Protection Commission reached an agreement with Facebook, which runs its international businesses from offices in Dublin, to provide more information to its users and amend its data protection practices. “We took up their recommendation to make more data available to Facebook users through this expanded functionality,” the company said in a statement.

Facebook agreed to make those changes by July. In Europe, 40,000 Facebook users have already requested a full copy of the data that the site has compiled on each of them, straining the company’s ability to respond. Under European privacy law, the company must comply with the requests within 40 days.

Max Schrems, the German law student who filed the complaint leading to the agreement with the Irish authorities, criticized Facebook’s latest offer as insufficient.

“We welcome that Facebook users are now getting more access to their data, but Facebook is still not in line with the European Data Protection Law,” said Mr. Schrems, a student at the University of Vienna. “With the changes, Facebook will only offer access to 39 data categories, while it is holding at least 84 such data categories about every user.”

In 2011, Mr. Schrems requested his own data from Facebook and received files with information in 57 categories. The disclosure, Mr. Schrems said, showed that Facebook was keeping information he had previously deleted from the Web site, and was also storing information on his whereabouts, gleaned from his computer’s I.P. address.

Facebook’s data collection practices are being scrutinized in Brussels as European Union policy makers deliberate on changes to the European Data Protection Directive, which was last revised in 1995. The commissioner responsible for the update, Viviane Reding, has cited Facebook’s data collection practices in pushing for a requirement that online businesses delete all information held on individuals at the user’s request.

Ulrich Börger, a privacy lawyer with Latham & Watkins in Hamburg, said he thought it was unlikely that the European Union would enact laws that would significantly restrict the use of customized advertising, which is at the core of the business model for Web sites like Facebook. It is more likely, Mr. Börger said, that lawmakers would require Facebook and other networking sites to revise their consent policies to make them more easy to understand. But it was unlikely that Facebook would be legally prevented from using information from individuals who sign up for the service.

“I don’t see any fundamental change,” Mr. Börger said. “It comes back to the question of consent. They cannot go so far as to prohibit things that people are willing to consent to. That would violate an individual’s freedom to receive services they want to receive.”

    Facebook Offers More Disclosure to Users, 12.4.2012,






Shunning Facebook,

and Living to Tell About It


December 13, 2011
The New York Times


Tyson Balcomb quit Facebook after a chance encounter on an elevator. He found himself standing next to a woman he had never met — yet through Facebook he knew what her older brother looked like, that she was from a tiny island off the coast of Washington and that she had recently visited the Space Needle in Seattle.

“I knew all these things about her, but I’d never even talked to her,” said Mr. Balcomb, a pre-med student in Oregon who had some real-life friends in common with the woman. “At that point I thought, maybe this is a little unhealthy.”

As Facebook prepares for a much-anticipated public offering, the company is eager to show off its momentum by building on its huge membership: more than 800 million active users around the world, Facebook says, and roughly 200 million in the United States, or two-thirds of the population.

But the company is running into a roadblock in this country. Some people, even on the younger end of the age spectrum, just refuse to participate, including people who have given it a try.

One of Facebook’s main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated.

“I wasn’t calling my friends anymore,” said Ashleigh Elser, 24, who is in graduate school in Charlottesville, Va. “I was just seeing their pictures and updates and felt like that was really connecting to them.”

To be sure, the Facebook-free life has its disadvantages in an era when people announce all kinds of major life milestones on the Web. Ms. Elser has missed engagements and pictures of new-born babies. But none of that hurt as much as the gap she said her Facebook account had created between her and her closest friends. So she shut it down.

Many of the holdouts mention concerns about privacy. Those who study social networking say this issue boils down to trust. Amanda Lenhart, who directs research on teenagers, children and families at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, said that people who use Facebook tend to have “a general sense of trust in others and trust in institutions.” She added: “Some people make the decision not to use it because they are afraid of what might happen.”

Ms. Lenhart noted that about 16 percent of Americans don’t have cellphones. “There will always be holdouts,” she said.

Facebook executives say they don’t expect everyone in the country to sign up. Instead they are working on ways to keep current users on the site longer, which gives the company more chances to show them ads. And the company’s biggest growth is now in places like Asia and Latin America, where there might actually be people who have not yet heard of Facebook.

“Our goal is to offer people a meaningful, fun and free way to connect with their friends, and we hope that’s appealing to a broad audience,” said Jonathan Thaw, a Facebook spokesman.

But the figures on growth in this country are stark. The number of Americans who visited Facebook grew 10 percent in the year that ended in October — down from 56 percent growth over the previous year, according to comScore, which tracks Internet traffic.

Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner, said this slowdown was not a make-or-break issue ahead of the company’s public offering, which could come in the spring. What does matter, he said, is Facebook’s ability to keep its millions of current users entertained and coming back.

“They’re likely more worried about the novelty factor wearing off,” Mr. Valdes said. “That’s a continual problem that they’re solving, and there are no permanent solutions.”

Erika Gable, 29, who lives in Brooklyn and does public relations for restaurants, never understood the appeal of Facebook in the first place. She says the daily chatter that flows through the site — updates about bad hair days and pictures from dinner — is virtual clutter she doesn’t need in her life.

“If I want to see my fifth cousin’s second baby, I’ll call them,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Gable is not a Luddite. She has an iPhone and sometimes uses Twitter. But when it comes to creating a profile on the world’s biggest social network, her tolerance reaches its limits.

“I remember having MySpace for a bit and always feeling so weird about seeing other people’s stuff all the time,” she said. “I’m not into it.”

Will Brennan, a 26-year-old Brooklyn resident, said he had “heard too many horror stories” about the privacy pitfalls of Facebook. But he said friends are not always sympathetic to his anti-social-media stance.

“I get asked to sign up at least twice a month,” said Mr. Brennan. “I get harangued for ruining their plans by not being on Facebook.”

And whether there is haranguing involved or not, the rebels say their no-Facebook status tends to be a hot topic of conversation — much as a decision not to own a television might have been in an earlier media era.

“People always raise an eyebrow,” said Chris Munns, 29, who works as a systems administrator in New York. “But my life has gone on just fine without it. I’m not a shut-in. I have friends and quite an enjoyable life in Manhattan, so I can’t say it makes me feel like I’m missing out on life at all.”

But the peer pressure is only going to increase. Susan Etlinger, an analyst at the Altimeter Group, said society was adopting new behaviors and expectations in response to the near-ubiquity of Facebook and other social networks.

“People may start to ask the question that, if you aren’t on social channels, why not? Are you hiding something?” she said. “The norms are shifting.”

This kind of thinking cuts both ways for the Facebook holdouts. Mr. Munns said his dating life had benefited from his lack of an online dossier: “They haven’t had a chance to dig up your entire life on Facebook before you meet.”

But Ms. Gable said such background checks were the one thing she needed Facebook for.

“If I have a crush on a guy, I’ll make my friends look him up for me,” Ms. Gable said. “But that’s as far as it goes.”



This article has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 13, 2011

An earlier version of this article

misstated the percentage of Americans

who do not have cellphones,

as estimated by the Pew Internet

and American Life Project.

It is 16 percent, not 5 percent.

    Shunning Facebook, and Living to Tell About It, NYT, 13.12.2011,






Facebook IPO sparks dreams of riches,



Thu, Dec 8 2011
By Alexei Oreskovic and Sarah McBride


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Traveling to space or embarking on an expedition to excavate lost Mayan ruins are normally the stuff of adventure novels.

But for employees of Facebook, these and other lavish dreams are moving closer to reality as the world's No. 1 online social network prepares for a blockbuster initial public offering that could create at least a thousand millionaires.

The most anticipated stock market debut of 2012 is expected to value Facebook at as much as $100 billion, which would top just about any of Silicon Valley's most celebrated coming-out parties, from Netscape to Google Inc.

While weak financial markets could postpone or downsize any IPO, even the most conservative market-watchers say Facebook seems destined to set a new benchmark in a region famous for minting fortunes, with even the rank-and-file employees reaping millions of dollars.

Facebook employees past and present are already hatching plans on how to spend their anticipated new wealth, even as securities regulations typically prevent employee stock options from being cashed in until after a six-month lock-up period.

"There's been discussions of sort of bucket list ideas that people are putting together of things they always wanted to do and now we'll be able to do it," said one former employee who had joined Facebook in 2005, shortly after it was founded.

He is looking into booking a trip to space that would cost $200,000 or more with Virgin Galactic or one of the other companies working on future space tourism. That's chump change when he expects his shares in Facebook to be worth some $50 million.

"If that IPO bell happens, then I will definitely put money down," said the person, who declined to be identified because he did not want to draw attention to his financial status, given the antiglitz ethos of many people in Silicon Valley. "It's been a childhood dream," he said of space travel.

Others are thinking less science fiction and more "Indiana Jones." A group of current and former Facebook workers has begun laying the groundwork for an expedition to Mexico that sounds more suited to characters from the Steven Spielberg film "Raiders of the Lost Ark" than to the computer geeks famously portrayed in the movie about Facebook, "The Social Network."

Initially, the group wanted to organize its own jungle expedition to excavate a relatively untouched site of Mayan ruins, according to people familiar with the matter who also did not want to court notoriety by being identified in this story. After some debate earlier this year, they are now looking at partnering with an existing archeological program.



Founded in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends, Facebook has grown into the world's biggest social network with over 800 million members and revenue of $1.6 billion in the first half of 2011.

Information about its ownership structure or employee compensation packages is hard to come by, since the still-private company discloses very little. Facebook declined to comment for this story.

It is clear that Facebook's earliest employees, who were given ownership stakes, and early venture capital investors -- such as Accel Partners, Greylock Partners and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel -- will see the biggest paydays. Zuckerberg, 27, is estimated to own a little over a fifth of the company, according to "The Facebook Effect" author David Kirkpatrick.

But the wealth will trickle down to engineers, salespeople and other staffers who later joined the company, since most employees receive salary plus some kind of equity-based compensation, such as restricted stock units or stock options.

Facebook's headcount has swelled from 700 employees in late 2008 to more than 3,000 today. Given its generous use of equity-based compensation in past years, people familiar with Facebook say that even by conservative estimates there are likely to be well over a thousand people looking at million-dollar-plus paydays after the company goes public.

"There will be thousands of millionaires," said a former in-house recruiter at Facebook, who did not want to be identified because of confidentiality agreements.

Lou Kerner, the head of private trading at Liquidnet, estimates that Facebook now has roughly 2.5 billion shares outstanding, which would translate to a per-share price of $40 at a $100 billion valuation.

Engineers are the most richly rewarded among the rank and file. The former Facebook recruiter said as recently as 2009, the company gave an engineer with 15 years experience options to buy about 65,000 shares at around $6 per share.

After a 5-for-1 stock split in October 2010, the engineer would now have the right to buy around 325,000 shares. Assuming a $40 share price, that would yield a profit of more than $12 million.

According to another former Facebook employee, it was not unusual for the company to offer some executive-level hires up to 100,000 restricted shares as recently as three years ago.

The company has since cut back on equity compensation for new hires. Managers hired one year ago received 2,000 to 30,000 restricted shares depending on the job function, according to another recruiter who had also worked for Facebook.

The company has also been stingier in handing out equity to noncore employees -- so there may not be as many of the dazzling rags-to-riches stories that were commonplace at the time of the Google IPO, when in-house chefs and at least one masseuse struck gold with options.

Facebook has its share of chefs -- including head chef Josef Desimone who was lured away from Google -- and other support staff, but it's not clear how many of them were awarded share options.

These days, "Google and Facebook are notorious for hiring contract employees they don't have to give equity to," said the second former Facebook recruiter.



Facebook's IPO has been long anticipated, but veterans of other startups that have gone public say the period after could be fraught with new challenges.

Some employees could grow jealous over colleagues with more stock, while others might look down on peers who are too quick to sell, questioning their loyalty to the company.

And there is always the risk that talented staff would leave with their newfound wealth to make their own mark in the technology world by becoming entrepreneurs or investing in other promising startups.

Some Facebook employees have already left the company to do that, selling their shares ahead of the IPO on private exchanges such as those run by SecondMarket or SharesPost.

One such person is engineer Karel Baloun, who joined the social network in 2005 and left just over a year later to start his own online network for commodities-futures traders, funded by a tidy package of stock options. It failed and Baloun laments that he could have made a lot more money if he had stayed at Facebook.

But he is philosophical, saying that the equity windfall gave him the cushion to do new things.

"It's really wonderful being able to choose your work based on the meaning of it, not the size of your salary," said Baloun, now chief technology officer at mobile-commerce company Leap Commerce. "I have two kids, and I couldn't do it if I didn't have some savings from this IPO."

Baloun said he has sold about half his Facebook shares and is holding on to the rest until after the IPO. "I will buy a house," he said.



For many of Facebook's staffers, the IPO will provide the means to pay off school loans and buy a house or new car. Home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area have typically been lofty, but many homeowners and real-estate agents are eagerly anticipating a surge of new buyers flush with money from the IPOs of Facebook and other Web companies.

"Watch for Facebook proceeds to buy Palo Alto real estate," said David Cowan, a venture capitalist at Bessemer Venture Partners who backed social network LinkedIn Corp, among other companies.

