Facebook Reverts Terms of Service After Complaints

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It’s been an eventful week for Facebook’s execs and legal team. Two weeks after the company released an updated Terms of Service, the company has decided to temporarily revert its Terms of Service to the previous version after complaints from some users and privacy advocates while a new document is drafted.

Writing in the Facebook blog again today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said,

Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.

More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.

Facebook has created the Facebook group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for users to give input about the site’s terms.

Concerns about the updated terms of service have largely revolved around the “Licenses” section, which gave Facebook a broad set of rights regarding content users publish to the service – even if they delete their account.  It read:

You are solely responsible for the User Content that you Post on or through the Facebook Service. You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

As a result of these concerns, the Electronic Privacy Information Center yesterday announced it was going to file a complaint with the FTC requesting Facebook revert its terms of service. In addition, almost 70,000 Facebook users joined a Facebook group called People Against the New Terms of Service.

For now, Facebook’s ToS is back to the version it had published before the February 4th change – “which was what most people asked us for and was the recommendation of the outside experts we consulted,” Zuckerberg says. In the meantime, Facebook will be working through the complex challenges of reflecting the “principles and values” of its 175 million global members – as well as its corporate counsel – in one document.