Wealth managers and investment advisers are also looking to win new clients from the Facebook crowd.

"A lot of them are going to be multimillionaires at 30 and live to be 100. That means creating a 70-year plan, which is unheard of," said John Valentine of Valentine Capital Asset Management in San Ramon, California, noting that his average client plan spans about 35 years.

Valentine, whose firm manages about $600 million in assets, said he plans to break into the Facebook client base through connections with venture capital firms, and he has meetings set the next two weeks to leverage those relationships. "It's the hot ticket in Silicon Valley," he said of Facebook.

David Arizini, managing director of Constellation Wealth Advisors, has several current and former Facebook employees as clients and hopes they refer more of their friends.

But he knows that it will take time and work to win them over for his firm, a New York and Menlo Park-based wealth manager with about $4.5 billion in assets under management.

"They are very skeptical of the financial services industry largely because of what has transpired over the last three years," he said. "So the bulk of clients interviewed five to 10 advisers before they made their choice."

The imminent flood of Facebook dollars is sure to provide a welcome boost to local businesses in Silicon Valley, from high-end car dealerships to wine merchants.

Buff Giurlani, founder of car and wine storage service AutoVino in Menlo Park, is looking forward to an acceleration in already-brisk trade. "If a Facebook guy buys a house and wants to remodel it, maybe the contractor will buy another car," he said. "Maybe the realtor will put a car in. There's a trickle-down effect."

For Facebook's younger staffers, who favor jeans and T-shirts over designer suits, the shopping sprees will almost certainly involve computers and electronics.

"Start packing pepper spray for your next trip to the Apple store," said Bessemer Venture's Cowan.


(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Alexei Oreskovic,

additional reporting by Ashley Lau and Jilian Mincer,

editing by Tiffany Wu and Matthew Lewis)

    Facebook IPO sparks dreams of riches, adventure, R, 8.12.2011,






Facebook as Tastemaker


September 22, 2011
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook, the Web’s biggest social network, is where you go to see what your friends are up to. Now it wants to be a force that shapes what you watch, hear, read and buy.

The company announced new features here on Thursday that could unleash a torrent of updates about what you and your Facebook friends are doing online: Frank is watching “The Hangover,” Jane is listening to Jay-Z, Mark is running a race wearing Nike sneakers, and so forth. That in turn, Facebook and its dozens of partner companies hope, will influence what Frank and Jane and Mark’s friends consume.

Facebook, in short, aims not to be a Web site you spend a lot of time on, but something that defines your online — and increasingly offline — life.

“We think it’s an important next step to help tell the story of your life,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who introduced the new features at the company’s annual conference for developers. He called what Facebook was doing an effort to “rethink some industries.”

Facebook’s moves sharpen the battle lines between the social networking giant and Google, the search giant, because Facebook is trying to change the way people find what they want online. Searching the Web is still the way most people discover content — whether it is news, information about wedding photographers or Swiss chard recipes. Facebook is trying to change that: in effect, friends will direct other friends to content. Google has its own social network product in Google+, but it is far behind Facebook.

“This is two big rivals getting into each others’ backyards,” said Sean Corcoran, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It changes the game for what social networks have been doing. What Facebook is saying is, we are your life online, and also how you discover and share.”

Facebook is not becoming a purveyor of media products, like Apple or Amazon.com. Rather, it is teaming up with companies that distribute music, movies, information and games in positioning itself to become the conduit where news and entertainment is found and consumed. Its new partners include Netflix and Hulu for video, Spotify for music, The Washington Post and Yahoo for news, Ticketmaster for concert tickets and a host of food, travel and consumer brands.

For companies that distribute news and entertainment, a partnership with Facebook can draw eyeballs and subscribers, though it still remains unclear exactly how much more revenue a Facebook friend recommendation can generate. Music industry analysts said the new Facebook offerings stand to improve the prospects of new media companies like the music service Spotify, which already has two million users worldwide. But they also pose a challenge to the biggest music seller of all: iTunes from Apple, which has added social features that have gained little traction.

For Facebook, the potential payoff is huge, especially as it seeks to make itself more valuable in advance of a possible public offering. A new feature called Timeline lets users post information about their past, like weddings and big vacations. And everywhere on the site, users will be able to more precisely signal what they are reading, watching, hearing or eating. This will let Facebook reap even more valuable data than it does now about its users’ habits and desires, which in turn can be used to sell more fine-tuned advertising.

How users will react to the new features remains to be seen. The site’s evolution could make it easier for them to decide how to spend their time and money. But it could also potentially allow them to shut out alternative viewpoints and information that is not being shared among their set of friends.

And not everyone wants to rely on their friends to shape their cultural discoveries. “Some of my friends have pretty awful taste in music,” said Alexander White, whose Colorado-based Next Big Sound tracks social media responses for artists and record labels. “It’s one filter. Its not the be-all, end-all.”

As of May, Americans spent more time with Facebook than with the next four largest Web brands combined, according to Nielsen. Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor of management at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, described Facebook as “sort of a walled garden” that, for better or worse, can increasingly filter every other activity on the Internet.

“As Facebook becomes more and more synonymous with the Internet experience, that is going to benefit Facebook shareholders,” Mr. Brynjolfsson said. “Facebook has been very successful in getting the lion’s share of people’s time and attention. Their challenge in the coming years is to convert that dominance in time and attention into a bigger share of consumer wallets — a bigger share of money they spend either directly on Facebook or indirectly through advertising.”

Other Internet giants have enviable assets of their own. Google has a mountain of data based on how people search. Amazon knows plenty about what you might want to buy, based on what you’ve bought. But no other technology company has Facebook’s treasure trove of social data. It has 800 million users, half of whom return to the site every day, and it also has the information they reveal about themselves, sometimes unwittingly. With it, Facebook has the ability to leverage peer pressure at a grand scale.

Facebook executives describe their efforts as upending the traditional model of marketing. Rather than just helping people buy what they need, they aim to curate what they might want.

Its partnership with Zynga, maker of the popular game FarmVille, illustrates how Facebook can leverage its platform. The alliance has been enormously lucrative for both companies. Whether that model can be replicated with movies, music, or even news remains to be seen.

Still, Facebook has become unavoidable for the entertainment business. Hollywood increasingly realizes the power of peer recommendations to sell movies and television shows; some in the industry call this the “killer gateway.”

Studios have long looked at Facebook as an important marketing tool, setting up pages for characters and movies. They have also been experimenting with offering full movies on the site. Warner Brothers, Miramax and Lions Gate Entertainment have all allowed Facebook users to watch movies they have paid for with Facebook’s virtual currency, called Credits.

Now the studios are hoping the Facebook platform will let them connect even more directly with customers — to grab a Facebook user’s attention by telling her that her friend has watched a particular television show.

Netflix wants to allow subscribers to watch its video on Facebook. But its plans face a stumbling block in Washington. A law called the Video Privacy Protection Act prohibits the release of information about what movies a person is renting. That law would have to be lifted in the United States.

The changes raise a fundamental challenge for Facebook: can it be all things to everyone? Some of its users want to share with a small group of friends, while others want to be completely open. And there are users who complain about the trivia that sometimes seems to flood the site.

“Facebook wants to be omnipresent in the Web experience by adding commerce, video and mail to their early successes with news feeds and picture tagging,” said Jodee Rich, founder of People Browsr, based in San Francisco, which analyzes data from social networks. “Trying to be all things to all people was the undoing of Microsoft and AOL. If Facebook continues to overreach, they will stumble.”


Brooks Barnes contributed reporting from Los Angeles

and Nick Bilton from San Francisco.

    Facebook as Tastemaker, 22.9.2011,






Facebook to Offer Path to Media


September 18, 2011
The New York Times


For cloud-based digital music services like Spotify and Rhapsody, which stream millions of songs but have struggled to sign up large numbers of paying users, being friended by Facebook could prove to be a mixed blessing.

This week, according to numerous media and technology executives, Facebook will unveil a media platform that will allow people to easily share their favorite music, television shows and movies, effectively making the basic profile page a primary entertainment hub.

Facebook, which has more than 750 million users, has not revealed its plans, but the company is widely expected to announce the service at its F8 developers’ conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

By putting them in front of millions of users, Facebook’s new platform could introduce the music services to vast new audiences. “If it works the way it is supposed to, it would be the nirvana of interoperability,” said Ted Cohen, a consultant and former digital executive for a major label.

But the new plan will ratchet up the competitive pressure on these fledgling services, forcing them to offer more free music as enticements to new users.

According to the media and technology executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals were private, Facebook has made agreements with a number of media companies to develop a way for a user’s profile page to display whatever entertainment he is consuming on those outside services. Links that appear on a widget or tab, or as part of a user’s news feed, would point a curious friend directly to the content.

Spotify and Rhapsody, along with their smaller competitors Rdio, MOG and the French company Deezer, are said to be among the 10 or so music services that will be part of the service at its introduction; Vevo, the music video site, is another. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment, and media executives cautioned that details of the plan could change.

Spotify is the largest of these services with more than 10 million users, according to its most recent reporting. The service began in Europe in 2008 and arrived in the United States in July, after protracted negotiations with the major record labels over its “freemium” structure, which lets people listen to music free, with advertising, or pay $5 or $10 a month for an ad-free version.

Rdio and MOG, which charge $5 and $10 a month for subscriptions, announced free versions last week in an effort to compete with Spotify. And Rhapsody, whose service costs $10 and $15 a month, has just introduced an array of social features centered on Facebook.

The companies declined to answer questions about Facebook’s media platform. And David Hyman, MOG’s founder and chief executive, said that the development of his company’s free tier far predated Spotify’s entry into the United States.

But Mr. Hyman said that the change was being made to reduce the “friction” a nonsubscriber experiences when following a link posted by a paying user. Instead of hearing the song, the nonsubscriber would reach a page asking to sign up with a credit card — an annoyance for many potential customers.

“In the Internet world, any minuscule piece of friction blows people’s minds,” he said.

MOG provides new users with a “gas tank” of free music — supported by advertising — that increases with that user’s social activity on the site, like sharing playlists or inviting friends. Rdio’s free music will come ad-free.

Neither company would say exactly how much free music would be made available.

“We don’t want to force you to look at or listen to ads that will distract you from enjoying music,” said Carter Adamson, Rdio’s chief operating officer, “and we don’t want you to spam your friends to get more free.”

But even free music requires royalty payments to record companies — typically some fraction of a cent per stream — and some investors and technology executives are concerned that Facebook’s platform may bring in large numbers of users who are willing to listen to some free music but are not being given much incentive to subscribe. That might make success more difficult for services that have less favorable deals with record companies.

David Pakman, a partner in the venture capital firm Venrock and a former chief executive of the digital service eMusic, also said that instead of giving smaller companies a boost, the mathematics of Facebook’s hundreds of millions of links might simply allow the largest service to dominate all the others.

“It favors the big over the small,” Mr. Pakman said. “It’s a good thing for all services in that it lets them all participate. But the small guys will lose network effects, and the big guys will gain it.”

Spotify has not updated its user numbers since arriving in the United States, but music executives say it quickly drew more than 100,000 customers to its paid service alone.

MOG and Rdio have not reported their numbers, but music executives say their tallies are well under 100,000.

Not all the services involved in the Facebook platform are going free. Rhapsody, which was founded 10 years ago and has 800,000 subscribers, is sticking to its monthly subscription rate, said Jon Irwin, the company’s president.

“Our belief is that the cost of the content cannot be fully offset by the advertising dollars you can generate,” Mr. Irwin said, “and that the subsequent conversion of somebody to a paying subscriber because they’ve been able to listen to content for free on a desktop is not at a level that supports the losses you’ll incur on the advertising side.”

Mr. Irwin also believes that Facebook will further intensify the competition among the cloud services, and that Spotify and his own company will have the advantage.

“It’s going to be hard for the players not at scale to survive,” he said. “You’re looking at a two-horse race.”

    Facebook to Offer Path to Media, NYT, 18.9.2011,






Facebook Page for Jesus,

With Highly Active Fans


September 4, 2011
The New York Times


A North Carolina diet doctor has come up with a formula to create the most highly engaged audience on Facebook in the world, far surpassing marketing efforts by celebrities and sports teams. He draws on the words of Jesus and posts them four or five times a day.

The doctor, Aaron Tabor, 41, grew up watching his father preach at churches in Alabama and North Carolina, and his Facebook creation is called the Jesus Daily. He started it in April 2009, he said, as a hobby shortly after he began using Facebook to market his diet book and online diet business that includes selling soy shakes, protein bars and supplements.

For the last three months, more people have “Liked,” commented and shared content on the Jesus Daily than on any other Facebook page, including Justin Bieber’s page, according to a weekly analysis by AllFacebook.com, an industry blog. “I wanted to provide people with encouragement,” said Dr. Tabor, who keeps his diet business on a separate Facebook page. “And I thought I would give it a news spin by calling it daily.”

Facebook and other social media tools have changed the way people communicate, work, find each other and fall in love. While it’s too early to say that social media have transformed the way people practice religion, the number of people discussing faith on Facebook has significantly increased in the last year, according to company officials.

Over all, 31 percent of Facebook users in the United States list a religion in their profile, and 24 percent of users outside the United States do, Facebook says. More than 43 million people on Facebook are fans of at least one page categorized as religious.

Much of the conversation on social platforms is fostered by religious leaders, churches, synagogues and other religious institutions turning to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to attract followers and strengthen connections with members. What is new is that millions of people are also turning to Facebook pages, like the Jesus Daily, created by people unaffiliated with a religious leader or a specific house of worship. With 8.2 million fans, the Jesus Daily counted 3.4 million interactions last week, compared with about 630,000 interactions among Justin Bieber’s 35 million fans, the AllFacebook.com analysis shows. The Bible Facebook page, run by the United Bible Societies in Reading, England, has eight million fans and also beat Mr. Bieber with about a million interactions.

Amid pages for Lady Gaga, Texas Hold’em Poker and Manchester United, Joyce Meyer Ministries is in the top 20, along with another page devoted to Jesus Christ, and the Spanish-language page Dios Es Bueno, or God Is Great. And Facebook got its first Bible-themed game recently, the Journey of Moses.

But the increase in the number of people finding faith communities via social media platforms provokes the question of what constitutes religious experience and whether “friending” a church online is at all similar to worshiping at one.

Although Pope Benedict acknowledged in a recent statement that social networks offered “a great opportunity,” he warned Roman Catholics that “virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.”

The Rev. Henry G. Brinton, senior pastor of the Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Va., who writes a blog and whose church uses Facebook, said that it was important for people to gather to “experience the physical sensation of water in Baptism, the chance to hold hands in a service of worship or greet one another in the passing of the peace.”

That’s not possible through online worship alone, he said. “I am not saying there isn’t value to the connections that get made through social networking. But they can never replace the importance of people being together physically in the service of worship.”

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for religious leaders and institutions is finding and keeping new members, according to the Rev. Kenneth Lillard, author of “Social Media and Ministry: Sharing the Gospel in the Digital Age.” He said Facebook and other social media tools, including Google Plus, YouTube and Twitter, represented the best chance for religious leaders to expand their congregations since the printing press helped Martin Luther usher in the Protestant Reformation.

“I am looking at social media doing the same thing for today’s church,” said Mr. Lillard, a Baptist minister from Maryland.

Since making a focused effort to use social media three years ago, Rabbi Laura Baum, of the Congregation Beth Adam in Cincinnati, said the synagogue had reached thousands of people around the world and significantly expanded the number of people participating in Shabbat services on Friday evenings. They offer readings and services via live videos on Facebook, allowing Jews from all over the world to join in prayer and in conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Livestream.

“There are some people who will always prefer the in-person, face-to-face experience, who love being in a room with other Jews and smelling the freshly baked challah. And some people will prefer being online,” said Rabbi Baum, 31, who is one of the leaders of OurJewishCommunity.org. “There are those people who prefer to check out our tweets on their phone or listen to our podcast. I don’t think the use of technology needs to be for everybody. But we have found a community online. Many of them have never felt a connection to Judaism before.”

For some, the Jesus Daily has become a faith community online, where people share their troubles and provide and receive words of support. “Jesus Daily reminds me every day that I am not alone,” said Kristin Davis-Ford, a single mother and full-time student in Houston. “Every single prayer request I have posted has been answered,” she said, “and I know it is the power of God’s children, coming together and standing in agreement.”

Dr. Tabor, a medical researcher, drafts most of the posts himself, using some marketing techniques learned from his successful diet business, which he now pitches on QVC. He recently posted photographs of baby animals, asking people to name “God’s Little Helpers.” By noon, more than 147,000 people had “Liked” the post. And names for the baby animals were among the more than 7,000 comments, including this one from Steve Karimi, writing from Nakuru, the provincial capital of Kenya’s Rift Valley province: “I love Jesus Daily. Truly inspirational.”

Dr. Tabor is not sure what the future holds for the page, he said, mentioning an online television global ministry. For now, it is still his hobby.

“I want it to be about encouragement,” he said. “There are so many people battling cancer, fighting to keep their marriages together, struggling to restore relationships with their children,” he said. “There are people out of work, at the end of the line and I just want the Jesus Daily to be a central place where they find encouragement, no matter what battle they are fighting.”

    Facebook Page for Jesus, With Highly Active Fans, NYT, 4.9.2011,






I’m on Facebook. It’s Over.


September 3, 2011
The New York Times


Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the novels “Prep” and “American Wife.”


YOU may not have heard it, but the death knell of Facebook sounded about a month ago — more precisely, on Thursday, Aug. 4, around 8 p.m. Central time. It wasn’t because the Web site’s growth slowed this past spring and the number of users shrank in the United States. It wasn’t because of the advent of Google+. It was because I, the latest of late adopters, finally joined. My embrace of the site can only mean that it’s officially passé.

It’s not that I was a Facebook snob — in fact, the opposite. I’ve always understood how the site could be a place to while away the hours, and if I could have joined when I was single, I’m sure I would have Facebook-stalked with the best of them. But now I’m a married 36-year-old, I have two children under the age of 3, and I’m bad enough at responding to e-mails, or doing anything else that involves organization or time management, without the temptation of seeing what’s become of my elementary school classmates.

Facebook is only one of many major cultural trends that have bypassed me in recent years: I’m still planning to watch “The Wire,” read the “Twilight” series, and maybe even play that Angry Birds game I keep hearing so much about.

But if I’m being honest, the time suck wasn’t the biggest reason I avoided joining for so long. The biggest reason was that I didn’t know which me would join. Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg believes we should all be the same in every context. According to Time’s 2010 Person of the Year profile of him, he once told a journalist, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” To which my only response is, You’ve got to be kidding. I mean, I’m not even the same person with all the members of my immediate family. And I’ve long thought that my impulse to act differently with, say, my friend from grad school and my husband’s aunt — to adjust my personality to fit the situation and the other person — is an example of good manners, not bad ones.

I’m not under the illusion that all my selves are equally appealing, though, and this was where I got confused to the point of paralysis. Would my profile reflect Professional Writer Curtis (upbeat, friendly, responsible) or Real Curtis (disagreeable, slovenly, judgmental)? Would I use it to hawk my books, or to post pictures of my baby eating her toes? I know the obvious answer is both, but — call me old-fashioned — that just feels completely weird.

I didn’t resolve this identity confusion before joining, but my desire to be a part of things finally overrode my skittishness. On a rare evening when both my children had gone to sleep and my husband was outside reading, I opened a thank-you note for a present I’d sent to my high school friend Tanya. She’d gotten married in early June, and unfortunately, I’d missed the wedding. In her note, she included a photo of herself and her new husband and mentioned that she’d recently seen my brother, P. G., in New York.

And I thought, Tanya and P. G., who lives in Ohio, saw each other and I had no idea? And, Tanya and her husband looked so great and happy that I really wanted to see more pictures from their wedding. I had a strong suspicion that I knew where to find them.

This was not, of course, the first time that not being on Facebook had made me feel as if I lived under a rock. In spring 2010, I received e-mails from two friends announcing the births of their babies, and I hadn’t known either woman was pregnant, even though I was a bridesmaid in one of their weddings. (One e-mail began, “For those of you who we are not in touch with by cellphone, or Facebook. ...”) Last August, my friend Jesse told me that not being on Facebook was just plain rude. And I finally believed him a few months later when some other friend’s baby was born prematurely, and my wish to track the baby’s progress meant I had to directly e-mail the parents, which surely was an imposition on them. This March, when a woman who runs a moms’ Meetup group I’d taken part in sent out an e-mail suggesting that we shift to communicating via Facebook since we were all on it, I had the rather pathetic sensation of chasing on foot after a pack of people riding bikes. Wait up, ladies! I wanted to call out. Hold on! Not all of us!

And so I signed up. I admit that as I did, I entertained fantasies that I would be the billionth person to join and would be given shares of Facebook stock, though if this was the case, I haven’t yet been notified.

So far, life is not all that different. As of this writing, I have 111 friends, which I’m aware is a bit on the meager side. Seventeen are my relatives, 12 are people I haven’t spoken to in 20 years, and 9 are friends of friends I’ve never met.

I have posted nothing except an author photo because I continue to feel that confusion over how private, or not, to be. Enjoying other peoples’ comments and photos while not providing any of my own feels a little unsporting, but a late-adopting leopard can’t change her spots overnight. In the meantime, I’ve learned that my friend Annie’s 3-year-old son came home from camp in another kid’s underwear, that my former landlord’s daughter is taking piano lessons with a new teacher, and that my brother has 5,000 friends.

I’ve also had the satisfaction of shocking a few people with friend requests. My sister Tiernan wrote, “Is this really you?” My friend Jynne posted on my wall that she thought my 2-year-old must have gotten hold of my laptop. And two people told me they were pretty sure we’re all supposed to move on to Google+ now, which sounds about right. I’m hoping to be there by 2020.

    I’m on Facebook. It’s Over., NYT, 3.9.2011,






Google targets Facebook

with new social service


SAN FRANCISCO | Tue Jun 28, 2011
3:31pm EDT
By Alexei Oreskovic


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc, frustrated by a string of failed attempts to crack social networking, is taking another stab at fending off Facebook and other hot social sites with a new service called Google Plus.

Google designed the service, unveiled on Tuesday, to tie together all of its online properties, laying the foundation for a full-fledged social network. It is the company's biggest foray into social networking since co-founder Larry Page took over as chief executive in April.

Page has made social networking a top priority at the world's No. 1 Internet search engine, whose position as the main gateway to online information could be at risk as people spend more time on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Google Plus, now available for testing, is structured in remarkably similar fashion to Facebook, with profile pictures and newsfeeds forming a central core. However, a user's friends or contacts are grouped into very specific circles of their choosing, versus the common pool of friends typical on Facebook.

Enticing consumers to join another social networking service will not be easy, said Rory Maher, an analyst with Hudson Square Research.

"They're going to have an uphill battle due to Facebook's network effects," said Maher, citing the 700 million users that some research firms say are currently on Facebook's service.

"The more users they (Facebook) get, the harder it gets for Google to steal those," he said. But he added that Google's popularity in Web search and email could help it gain a following.

To set its service apart from Facebook, Google is betting on what it says is a better approach to privacy -- a hot-button issue that has burned Facebook, as well as Google, in the past.

Central to Google Plus are the so-called "circles" of friends and acquaintances. Users can organize contacts into different customized circles -- family members, co-workers or college friends, say -- and share photos, videos or other information only within those groups.

"In the online world there's this 'share box' and you type into it and you have no idea who is going to get that, or where it's going to land, or how it's going to embarrass you six months from now," said Google Vice President of Product Management Bradley Horowitz.

"For us, privacy isn't buried six panels deep," he added.

Facebook, which has been criticized for confusing privacy controls, introduced a feature last year that lets users create smaller groups of friends. Google, without mentioning Facebook by name, said other social networking services' attempts to create groups have been "bolt-on" efforts that do not work as well.

Google Plus will be rolled out to a limited number of users in what the company is calling a field trial. Only those invited to join will initially be able to use the service. Google did not say when it would be more widely available.

The service does not currently feature advertising.



Google's stock has been pressured by concerns about rising spending within the company and increasing regulatory scrutiny -- not to mention its struggles with social networking. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, among others, is currently reviewing its business practices.

Its shares are down almost 20 percent this year after underperforming the market in 2010.

To create Google Plus, the company went back to the drawing board in the wake of several notable failures, including Google Wave and Google Buzz, a microblogging service whose launch was marred by privacy snafus.

"We learned a lot in Buzz, and one of the things we learned is that there's a real market opportunity for a product that addresses people's concerns around privacy and how their information is shared," said Horowitz.

Google, with $29 billion in revenue last year, drew more than 1 billion visitors worldwide to its websites in May, more than any other company, according to Web analytics firm comScore. But people are spending more time on Facebook: The average U.S. visitor spent 375 minutes on Facebook in May, compared with 231 minutes for Google.

Google Plus seems designed to make its online properties a pervasive part of the daily online experience, rather than being spots where Web surfers occasionally check in to search for a website or check email.

As with Facebook's service, Google Plus has a central Web page that displays an ever-updating stream of the comments, photos and links being shared by friends and contacts.

A toolbar across the top of most of Google's sites -- such as its main search page, its Gmail site and its Maps site -- allows users to access their personalized data feed. They can then contribute their own information to the stream.

Google Plus will also offer a special video chat feature, in which up to 10 people can jump on a conference call. And Google will automatically store photos taken on cell phones on its Internet servers, allowing a Google Plus user to access the photos from any computer and share them.

When asked whether he expected people to switch from Facebook to Google Plus, Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra said people may decide to use both.

"People today use multiple tools. I think what we're offering here offers some very distinct advantages around some basic needs," he said.


(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic;

editing by John Wallace and Gerald E. McCormick)

    Google targets Facebook with new social service, R, 28.6.2011,






At Facebook headquarters,

Obama seeks 2008 campaign energy


PALO ALTO, Calif | Wed Apr 20, 2011
6:53pm EDT
By Jeff Mason


PALO ALTO, Calif (Reuters) - President Barack Obama sought to reignite the youthful energy that propelled his 2008 election Wednesday with a campaign-style visit to the nexus of social communications, Facebook.

Democrats acknowledge that Obama will need to rally many of the same forces that propelled him into the White House in order to win re-election in 2012: an army of young, energetic voters as well as a sizable showing from independent voters.

By visiting Facebook headquarters in California's Silicon Valley, where 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg is a folk hero, Obama sought to connect to tens of millions of people who have adopted social media as a prime method of communications.

"My name is Barack Obama and I'm the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie," the president said, to laughter, at the beginning of a live-streamed town hall event with Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a tie, and Obama, dressed in a business suit, then took off their jackets before the president started fielding questions about how to reduce the budget deficit, which is projected to hit $1.4 trillion this fiscal year.

Promoting his plan of spending cuts and tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, Obama told the rich Facebook founder that both of them would have to pay more taxes to help out.

"I'm cool with that," Zuckerberg said.

Obama heads to San Francisco for Democratic fund-raising events after the Facebook session.

He then plans stops in Las Vegas and Los Angeles before returning to Washington Friday.

Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University, said having Obama on stage with Zuckerberg could help the president with young people.

"That alone is a way of trying to re-energize this young generation that might be crucial for him to be re-elected again," Krosnick said.

Obama held his deficit-cutting roadshow as policy-makers and financial markets recover from ratings agency Standard & Poor's threat to downgrade America's triple-A credit rating on worries Washington won't address its fiscal woes.

A potential Republican challenger to Obama, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, said S&P "downgraded the Obama presidency" and that Obama should meet with S&P officials to try to gain their confidence.



It is early in the 2012 election cycle, but Obama has much work ahead. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday showed Obama's approval ratings near record lows because of deepening economic pessimism among Americans.

Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said rising gasoline prices are taking their toll but they probably did not present a long-term problem for Obama, who he called the odds-on favorite.

Obama is using the first steps on the road to 2012 to promote a budget ideology that is at odds with the fiscal views of Republicans who are planning presidential campaigns.

He wants to raise taxes on wealthier Americans to fund social programs while making some budget cuts, a plan he says would bring down deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years.

Republican Representative Paul Ryan has called for slightly higher cuts, $4.4 trillion over 10 years, without raising taxes. He would make deep cuts in spending, including overhauls in the Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor that Democrats say would violate the "social compact" with Americans.

Obama said Ryan's plan was "fairly radical" and that his budget proposal was not "particularly courageous."

"Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor or people who are powerless or don't have lobbyists or don't have clout," he said to applause.

Polls suggests Americans so far are siding with Obama.

Data released from the ABC News/Washington Post poll on Wednesday said 72 percent of those surveyed favor higher taxes for wealthy Americans and 78 percent opposed to cutting health benefits for the elderly. The survey of 1,001 adults has a 3.5 percentage point error margin.


(Additional reporting by Kim Dixon, Alister Bull,

Peter Henderson,

Alexei Oreskovic and David Morgan;

Writing by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason;

Editing by Deborah Charles)

    At Facebook headquarters, Obama seeks 2008 campaign energy, R, 20.4.2011,






Facebook Officials Keep Quiet

on Its Role in Revolts


February 14, 2011
The New York Times


With Facebook playing a starring role in the revolts that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt, you might think the company’s top executives would use this historic moment to highlight its role as the platform for democratic change. Instead, they really do not want to talk about it.

The social media giant finds itself under countervailing pressures after the uprisings in the Middle East. While it has become one of the primary tools for activists to mobilize protests and share information, Facebook does not want to be seen as picking sides for fear that some countries — like Syria, where it just gained a foothold — would impose restrictions on its use or more closely monitor users, according to some company executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal business.

And Facebook does not want to alter its firm policy requiring users to sign up with their real identities. The company says this requirement protects its users from fraud. However, human rights advocates like Susannah Vila, the director of content and outreach for Movements.org, which provides resources for digital activists, say it could put some people at risk from governments looking to ferret out dissent.

“People are going to be using this platform for political mobilization, which only underscores the importance of ensuring their safety,” she said.

Under those rules, Facebook shut down one of the most popular Egyptian Facebook protest pages in November because Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who emerged as a symbol of the revolt, had used a pseudonym to create a profile as one of the administrators of the page, a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.

With Egypt’s emergency law in place limiting freedom of speech, Mr. Ghonim might have put himself and the other organizers at risk if they were discovered at that time. Activists scrambled to find another administrator to get the page back up and running. And when Egyptian government authorities did figure out Mr. Ghonim’s role with the Facebook page that helped promote the Jan. 25 protest in Tahrir Square, he was imprisoned for 12 days.

Last week, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, urged Facebook to take “immediate and tangible steps” to help protect democracy and human rights activists who use its services, including addressing concerns about not being able to use pseudonyms.

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, Mr. Durbin said the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia had highlighted the costs and benefits of social tools to democracy and human rights advocates. “I am concerned that the company does not have adequate safeguards in place to protect human rights and avoid being exploited by repressive governments,” he wrote.

Elliot Schrage, the vice president for global communications, public policy and marketing at Facebook, declined to discuss Facebook’s role in the recent tumult and what it might mean for the company’s services.

In a short statement, he said: “We’ve witnessed brave people of all ages coming together to effect a profound change in their country. Certainly, technology was a vital tool in their efforts but we believe their bravery and determination mattered most.”

Other social media tools, like YouTube and Twitter, also played major roles in Tunisia and Egypt, especially when the protests broke out. But Facebook was the primary tool used in Egypt, first to share reports about police abuse and then to build an online community that was mobilized to join the Jan. 25 protests.

In recent weeks, Facebook pages and groups trying to mobilize protesters have sprung up in Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco and Syria. Hashtags on Twitter have also helped spread the protests, which extended to Algeria over the weekend and to Bahrain, Iran and Yemen on Monday.

“This is an incredible challenge and an incredible opportunity for Facebook, Twitter and Google,” said Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, where he works on projects about the use of technology and media in the developing world. “It might be tougher for Facebook than anyone else. Facebook has been ambivalent about the use of their platform by activists.”

Unlike Vodafone and other telecommunications carriers, which often need contracts and licenses to operate within countries, Facebook and other social networks are widely available around the world (except in countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have restricted access) and encourage the free flow of information for anyone with access to the Internet.

In a speech that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to deliver Tuesday, she will once again emphasize that Internet freedom is an inalienable right. In recent weeks, the State Department has been sending out Twitter updates in Arabic and began sending updates in Persian over the weekend.

Twitter and YouTube, which is owned by Google, have been more willing to embrace their roles in activism and unrest, Mr. Zuckerman said.

After the Internet was shut down in Egypt, Twitter and Google actively helped protesters by producing a new service, speak2tweet, that allowed people to leave voice mail messages that would be filed as updates on Twitter. Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s founders, used it as an opportunity to emphasize the positive global impact that comes with the open exchange of information.

When the Internet was back up, YouTube, working with Storyful, a social media news curation service, took the thousands of videos pouring in from the protests in Tahrir Square to help people retrieve and share the information as quickly as possible on CitizenTube, its news and politics channel.

Facebook has taken steps to help protesters in Tunisia after government officials used a virus to obtain local Facebook passwords this year. The company rerouted Facebook’s traffic from Tunisia and used the breach to upgrade security last month for all of its more than 550 million users worldwide; at the same time, it was careful to cast the response as a technical solution to a security problem. There are about two million Facebook users in Tunisia and five million in Egypt.

Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company was not considering changing its policy requiring users to use their real identities, which she says leads to greater accountability and a safer environment.

“The trust people place in us is the most important part of what makes Facebook work,” she said, adding that the company welcomed a discussion with Mr. Durbin and others who have an interest in this matter. “As demonstrated by our response to threats in Tunisia, we take this trust seriously and work aggressively every single day to protect people.”

Mr. Durbin has urged Facebook to join the Global Network Initiative, a voluntary code of conduct for technology companies, created in 2008, that requires participating businesses to take reasonable steps to protect human rights.

Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, said that the people and companies behind the technology needed to be more transparent about what information they collect, and that they needed to develop consistent policies to allow people to opt in or out of their data collection systems. “We must have a right to protect the privacy of information stored in the cloud as rigorously as if it were in our own home,” he said.

    Facebook Officials Keep Quiet on Its Role in Revolts, NYT, 14.2.2011,






Syria Restores

Access to Facebook and YouTube


February 9, 2011
The New York Times


The Syrian government began allowing its citizens Wednesday to openly use Facebook and YouTube, three years after blocking access to Facebook and other sites as part of a crackdown on political activism. Human rights advocates greeted the news guardedly, warning that the government might have lifted the ban to more closely monitor people and activity on social networking sites.

The move comes just weeks after human rights activists in Egypt used Facebook and other social media tools to help mobilize tens of thousands of people for antigovernment protests. Activists in Tunisia used the Internet in December and January to help amass support for the protests and revolt that toppled the government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

After the mass demonstrations began in Egypt, opposition groups in Syria created a Facebook page called the Syrian Revolution and started a Twitter campaign calling on people to join “day of rage” rallies last week against President Bashar Assad. But the effort, which has generated more than 16,000 Facebook members, did not produce the street protesters that organizers had hoped for.

Despite the ban, many Syrians had been able to use Facebook and other aspects of the Web restricted by the government through proxy servers that allowed people to circumvent the Syrian government’s firewall, which also blocks Wikipedia, Amazon, Blogspot and Israeli newspapers, among other sites.

Posts on the wall on Wednesday reflected a variety of opinions, including reminders for people to be careful about what they post to bold proclamations that the page would help spur change. “We’re going to launch a fearless attack,” one user wrote on the Syrian Revolution Facebook page wall. “Link to us on all pages so that all Syrians can see this. Think. Initiate. Decide, do and have faith in God.”

Syria’s decision was welcomed by officials from the State Department with a note of caution, given the country’s restrictions on the freedom of speech and freedom to assemble.

“We welcome any positive steps taken to create a more open Internet, but absent the freedoms of expression and association, citizens should understand the risks,” said Alec J. Ross, senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who helped organize a delegation of business leaders from technology companies to meet with Mr. Assad in Syria last year. In those meetings, the business leaders said that opening the Web would be important to drive innovation.

Susannah Vila, director of content and outreach for Movements.org, said she believed that the government in Syria, in releasing controls on the Internet, was trying to make it appear as if it were making democratic concessions after the tumult in Egypt and Tunisia.

“While access to social media sites presents an opportunity for Syrians to better mobilize one another, it also makes it easier for the government to identify activists and quash protests,” said Ms. Vila, of the New York City-based organization that began in 2008 with the mission to help support advocates and activists using technology. Ms. Vila said there was growing concern that the government of Sudan was closely monitoring Facebook users there after lifting restrictions.

Abdulsalam Haykal, a leading Syrian technology entrepreneur, praised the Syrian government’s decision as a reflection of a commitment to build confidence with the country’s young people. “The power of social media is an important tool for increasing participation, especially by engaging young people,” he said.

Under Facebook’s terms of service, users are required to use their real identities and not hide behind false or anonymous accounts, a violation that can lead to Facebook’s closing an account.

Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said Wednesday that the company was not considering changing or re-examining its terms of service in those countries where some users were concerned about revealing their full identity for security reasons.

“Facebook has always been based on a real-name culture,” she said. “This leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users. It’s a violation of our policies to use a fake name or operate under a false identity.” Ms. Frost said the company provided multiple options for users to communicate privately through groups and to read updates on a Facebook page without having to sign up for it.

Ms. Frost said that the company had always seen some traffic for Syria, but not the number of Facebook users typical in a country, like Syria, with high Internet usage. She said the company did not see significant changes in traffic Wednesday. Syrian technology companies reported that it could take hours or days for people to get full access.

A spokesperson for YouTube declined to comment on the lifting of the ban, but pointed to Google’s Transparency report, which shows a jump in traffic to YouTube.com from Syria.

According to D-Press, a pro-government Syrian Web site, there are about 200,000 Syrians currently using Facebook.

    Syria Restores Access to Facebook and YouTube, NYT, 9.2.2011,






Google Executive Who Was Jailed

Said He Was Part

of Facebook Campaign in Egypt


February 7, 2011
The New York Times


CAIRO — In a tearful, riveting live television interview only two hours after his release from an Egyptian prison, the Google executive Wael Ghonim acknowledged Monday that he was one of the people behind the anonymous Facebook and YouTube campaign that helped galvanize the protest that has shaken Egypt for the last two weeks.

Since he disappeared on Jan. 28, Mr. Ghonim, 30, has emerged as a symbol for the protest movement’s young, digital-savvy organizers. During the interview on a popular television show, he said he had been kidnapped and held blindfolded by Egyptian authorities.

Afterward, hundreds of Egyptians took to Twitter and the Internet, calling on him to become one of their new leaders.

“Please do not make me a hero,” Mr. Ghonim said in a voice trembling with emotion, and later completely breaking down when told of the hundreds of people who have died in clashes since the Jan. 25 protests began. “I want to express my condolences for all the Egyptians who died.”

“We were all down there for peaceful demonstrations,” he added. “The heroes were the ones on the street.”

Mr. Ghonim rejected the government’s assertions that the protests had been instigated by foreigners or the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamist opposition group. “There was no Muslim Brotherhood presence in organizing these protests,” he said. “It was all spontaneous, voluntary. Even when the Muslim Brotherhood decided to take part it was their choice to do so. This belongs to the Egyptian youth.”

The release of Mr. Ghonim, who oversees marketing efforts for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, comes as the government is trying to portray Egypt as returning to business as usual. But in the interview, Mr. Ghonim described the experience of what he called his extralegal “kidnapping” and imprisonment to rally the public to continue their protests. “It is a crime,” he said, “This is what we are fighting.”

Ending the mystery over who helped begin the social media campaign that inspired the protests, Mr. Ghonim said that he was a creator of the We are All Khaled Said Facebook page. That page and multiple videos uploaded on YouTube about Mr. Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian man beaten to death by the police in Alexandria on June 6, 2010, helped to connect human rights organizers with average Egyptians and to raise awareness about police abuse and torture.

Mr. Ghonim, an Egyptian who lives in Dubai with his wife and two children, was not well known outside of technology and business circles in Egypt. But his disappearance, followed by his interview Monday night on the same program where the Nobel laureate and diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei plunged into Egyptian politics a year ago, appeared to have quickly turned him into a national celebrity.

Mr. Ghonim, who came across as both humble and fearless, said he was grabbed by security police officers while getting into a taxi and then taken to a location where he was detained for 12 days, blindfolded the entire time. He said that he was deeply worried that his family did not know where he was. He said he was not physically harmed.

The first word of his release came when he posted this sentence in English on his Twitter account at 7:05 p.m.:

“Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it.”

Google then confirmed the news. “It is a huge relief that Wael Ghonim has been released,” the company said in a message posted on Twitter and then released in an e-mail. “We send our best wishes to him and his family.”

Since last June, the Khaled Said Facebook page has attracted more than 473,000 members and has become a tool not only for organizing the protests but also for providing regular updates about other cases of police abuse. But the page’s creator remained a mystery.

“We did not know who he was,” said Aida Seif el-Dawla, a human rights advocate and professor of psychiatry who works with El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in Cairo. The center became involved in Mr. Said’s case last June after police officials presented autopsy reports saying that he died of asphyxiation from swallowing drugs rather than the brutal beating witnessed by several people.

She said many young people identified with Mr. Said and were outraged by his death and how the police had handled it. She said that there were many Facebook pages, but that it was the page that Mr. Ghonim started that gained momentum.

“It was the most popular,” she said. “It gave a space for the young people to interact with each other and to plan together.”

The Facebook page published cellphone photographs from the morgue showing the horrific injuries Mr. Said had suffered, YouTube videos contrasting his smiling face with the morgue photos and witness accounts that disputed the initial Egyptian police version of his death. The information helped lead to prosecutors arresting two police officers in connection with Mr. Said’s death. It also prompted Facebook members to attend both street and silent protests several times since last June.

In addition to his work at Google, Mr. Ghonim had served as a technology consultant for Mr. ElBaradei’s pro-democracy campaign.

Before his family lost contact with him, Mr. Ghonim had posted an ominous message on Twitter that troubled friends and family, raising concerns about his whereabouts: “Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die #Jan25.”

While friends and family searched hospitals in the area for him, several human rights activists became convinced that he was being held by the authorities for his role in the social media efforts and for inspiring some of the young protest organizers to use those media to help promote the protests.

Last Friday, members of the April 6 Youth Movement Facebook page, a group of young advocates who began using Facebook in early 2008 to raise awareness about labor strikes and human rights abuses, announced that they had designated Mr. Ghonim their spokesman.

Habib Haddad, a Boston-based businessman and a friend of Mr. Ghonim’s, said he spoke to Mr. Ghonim’s wife after her husband’s release on Monday. “Not sure I ever heard someone that happy and emotional,” Mr. Haddad posted on his Twitter account.

Mr. Ghonim was among many in Egypt who have disappeared during the revolt.

“At this point, Wael has become a symbolic figure,” said Mr. Haddad. “Moving forward, it is going to be his personal decision if he were to embrace this symbolic figure or not. As a friend, I care mostly about his personal safety and his family’s safety.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Cairo,

and Jennifer Preston from New York.

Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo,

and Christine Hauser from New York.

Google Executive Who Was Jailed
Said He Was Part of Facebook Campaign in Egypt,
NYT, 7.2.2011,






Twins’ Facebook Fight Rages On


December 30, 2010
The New York Times


SAN DIEGO — Some people go to court hoping to win millions of dollars. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have already won tens of millions. But six years into a legal feud with Facebook, they want to give it back — for a chance to get more.

The Winklevosses — identical twins and Harvard graduates — say that they, along with another Harvard student, Divya Narendra, had the original idea for Facebook, and that Mark Zuckerberg stole it. They sued Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg in 2004, and settled four years later for $20 million in cash and $45 million in Facebook shares.

They have been trying to undo that settlement since, saying they were misled on the value of the deal. But it has not been an easy decision.

As recently as Thursday, the brothers considered dropping their effort to unwind the agreement, and went as far as drafting a statement to that effect, according to people close to the case. They decided, though, to keep fighting.

Their argument is that Facebook deceived them about the value of the shares, leaving them with far less than they had agreed. Whatever their value at the time of the deal, Facebook’s shares have soared since, putting the current worth of the settlement, by some estimates, at more than $140 million.

Next month, the twins and Mr. Narendra plan to ask a federal appeals court in San Francisco to undo the deal so they can pursue their original case against Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg, and win a richer payday. They could, though, lose it all.

Still, they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle — and vindication.

“The principle is that they didn’t fight fair,” said Tyler Winklevoss during an interview at a pub here recently. “The principle is that Mark stole the idea.”

His brother, Cameron, chimed in, “What we agreed to is not what we got.”

Facebook denies it did anything improper and says the Winklevosses simply suffer from a case of “settlers remorse.”

To make matters more complicated, the twins are also at war with the lawyers who helped them win the settlement. The brothers fired them, accused them of malpractice and refused to pay them. A judge recently found for the lawyers, and ordered the twins to pay the 20 percent contingency fee, or $13 million. For now, the money and shares remain in an escrow account.

Yet their battle with Mr. Zuckerberg is what has had them riled up. When they talked about him, and told their version of the founding of Facebook, they helped finish each other’s sentences, easily reciting every last detail of a tale they have evidently told time and again.

“It shouldn’t be that Mark Zuckerberg gets away with behaving that way,” Cameron Winklevoss said.

The company declined to make Mr. Zuckerberg available for an interview, and Andrew Noyes, a spokesman, said Facebook would have no comment “beyond was is already in our appellate briefs.” In the past, Mr. Zuckerberg has denied he stole the Facebook idea from the Winklevosses, saying they planned a dating site, not a social network.

The twins, who are 29, recently told portions of their story in a “60 Minutes” interview for CBS. They grew up in affluence in Greenwich, Conn., were varsity rowers at Harvard and competed in the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008. They now live here in San Diego, where they are training for the 2012 London Olympics.

They are as physically striking and imposing as they appeared in the film, “The Social Network, where they were portrayed by one actor, Armie Hammer. They are 6-foot-5 , and their frames are lean and muscular, shaped by years of rowing.

For the interview, they wore hoodies and jeans, and only the variation in the hoodies — one zippered with a Ron Jon Surf Shop emblem, one a pullover with a Quicksilver logo — helped to tell them apart.

As they talked about the Facebook case, no detail was too small to omit, from where they first met Mr. Zuckerberg (the Kirkland House dining room) to the layout of Mr. Zuckerberg’s dorm room, to the content of the e-mails he had sent them after they asked him to do computer programming for a Web site called Harvard Connection. They recited arcane facts about the valuation of private companies and even quoted from the Securities Act of 1934, which they say Facebook violated when it drew up the settlement.

In addition to a bigger payday, the twins say they want a court to reconsider their original claims about Facebook’s founding, pointing to instant messages on the subject sent by Mr. Zuckerberg to various friends. The messages have come to light since the brothers signed the deal. But they say Facebook executives and board members have known about the messages since 2006, and played dirty by concealing them when they negotiated the settlement.

“If you take all those documents, it is a dramatically different picture,” Tyler Winklevoss said.

Facebook declined to comment on the messages. In prior interviews, Mr. Zuckerberg said he had regretted sending some of them.

While the Winklevosses could end up losing their settlement, the risks for Facebook are high as well. If the court unwinds the agreement, the company will have to decide whether to offer them a richer settlement or face a trial. Recent trades on a private exchange suggest that Facebook, which is not a public company, now is worth around $50 billion, and the company may not want the negative publicity associated with a trial, especially if it decides to move forward with a stock offering.

The roots of the original dispute date to 2003, when Mr. Zuckerberg, then a Harvard sophomore, said he would help the Winklevosses and Mr. Narendra program Harvard Connection, later renamed ConnectU. But Mr. Zuckerberg delayed work on Harvard Connection, and when pressed for answers, stalled, according to the Winklevosses. In February 2004 he released TheFacebook, which eventually became Facebook.

After ConnectU and its founders sued, Facebook countersued in 2005.

The settlement, which gave Facebook ownership of ConnectU, was supposed to resolve all claims.

The details of the new dispute, which erupted almost immediately, are less known, in part because the parties reached the settlement after a confidential mediation. But according to court documents, the parties agreed to settle for a sum of $65 million. The Winklevosses then asked whether they could receive part of it in Facebook shares and agreed to a price of $35.90 for each share, based on an investment Microsoft made nearly five months earlier that pegged Facebook’s total value at $15 billion. Under that valuation, they received 1.25 million shares, putting the stock portion of the agreement at $45 million.

Yet days before the settlement, Facebook’s board signed off on an expert’s valuation that put a price of $8.88 on its shares. Facebook did not disclose that valuation, which would have given the shares a worth of $11 million. The ConnectU founders contend that Facebook’s omission was deceptive and amounted to securities fraud.

They refuse to say how much they would ask for in a new negotiation, but they said that based on the lower valuation, they should have received roughly four times the number of shares. At today’s price, that would give the settlement a value of more than $500 million.

In its brief, the company says it was under no obligation to disclose the $8.88 valuation, which was available in public filings. Facebook describes it as one of many that it received and as “immaterial” to the calculations of ConnectU founders and their battery of lawyers and advisers.

“There was no chance that that one valuation would have affected the decision of these sophisticated investors and their entourage of advisers,” Facebook wrote in its brief.

In marketplaces that match buyers and sellers of the shares of privately held companies, Facebook’s shares have soared to more than $100 in recent trades, after adjusting for stock splits.

So far, Facebook’s arguments have won the day in multiple court rulings.

The brothers are hoping for better luck next month, before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Unless they decide to give up.

Last year, the Winklevoss brothers completed coursework for a masters in business administration at Oxford. Cameron helped to start Guestofaguest.com, a Web site that offers information about “people, places and parties” in New York, Los Angeles and the Hamptons.

“We are moving forward and trying to be productive individuals,” Cameron said.

When asked if they could have turned ConnectU into a site with hundreds of millions of users, like Mr. Zuckerberg did with Facebook, the twins replied in unison, “Absolutely.” They added that Mr. Zuckerberg deserved some credit for “not screwing up” and expanding Facebook into a community of 500 million users. But they believe the fame and fortune is undeserved.

Tyler Winklevoss said: “Mark is where he is because we approached him to include him in our idea.”

    Twins’ Facebook Fight Rages On, NYT, 30.12.2010,






Joanna Yeates disappearance

generates massive hunt on Facebook

Networking sites used to spread pictures and appeals
in bid to find answers to missing architect's whereabouts


Robin McKie
Saturday 25 December 2010
20.59 GMT
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 20.59 GMT on Saturday 25 December 2010.


The search for Joanna Yeates triggered an unprecedented campaign using social networks. Colleagues and friends of the 25-year-old set up a website dedicated to looking for her.

Users could download posters of the landscape architect to print and put up in windows, watch CCTV footage of Ms Yeates as she left Tesco Express after buying a pizza on the night of her disappearance, and sign up to a Twitter campaign. Users of Facebook were also asked to replace their own profile picture with one of Ms Yeates. In the picture she is seen holding the black-and-white cat Bernard that she and her boyfriend Greg Reardon bought last year.

Her best friend, Rebecca Scott, spoke to her as she made her way home from a Bristol pub on Friday, 17 December – she was the last known person to talk to her. "We are desperate to find her," Ms Scott told reporters. "This is totally out of character for Jo."

Ms Yeates studied landscape design and horticulture at Writtle Agricultural College, Essex, before taking a master's degree at Winchester University. Earlier this month she celebrated the second anniversary of her relationship with Mr Reardon, who is 27 and a fellow landscape architect.

The couple recently moved in together and shared a one-bedroom rented Clifton flat where – last Sunday – Mr Reardon discovered her handbag, keys, mobile phone and coat but no sign of his girlfriend. He had spent the weekend with his family in Sheffield and was expecting to find her at their flat. Police were alerted – 48 hours after she had last been seen by friends.

On the Friday in question, Ms Yeates had spent the early evening with colleagues from the Building Design Partnership, for which she worked, at the Ram pub in Park Street, near the city centre. She left at 8pm and shortly afterwards phoned Ms Scott. The pair arranged to meet for Christmas Eve drinks. Then Ms Yeates stopped at Tesco Express in Clifton village where she bought a pizza. The receipt was found in the flat, but there was no sign of the pizza or its packaging. Later Chief Inspector Gareth Bevan, of Avon and Somerset police, was photographed holding a Tesco Finest tomato, mozzarella and basil pesto pizza, like the one bought by Ms Yeates. "Does anyone know where this is?" he asked the public.

Last Thursday, Ms Yeates's parents issued a harrowing appeal for information about their daughter. "I have got to believe that she's alive. If the inevitable… if it turns out she isn't, I still want her back. I still want to hold her one last time," David Yeates told reporters. He also appealed to any abductor. "If you have, if she is dead, then please tell somebody where she is."

Teresa Yeates said: "I sometimes picture her, if she had for some reason collapsed or been discarded and if she was alive in all the snow and the cold. I just can't bear the thought of it."

Mr Reardon said: "She was my future. This Christmas was going to be our first together. We were going to head up to Scotland for New Year's Eve. She was really looking forward to Christmas. We had put up a tree." On the weekend of her disappearance, Ms Yeates had been planning to bake for a party that the couple would have held last Tuesday.

Her brother Chris handed out leaflets and put up posters around Bristol in the hope of someone coming forward with new information. On Friday he said the family was "in complete despair".

Ms Yeates was also remembered during midnight mass at Christ Church in Clifton and on Christmas Eve churchgoers across Bristol prayed for her safe return.

Tonight the website ( www.helpfindjo.wordpress.com ) set up for Jo Yeates carried a link to the story of the discovery of a woman's body and stressed that there had been no confirmation of the identity of the woman. "This will be a terrible day, no matter who the young lady is," it concludes. "Please save a thought for those who will not be having a merry Christmas."

Joanna Yeates disappearance generates massive hunt on Facebook,
G, 25.11.2010,






Facebook Wrestles

With Free Speech and Civility


December 12, 2010
The New York Times


PALO ALTO, Calif. — Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, likes to say that his Web site brings people together, helping to make the world a better place. But Facebook isn’t a utopia, and when it comes up short, Dave Willner tries to clean up.

Dressed in Facebook’s quasi-official uniform of jeans, a T-shirt and flip-flops, the 26-year-old Mr. Willner hardly looks like a cop on the beat. Yet he and his colleagues on Facebook’s “hate and harassment team” are part of a virtual police squad charged with taking down content that is illegal or violates Facebook’s terms of service. That puts them on the front line of the debate over free speech on the Internet.

That role came into sharp focus last week as the controversy about WikiLeaks boiled over on the Web, with coordinated attacks on major corporate and government sites perceived to be hostile to that group.

Facebook took down a page used by WikiLeaks supporters to organize hacking attacks on the sites of such companies, including PayPal and MasterCard; it said the page violated the terms of service, which prohibit material that is hateful, threatening, pornographic or incites violence or illegal acts. But it did not remove WikiLeaks’s own Facebook pages.

Facebook’s decision in the WikiLeaks matter illustrates the complexities that the company grapples with, on issues as diverse as that controversy, verbal bullying among teenagers, gay-baiting and religious intolerance.

With Facebook’s prominence on the Web — its more than 500 million members upload more than one billion pieces of content a day — the site’s role as an arbiter of free speech is likely to become even more pronounced.

“Facebook has more power in determining who can speak and who can be heard around the globe than any Supreme Court justice, any king or any president,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University who has written about free speech on the Internet. “It is important that Facebook is exercising its power carefully and protecting more speech rather than less.”

But Facebook rarely pleases everyone. Any piece of content — a photograph, video, page or even a message between two individuals — could offend somebody. Decisions by the company not to remove material related to Holocaust denial or pages critical of Islam and other religions, for example, have annoyed advocacy groups and prompted some foreign governments to temporarily block the site.

Some critics say Facebook does not do enough to prevent certain abuses, like bullying, and may put users at risk with lax privacy policies. They also say the company is often too slow to respond to problems.

For example, a page lampooning and, in some instances, threatening violence against an 11-year-old girl from Orlando, Fla., who had appeared in a music video, was still up last week, months after users reported the page to Facebook. The girl’s mother, Christa Etheridge, said she had been in touch with law enforcement authorities and was hoping the offenders would be prosecuted.

“I’m highly upset that Facebook has allowed this to go on repeatedly and to let it get this far,” she said.

A Facebook spokesman said the company had left the page up because it did not violate its terms of service, which allow criticism of a public figure. The spokesman said that by appearing in a band’s video, the girl had become a public figure, and that the threatening comments had not been posted until a few days ago. Those comments, and the account of the user who had posted them, were removed after The New York Times inquired about them.

Facebook says it is constantly working to improve its tools to report abuse and trying to educate users about bullying. And it says it responds as fast as it can to the roughly two million reports of potentially abusive content that its users flag every week.

“Our intent is to triage to make sure we get to the high-priority, high-risk and high-visibility items most quickly,” said Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer.

In early October, Mr. Willner and his colleagues spent more than a week dealing with one high-risk, highly visible case; rogue citizens of Facebook’s world had posted antigay messages and threats of violence on a page inviting people to remember Tyler Clementi and other gay teenagers who have committed suicide, on so-called Spirit Day, Oct. 20.

Working with colleagues here and in Dublin, they tracked down the accounts of the offenders and shut them down. Then, using an automated technology to tap Facebook’s graph of connections between members, they tracked down more profiles for people, who, as it turned out, had also been posting violent messages.

“Most of the hateful content was coming from fake profiles,” said James Mitchell, who is Mr. Willner’s supervisor and leads the team. He said that because most of these profiles, created by people he called “trolls,” were connected to those of other trolls, Facebook could track down and block an entire network relatively quickly.

Using the system, Mr. Willner and his colleagues silenced dozens of troll accounts, and the page became usable again. But trolls are repeat offenders, and it took Mr. Willner and his colleagues nearly 10 days of monitoring the page around the clock to take down over 7,000 profiles that kept surfacing to attack the Spirit Day event page.

Most abuse incidents are not nearly as prominent or public as the defacing of the Spirit Day page, which had nearly 1.5 million members. As with schoolyard taunts, they often happen among a small group of people, hidden from casual view.

On a morning in November, Nick Sullivan, a member of the hate and harassment team, watched as reports of bullying incidents scrolled across his screen, full of mind-numbing meanness. “Emily looks like a brother.” (Deleted) “Grady is with Dave.” (Deleted) “Ronald is the biggest loser.” (Deleted) Although the insults are relatively mild, as attacks on specific people who are not public figures, these all violated the terms of service.

“There’s definitely some crazy stuff out there,” Mr. Sullivan said. “But you can do thousands of these in a day.”

Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, which advises parents and teachers on Internet safety, said her organization frequently received complaints that Facebook does not quickly remove threats against individuals. Jim Steyer, executive director of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, also said that many instances of abuse seemed to fall through the cracks.

“Self-policing can take some time, and by then a lot of the damage may already be done,” he said.

Facebook maintains it is doing its best.

“In the same way that efforts to combat bullying offline are not 100 percent successful, the efforts to stop people from saying something offensive about another person online are not complete either,” Joe Sullivan said.

Facebook faces even thornier challenges when policing activity that is considered political by some, and illegal by others, like the controversy over WikiLeaks and the secret diplomatic cables it published.

Last spring, for example, the company declined to take down pages related to “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” an Internetwide protest to defend free speech that surfaced in repudiation of death threats received by two cartoonists who had drawn pictures of Muhammad. A lot of the discussion on Facebook involved people in Islamic countries debating with people in the West about why the images offended.

Facebook’s team worked to separate the political discussion from the attacks on specific people or Muslims. “There were people on the page that were crossing the line, but the page itself was not crossing the line,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Facebook’s refusal to shut down the debate caused its entire site to be blocked in Pakistan and Bangladesh for several days.

Facebook has also sought to walk a delicate line on Holocaust denial. The company has generally refused to block Holocaust denial material, but has worked with human rights groups to take down some content linked to organizations or groups, like the government of Iran, for which Holocaust denial is part of a larger campaign against Jews.

“Obviously we disagree with them on Holocaust denial,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But Rabbi Cooper said Facebook had done a better job than many other major Web sites in developing a thoughtful policy on hate and harassment.

The soft-spoken Mr. Willner, who on his own Facebook page describes his political views as “turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,” makes for an unlikely enforcer. An archaeology and anthropology major in college, he said that while he loved his job, he did not love watching so much of the underbelly of Facebook.

“I handle it by focusing on the fact that what we do matters,” he said.

    Facebook Wrestles With Free Speech and Civility, NYT, 12.10.2010,






The Facebook Skeletons Come Out


November 5, 2010
The New York Times


AMONG the many firsts in the 2010 elections, it is safe to assume that the following words had never before been uttered about a future member of Congress, “This is a candidate who is probably best known for getting drunk and having sex on television.”

The comment, made by the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, was lobbed at Sean Duffy, who overcame his bawdy past as a star on MTV’s “Real World: Boston” in 1997 to ride a wave of conservative discontent into office. Some of Mr. Duffy’s youthful indiscretions that were captured on film and dredged up by his opponents included a drunken toga party and images of him dancing on a pool table in his underwear.

With the ubiquity of technology and social networking Web sites like Facebook that allow — and compel — young people to document themselves drinking, wearing little clothing or putting themselves in otherwise compromised positions, it was a given that a generation of politicians would someday find themselves confronted with digital evidence of their more immodest and imprudent moments.

But who knew it would happen this quickly?

Politics today is rife with examples of candidates having to explain why they were posing shirtless for pictures poolside with a skimpily clad woman (Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois), simulating sex acts on a toy (the Congressional candidate Krystal Ball of Virginia), or carousing on Halloween night dressed as a ladybug (the Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware).

“I think all of us know that politicians would have to confront the Facebook skeletons in their closet, but that it would be in 20 years, not in two years,” said Anil Dash, a technology consultant and pioneer of the blogosphere when it was just beginning in the late 1990s. “By the time the next generation comes into power, they’ll just assume this is how it’s always been.”

And the list of embarrassing moments caught on film goes on. Blake Farenthold, a Republican candidate for Congress in Texas, had to defend himself after pictures surfaced right before the election of him wearing pajamas with little yellow ducks as he stood grinning next to a woman in black lingerie.

A Congressional race in Ohio became awkward after Rich Iott, the Republican candidate, was shown in a photo dressed up as a Nazi for a World War II re-enactment.

The candidates themselves are not the only ones being confronted with images from the past. In 2008, photographs of President Obama’s speechwriter Jon Favreau groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Rodham Clinton made their way onto blogs. This year, in the Minnesota race for governor, Facebook photos of the Republican candidate’s under-age son drinking alcohol were disseminated, forcing the candidate, Tom Emmer, to put out a statement on the matter. He called the episode “a serious mistake” and said his son had paid the consequences.

With so many examples to point to already, could this mean that drunken Facebook photos of the presidential candidates of 2024 and of the Supreme Court justice nominees of 2040 are already out there?

As the cases of Mr. Schock (29), Ms. Ball (28) and Mr. Favreau (29) suggest, today’s generation of future leaders has grown up in an era when letting one’s guard down for one’s Facebook friends to see is an afterthought.

Ms. Ball, a Democrat, was stunned when she found out that six-year-old party pictures were circulating online. In them, she was wearing a Santa cap and provocative lacy hosiery while holding and putting her mouth around a sex toy. The story went viral, getting attention from news media outlets as varied as Gawker and National Public Radio.

“I think I was the No. 3 most-Googled term in the whole world over some stupid gag I played when I was 22 years old,” Ms. Ball said in a phone interview on Wednesday, the day after she lost her election.

While her opponent already had a comfortable advantage in the Republican-leaning district by the time the pictures came out, Ms. Ball’s experience raises the question of whether American culture will ever evolve to the point where voters tolerate pictures of future leaders in various states of inebriation and undress.

Ms. Ball, a certified public accountant, has used the experience as an opportunity to warn of a potential chilling effect on tomorrow’s leaders. Candidates, she argued, should not be shamed out of a race because of mistakes made in their youth. “I had a whole lot of people who were older than me saying they were feeling grateful that Facebook and digital cameras weren’t around when they were growing up,” she said. “I am not the only person with stupid photos out there, and I would hate to have some young man or young woman think, ‘I can’t run for office because I did something stupid at a party however long ago.’ “

Mr. Duffy, who won his race, used the same argument in distancing himself from his “Real World” days. “I never thought I would run for Congress,” he was quoted by The Washington Post as saying in June. “If you look back at a certain reality TV show, you know that.” His involvement with the show seemed to have little impact on his campaign, despite efforts by his opponents to paint him as a debaucherous lout.

As the Facebook generation ages, time indeed may prove that they are more willing to overlook the indiscretions of their peers out of empathy.

“We’re in kind of a cultural transformation right now,” said James Lull, a professor emeritus of communication studies at San Jose State University, an author and an editor of books on media and culture. “It’s a relatively slow process in political terms. But culturally we’re going to get used to this. So I’m not sure the ‘Oh my God!’ feelings we’re getting today will be the same on down the line. I think there’s going to be an erosion to the impact.”

Still, it seems certain that right now, the aspiring leaders of the United States are busy scrubbing their Facebook profiles of incriminating evidence, looking at those who have learned the hard way. In 2008, Republican handlers failed to clean up the MySpace page of Levi Johnston, the boyfriend of vice- presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol. On the page, Mr. Johnston called himself a “redneck” who didn’t want children; his girlfriend was pregnant at the time.

Still, humans can be as unforgiving as they can be indiscreet. Daniel J. Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School and the author of “The Future of Reputation,” said a lot of people make the argument that “if everyone’s warts are exposed, hey, ‘Everybody has warts, we’ll live with it.’ ”

“I think that’s overly optimistic,” he added. “That’s not human nature.”

The Facebook Skeletons Come Out,






Facebook Makes Headway

Around the World


July 7, 2010
The New York Times


Sergey Brin, a Google founder, takes issue with people who say Google has failed to gain a foothold in social networking. Google has had successes, he often says, especially with Orkut, the dominant service in Brazil and India.

Mr. Brin may soon have to revise his answer.

Facebook, the social network service that started in a Harvard dorm room just six years ago, is growing at a dizzying rate around the globe, surging to nearly 500 million users, from 200 million users just 15 months ago.

It is pulling even with Orkut in India, where only a year ago, Orkut was more than twice as large as Facebook. In the last year, Facebook has grown eightfold, to eight million users, in Brazil, where Orkut has 28 million.

In country after country, Facebook is cementing itself as the leader and often displacing other social networks, much as it outflanked MySpace in the United States. In Britain, for example, Facebook made the formerly popular Bebo all but irrelevant, forcing AOL to sell the site at a huge loss two years after it bought it for $850 million. In Germany, Facebook surpassed StudiVZ, which until February was the dominant social network there.

With his typical self-confidence, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 26-year-old chief executive, recently said it was “almost guaranteed” that the company would reach a billion users.

Though he did not say when it would reach that mark, the prediction was not greeted with the skepticism that had met his previous boasts of fast growth.

“They have been more innovative than any other social network, and they are going to continue to grow,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “Facebook wants to be ubiquitous, and they are being successful for now.”

The rapid ascent of Facebook has no company more worried than Google, which sees the social networking giant as a threat on multiple fronts. Much of the activity on Facebook is invisible to Google’s search engine, which makes it less useful over time. What’s more, the billions of links posted by users on Facebook have turned the social network into an important driver of users to sites across the Web. That has been Google’s role.

Google has tried time and again to break into social networking not only with Orkut, but also with user profiles, with an industrywide initiative called OpenSocial, and, most recently, with Buzz, a social network that mixes elements of Facebook and Twitter with Gmail. But none of those initiatives have made a dent in Facebook.

Google is said to be trying again with a secret project for a service called Google Me, according to several reports. Google declined to comment for this article.

Google makes its money from advertising, and even here, Facebook poses a challenge.

“There is nothing more threatening to Google than a company that has 500 million subscribers and knows a lot about them and places targeted advertisements in front of them,” said Todd Dagres, a partner at Spark Capital, a venture firm that has invested in Twitter and other social networking companies. “For every second that people are on Facebook and for every ad that Facebook puts in front of their face, it is one less second they are on Google and one less ad that Google puts in front of their face.”

With nearly two-thirds of all Internet users in the United States signed up on Facebook, the company has focused on international expansion.

Just over two years ago, Facebook was available only in English. Still, nearly half of its users were outside the United States, and its presence was particularly strong in Britain, Australia and other English-speaking countries.

The task of expanding the site overseas fell on Javier Olivan, a 33-year-old Spaniard who joined Facebook three years ago, when the site had 30 million users. Mr. Olivan led an innovative effort by Facebook to have its users translate the site into more than 80 languages. Other Web sites and technology companies, notably Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, had used volunteers to translate their sites or programs.

But with 300,000 words on Facebook’s site — not counting material posted by users — the task was immense. Facebook not only encouraged users to translate parts of the site, but also let other users fine-tune those translations or pick among multiple translations. Nearly 300,000 users participated.

“Nobody had done it at the scale that we were doing it,” Mr. Olivan said.

The effort paid off. Now about 70 percent of Facebook’s users are outside the United States. And while the number of users in the United States doubled in the last year, to 123 million, according to comScore, the number more than tripled in Mexico, to 11 million, and it more than quadrupled in Germany, to 19 million.

With every new translation, Facebook pushed into a new country or region, and its spread often mirrored the ties between nations or the movement of people across borders. After becoming popular in Italy, for example, Facebook spread to the Italian-speaking portions of Switzerland. But in German-speaking areas of Switzerland, adoption of Facebook lagged. When Facebook began to gain momentum in Brazil, the activity was most intense in southern parts of the country that border on neighboring Argentina, where Facebook was already popular.

“It’s a mapping of the real world,” Mr. Olivan said.

Facebook is not popular everywhere. The Web site is largely blocked in China. And with fewer than a million users each in Japan, South Korea and Russia, it lags far behind home-grown social networks in those major markets.

Mr. Olivan, who leads a team of just 12 people, hopes to change that. Facebook recently sent some of its best engineers to a new office in Tokyo, where they are working to fine-tune searches so they work with all three Japanese scripts. In South Korea, as well as in Japan, where users post to their social networks on mobile phones more than on PCs, the company is working with network operators to ensure distribution of its service.

Industry insiders say that, most of all, Facebook is benefiting from a cycle where success breeds more success. In particular, its growing revenue, estimated at $1 billion annually, allows the company to invest in improving its product and keep competitors at bay.

“I think that Facebook is winning for two reasons,” said Bing Gordon, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a board member of Zynga, the maker of popular Facebook games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Mr. Gordon said that Facebook had hired some of the best engineers in Silicon Valley, and he said that the company’s strategy to create a platform for other software developers had played a critical role.

“They have opened up a platform, and they have the best apps on that platform,” Mr. Gordon said.

With Facebook’s social networking lead growing, it is not clear whether Google, or any other company, will succeed in derailing its march forward.

Says Danny Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Land, an industry blog, “Google can’t even get to the first base of social networks, which is people interacting with each other, much less to second or third base, which is people interacting with each other through games and applications.”

Facebook Makes Headway Around the World,






Facebook Glitch Brings

New Privacy Worries


May 5, 2010
The New York Times


For many users of Facebook, the world’s largest social network, it was just the latest in a string of frustrations.

On Wednesday, users discovered a glitch that gave them access to supposedly private information in the accounts of their Facebook friends, like chat conversations.

Not long before, Facebook had introduced changes that essentially forced users to choose between making information about their interests available to anyone or removing it altogether.

Although Facebook quickly moved to close the security hole on Wednesday, the breach heightened a feeling among many users that it was becoming hard to trust the service to protect their personal information.

“Facebook has become more scary than fun,” said Jeffrey P. Ament, 35, a government contractor who lives in Rockville, Md.

Mr. Ament said he was so fed up with Facebook that he deleted his account this week after three years of using the service. “Every week there seems to be a new privacy update or change, and I just can’t keep up with it.”

Facebook said it did not think the security hole, which was open a few hours, would have a lasting impact on the company’s reputation.

“For a service that has grown as dramatically as we have grown, that now assists with more than 400 million people sharing billions of pieces of content with their friends and the institutions they care about, we think our track record for security and safety is unrivaled,” said Elliot Schrage, the company’s vice president for public policy. “Are we perfect? Of course not.”

Facebook is increasingly finding itself at the center of a tense discussion over privacy and how personal data is used by the Web sites that collect it, said James E. Katz, a professor of communications at Rutgers University.

“It’s clear that we keep discovering new boundaries of privacy that are possible to push and just as quickly breached,” Mr. Katz said.

Social networking experts and analysts wonder whether Facebook is pushing the envelope in a way that could damage its standing over time. The privacy mishap on Wednesday, first reported by the blog TechCrunch, did not help matters.

“While this breach appears to be relatively small, it’s inopportunely timed,” said Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It threatens to undermine what Facebook hopes to achieve with its network over the next few years, because users have to ask whether it is a platform worthy of their trust.”

Over the last few months, Facebook has introduced changes that encourage users to make their photos and other information accessible to anyone on the Internet. Last month its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, unveiled plans to begin sharing users’ information with some outside Web sites, and Facebook began prompting users to link information in their profile pages, like their hobbies and hometowns, in a way that makes that information public.

That last change prompted the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group, to file a complaint on Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission.

“Facebook continues to manipulate the privacy settings of users and its own privacy policy so that it can take personal information provided by users for a limited purpose and make it widely available for commercial purposes,” Marc Rotenberg, the group’s executive director, said in a letter to the commission.

The extent of the discontent among users is hard to quantify, but one measure is a group created on Facebook to protest the recent changes, which has attracted more than 2.2 million members.

Mr. Schrage said that the company was aware that some users were not happy with the changes, but that the overall response had been positive.

Part of the reason Facebook’s recent changes are upsetting users is that, in contrast to a service like Twitter, most people signed up for Facebook with the understanding that their information would be available only to an approved circle of friends, said Danah Boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft and a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

“Facebook started out with a strong promise of privacy,” she said. “You had to be at a university or some network to sign up. That’s part of how it competed with other social networks, by being the anti-MySpace.”

As the company has changed its approach to privacy, it has introduced new ways for users to adjust their privacy settings. But these tools have grown increasingly convoluted, leaving many users frustrated and unsure of what information is available to whom. They say a site that they joined for the sake of friends and fun has started to feel too much like work.

“At this point, I have no idea how many times I’ve changed my settings,” said Lauren Snead, a 24-year-old student in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “I’ve done it so many times. I’m tired of logging in one day and seeing everything is different and trying to understand what it means.”

In addition, many users are not even aware of the privacy settings, Ms. Boyd said. A recent survey from Consumer Reports found that 23 percent of Facebook users either did not know the site offered privacy controls or chose not to use them.

Mr. Schrage said the company was working to clear up confusion about the settings.

Many frustrated users may not give up on the site because it has become a vital form of communication. Facebook continues to add users at a rapid clip, doubling in size in the last year.

“I’m not going to quit Facebook, because it’s so ingrained in the culture,” said Ryan Scannell, a 26-year-old food scientist in Chicago. “Facebook is not a private place, I don’t expect it to be. But at the same time, I’d like to control what’s accessible to strangers and what’s accessible to family and friends.”

There are financial motives behind the company’s moves. One of the ways Facebook makes money with its free service is by customizing the selection of advertisements shown to individual users. The more information publicly available about users, the more the company can make from such focused ads.

In addition, analysts say Facebook may be eyeing the lucrative market for online search, figuring that its users will be more likely to turn to their friends for advice and information than the wider Web. That opens up more opportunities for advertisers.

“They’re heating up in their battle against Google,” said Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at the Internet security firm F-Secure who analyzes social networks. “If I’m looking for a day care for my 6-year-old, I’m going to put that in my status message, not do a Google search.”

Mr. Schrage of Facebook said the controversy over the site’s changes was indicative of a larger shift online.

“Facebook has been made the center of attention around a really important issue of how technology is changing the conception of privacy, control and sharing,” he said. “People are uneasy about it, but as they start to see the benefits and advantages of it, they start to see the value of the experiences.”

Facebook Glitch Brings New Privacy Worries,







why we can't live without it

The social networking site
has topped Google in the number of hits


Sunday 21 March 2010
20.00 GMT
Zing Tsjeng
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 20.00 GMT on Sunday 21 March 2010.
A version appeared on p2 of the G2 section
of the Guardian on Monday 22 March 2010.


If you are a young adult or teenager, you can't live without Facebook. It's the first site I go to when I turn on my computer. I have even checked it on my mobile on planes and in toilets. Which should go some way toward explaining why Facebook topped Google as America's most visited site a fortnight ago.

Forget dates in the diary – Facebook is a one-stop events calendar. A friend once sent out beautiful hand-made invitations to her birthday party. "It's so quaint!" she cooed. Four days later the invites had been lost and no one could remember if the party was happening a week on Saturday or a month on Sunday.

Facebook has changed the way we approach relationships. You don't meet somebody at a party and hope you run into them again five months later. You add them to your "friends" list on the social networking site. A couple of years ago, I might have known about 30 people at university and had five close friends. Now I can keep in touch with hundreds.

The downside is that you have infinite access to the private lives of your friends. It's weird when you begin a story, only to have someone say, "I know, I saw the Facebook pictures." And it can lead to less-than-pleasant revelations about people you thought you knew. A close friend once offered to house-sit when my mother was out of town. Two weeks later, a photo album called "London FUNTIMES" appeared on the friend's profile. House-sitting now apparently includes inviting 10 people round to smoke a huge shisha pipe. Which explained the charred crater in the middle of my mum's cream carpet.

Even worse is the Facebook photobomb – when you turn up in the background of somebody else's photo doing something you shouldn't. A few years ago, you might have been an amusing but anonymous backdrop in a picture hidden in a photo album. Now, your friends immediately tag you as the girl pictured throwing up in the pint glass.

But it's not all bad news. You can at least vet new acquaintances to avoid those who join Facebook groups with "hilarious" titles such as "WTF is Alice doing in Wonderland? How did she get out of the kitchen?".

So if you're surprised that Facebook could get even more hits than Google, you clearly haven't been using it right. Either that, or you're still on Friends Reunited.

Facebook: why we can't live without it,






Facebook Withdraws Changes

in Data Use


February 19, 2009

The New York Times




Facebook, the popular social networking site where people share photos and personal updates with friends and acquaintances, lost some face on Wednesday.

After three days of pressure from angry users and the threat of a formal legal complaint by a coalition of consumer advocacy groups, the company reversed changes to its contract with users that had appeared to give it perpetual ownership of their contributions to the service.

Facebook disavowed any such intentions but said early Wednesday that it was temporarily rescinding the changes and restoring an earlier version of its membership contract.

In a message to members, the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said it would collaborate with users to create a more easily understandable document.

Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, also invited users to contribute to a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, which would serve as a governing document for the site. Facebook has been redefining notions of privacy while growing so rapidly that it now has 175 million active users, giving it a population larger than most countries.

In an interview, Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, characterized the event as a misunderstanding, stemming from a clumsy attempt by the company to simplify its contract with users, called the terms of service.

“We were not trying to make a substantive change in our rights or ability to control our members’ content on the service at all,” Mr. Kelly said. “As that misunderstanding became the main theme, we became very concerned and wanted to communicate very clearly to everyone our intentions by rolling back to the old terms of service.”

Facebook’s retreat ends a hullabaloo in which tens of thousands of Facebook members joined groups devoted to protesting the changes and bloggers heaped scorn and criticism on the company. Facebook sought to limit the damage from an uproar that in many ways was reminiscent of the flap in 2007 over its Beacon advertising service.

That project shared details of members’ activities on certain outside sites to all of their Facebook friends. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, along with 25 other consumer interest groups, had planned to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday. The complaint was going to claim that Facebook’s new rules were unfair and deceptive trade practices, because the company had repeatedly promised users that they owned their content but appeared to be saying something else in its revised terms.

The center, based in Washington, was prepared to argue that Facebook’s new rules were meant to accompany changes to the site that would give developers and advertisers the ability to access users’ contributions, like status updates, which many members use to reveal details about their lives, for example, where they are traveling.

“This was a digital rights grab,” said Marc Rotenberg, the center’s executive director. “Facebook was transferring control of user-generated content from the user to Facebook, and that was really alarming.”

He said Facebook representatives contacted him on Tuesday night to ask whether his group would refrain from filing the complaint if the company backtracked to the old language in the contract. Mr. Rotenberg agreed.

Facebook’s retreat can also be credited to the mass of members who made their voices heard in a strikingly vociferous movement that spanned the globe.

Facebook made the changes to its terms of service on Feb. 6, but they were highlighted Sunday by a blog called The Consumerist, which reviewed the contract. The blog, which is owned by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, warned people to “never upload anything you don’t feel comfortable giving away forever, because it’s Facebook’s now.”

Mr. Kelly of Facebook says that the blog made “substantial misinterpretations,” including missing a crucial provision that made Facebook’s license to members’ material subject to the user’s individual privacy settings. He conceded, however, that Facebook did not effectively communicate that nuance.

The Consumerist blog entry set off an explosion of activity that overwhelmed Facebook’s own attempts to quickly clarify the matter. In a blog post on Monday, Mr. Zuckerberg tried to reassure users that they still owned and controlled their own data and that the company had no plans to use it without their permission.

That did not satisfy Facebook users like Julius Harper, 25. On Monday, he created a Facebook group to protest the changes. Soon after, he joined with Anne Kathrine Petteroe, 32, a technology consultant in Oslo, who had started a similar group.

By Wednesday, more than 100,000 people had joined their efforts and were airing their concerns, like whether photos they post to the site could appear in ads without their permission.

“I believe Facebook on this matter, but my issue is that Facebook is not just one person,” Mr. Harper said. “They could get bought out by anybody, and those people may not share the good intentions that Mark and his team claim to have.”

Analysts say that much of the confusion and rancor this week stemmed from the fact that sites like Facebook have created a new sphere of shared information for which there are no established privacy rules.

E-mail between two people is private, for example, and a post on a message board is clearly public. But much communication among Facebook members, which is exposed only to their friends, sometimes on a so-called wall, lies in a middle ground one might call “semipublic.”

“If I post something on your wall, and then I decide to close my account, what happens to that wall post?” said Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties group. “Is that my data or your data? That’s a very tricky issue, and it’s one that hasn’t come up a whole lot in the past.”

Facebook Withdraws Changes in Data Use,






New Tool From Facebook

Extends Its Web Presence


July 24, 2008

The New York Times



SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook, the rapidly growing social network, unveiled some new features on Wednesday as it works to broaden its reach online and to recalibrate its sometimes contentious relationship with the thousands of developers writing programs for the service.

In a speech at his company’s annual conference for developers, called F8, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 24-year-old chief executive, also demonstrated the company’s new design. He predicted that there would soon be a wave of social Web sites built on top of the information users give to social networks.

“We are going to see the big social networks start to decentralize into a series of social applications across the Web,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “I think we are at the beginning of a movement and the beginning of an industry.”

To carve out a piece of that future, the company announced Facebook Connect, a way that other Web sites can integrate parts of Facebook’s service. Web sites can ask users for their Facebook user name and password, instead of creating an identity verification system themselves, and offer their users the ability to import their list of friends from Facebook.

For example, the mobile service company Loopt, based in Mountain View, Calif., helps people find their friends and see what they are doing on a map on their mobile phone. It will use Facebook Connect so its users do not have to re-enter their connections to the friends they want to track.

“Recreating the social graph and helping people identify who their friends are is never something we wanted to do,” said Evan Tana, director of product management at Loopt. “This makes our lives a lot easier.”

Sites including Google and MySpace have introduced similar systems for confirming users’ identities.

Facebook Connect is a two-way highway — information about a user’s activity on those other Web sites also travels back and appears on the “news feed” on Facebook, where it is seen by that person’s friends on the service. But Mr. Zuckerberg said users could strictly control what they share, jokingly referring to last year’s controversial Beacon advertising program, which was viewed as being overly invasive.

“We paid a lot of attention to making sure that people have complete control over what is in their feed,” he said. “We learned from last time.”

Mr. Zuckerberg also reflected on the 15 months since Facebook opened up its site to outside companies and invited them to build profitable features for it.

The move was generally seen as smart and somewhat momentous inside the tech world. Facebook says 400,000 developers have worked on tools for the site, and other companies, including Google and Microsoft, have sought to create their own competing open systems.

But Facebook’s platform has also generated its share of controversy. Many trivial applications have clogged the site, and sought to spread themselves among users using a variety of tricks. Frustrated, Facebook has tried to counter that and put more emphasis on significant and trustworthy applications.

“As happy as I am with the growth of the ecosystem, there are a lot of mistakes we made,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “I think we can all agree that we don’t want an ecosystem full of applications that are just trying to spread themselves.”

To that end, Facebook announced a series of new incentives for developers to write what it characterized as “meaningful” tools for the service. It said it would pick certain applications that meet a set of Facebook principles to be part of a new “Great Apps” program.

Those applications will get higher visibility on the service and will be able to work more closely with Facebook. Causes, a charitable giving tool, and iLike, a music sharing service, were the first two applications to receive this designation.

Sean Parker, a former Facebook executive who now runs Causes, said Facebook was trying to stimulate the creation of more sophisticated applications. “They are trying to evolve to a place where the right companies get funded and they launch more ambitious features on the platform,” he said.

Facebook said it was also setting up another level of certification, called the Facebook Verification program, for applications that meet the basic criteria of being secure and trustworthy. These applications will get added visibility and a graphical “badge.”

Facebook also unveiled a new developer’s site and pledged to communicate more openly with the entrepreneurs who have tethered their future to Facebook.

The last few months have been marked by plenty of controversy in Facebook’s world, with developers complaining that Facebook was not communicating well about changes to the service. Some accused Facebook of copying the most successful features of outside applications and introducing competing versions.

One part of its redesign, for example, duplicates some of the features of Top Friends, a popular program created by San Francisco-based Slide, a leading applications maker.

Keith Rabois, a vice president at Slide, said this was one reason that interest among venture capitalists in backing application makers had cooled. “I think every venture capitalist is looking at Facebook very differently than it did a year ago,” he said. “No one wants to build something that just becomes an R.& D. company for Facebook.”

Not everyone was negative. Blake Commagere, the developer who created zombie and vampire games for a variety of social networks, said Facebook was simply learning as it goes, like everyone else in an unprecedented Web experiment.

“It’s been a learning process for developers and for Facebook,” he said. “They are breaking new ground, but these guys are sharp. They are going to continue to improve it.”

New Tool From Facebook Extends Its Web Presence,






New Scrutiny for Facebook

Over Predators


July 30, 2007

The New York Times



SAN FRANCISCO, July 29 — Facebook, the online social network, has stolen some of MySpace’s momentum with users and the news media. Now, it is being subjected to the same accusations that it does not do enough to keep sexual predators off its site.

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, said that investigators in his state were looking into “three or more” cases of convicted sex offenders who had registered on Facebook and had “also found inappropriate images and content” on the service. The inquiry continues, he said, and state officials have contacted Facebook and asked it to remove the profiles.

“There is no question that Facebook is encountering some of the same problems that MySpace has posed,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “They should be held accountable, and we intend to do so.”

MySpace has been implicated in dozens of cases around the country in which predators used the service to contact and arrange improper meetings with minors. Some of these encounters have led to criminal charges against the offenders, and civil suits against MySpace.

Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said he was not familiar with the Connecticut investigation but that the company has received “a number” of such reports and usually takes down such profiles within 72 hours.

“We want to be a good partner to the states in attempting to address this societal problem,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’ve worked with them for quite some time now, and we look forward to continuing our fruitful partnership.”

Facebook, founded in 2004 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., has positioned itself as the safe social-networking alternative. It has generally gone to greater lengths than rivals to keep adults and under-age users apart, at first allowing only college and high school students to join the service, and then largely restricting online communication to users at the same school.

Last year, the site opened to the general public, but it still maintains various restrictions. For example, a user’s full profile is not accessible to the general online public, and the full profile of an under-18 Facebook member is not viewable by a user who is over 18, unless the two are confirmed friends on the service. But in some cases, Facebook’s younger users are vulnerable to sexual solicitations from older users, as was demonstrated last week to The New York Times by an anonymous person who described himself or herself in an e-mail message as “a concerned parent.” The evidence of this person’s activities on Facebook may give state investigators further cause for concern.

In early July, this person opened a fake account on the site, posing as a 15-year-old girl named Jerri Gelson from North Carolina. The photograph on the fake profile page is of an under-age girl whose hair conceals her face. On the profile page, Ms. Gelson — whom the “concerned parent” said was not a real person — is described as looking for “random play” and “whatever I can get.”

This person then signed up for three dozen sexually themed groups — forums of users organized around a particular topic. In the directory of groups on Facebook, under the “sexuality” category, there are now dozens of groups with sexually explicit topics, even though Facebook prohibits “obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit” material in its Content Code of Conduct policy.

The groups that were signed up for include “addicted to masturbation ... and you know if you are!”, “Facebook Swingers” and “I’m Curious About Incest.”

When the Jerri Gelson profile was linked to these groups, her name and profile photo became visible to the group’s other users, and adult men began sexually propositioning her with e-mail messages over Facebook. “I saw your profile pic and thought I should get in touch with this hot girl!” wrote one bald, goateed man from Toronto. “Like what u see?” wrote another man from Mississippi, whose profile picture featured him sitting naked on his couch.

Several other men and women who sent e-mail messages to the Jerri Gelson account also had nude pictures of themselves on their profiles.

Mr. Kelly of Facebook said the company strictly prohibits depictions of nudity on the site and groups that encourage pornography and online sexual activity. “Those people aren’t welcome on our service, and they never have been,” he said.

He also said that such images are quickly removed from Facebook, since customer service representatives monitor the site and other users are encouraged to flag inappropriate content. However, some of the explicit images sent to the Jerri Gelson account were three weeks old and are still on the site.

The person who created the Jerri Gelson page had actively joined the sex-themed groups and added some of the adults who e-mailed her to her list of confirmed friends. Mr. Kelly said, “We want to, by default, protect people, but if there’s a situation where younger users are reaching out, there’s only so much we can do.”

MySpace, a division of News Corporation, has reacted to concerns about sexual predators on its site by hiring Sentinel Tech Holding a Miami company that maintains a database of the sex-offender registries from all 50 states. State attorneys general recently announced that MySpace had deleted 29,000 profiles set up by convicted sex-offenders through such screening.

Mr. Kelly said that Facebook, which is a privately held company, was proposing a different way to identify convicted sex offenders on the service. Instead of working through Sentinel, the company has proposed building a database of names and e-mail addresses for convicted sexual offenders that could be compared to the membership rolls of Internet sites. For that approach to work, however, Facebook would have to wait until all 50 states had passed legislation requiring sex-offenders to register their e-mail addresses. Currently such legislation is signed or pending in 13 states.

Asked about that approach, Mr. Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, said, “I think there are more efficient and effective ways to do the screening.”

Mr. Blumenthal said he was taking a particular interest in Facebook because his children use the service. He said of its recent opening to a more general audience, “I have observed its mutation into a somewhat different kind of site. There are now some troubling aspects to its features and culture that were absent before.”

New Scrutiny for Facebook Over Predators,










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