Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is announcing the next steps Facebook is taking “to improve user understanding and ownership of the Facebook terms of service and, more generally, the policies of the Facebook service,” this morning.
11:10am Operator – On the call are Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Elliot Schrage, and Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s General Counsel.
11:10am Mark Zuckerberg – Today we’re going to talk about a set of documents we’ve built that are going to be the governing documents of Facebook from here on… They are really the framework of how we want to move forward. Last week, we put up an old set of terms. But what we’re discussing today are values we’ve held at Facebook for a very long time. We took last week as a really strong signal of how much people care about these principles. What we’re talking about today are policies, not products. There will be hundreds of products changes, but these are the policies we want to put in place for how we govern the site.
11:15am Mark Zuckerberg – We are rolling out new forms of participation and control. The principles are the aspirational goals we have for Facebook and how we want to craft the service going forward. The rights and responsibilities are going to be the operating rules for the site. It’s a two sided thing, for us and users, and we’ve made a lot of progress on clear language. We’ve rolled out a process so that going forward when we change it, we will have a process of notice and comment. There will be a period of time for people who are interested to get notified and comment on the changes. If there are a lot of comments, we’ll even put the documents up for a vote. That’s a pretty big step, but we think that having an open process around this is ultimately the only way to do that. We’re also putting together a council of people who are going to help us think about future changes.
11:18am Mark Zuckerberg – The silver lining over the last couple weeks is that people feel a visceral connection to their rights and responsibilities on the service.
Question: Internal process?
Mark Zuckerberg: Ironically, the change that we made a couple weeks ago was a change that shortened the document from 15 to 5 pages. We also made some mistakes, and a lot of the feedback we received is fair. Previously, we notified people of changes, but now we’re writing that into the governing documents.
Question: Who gets to vote?
Mark Zuckerberg: We will notify on everything, but when there are comments, based on the amount of comments, there will either be a vote or not. In the event that a certain threshold of people are commenting, there will be a vote.
Schrage: Because these new documents are so fundamental and important, changes to these will definitely be subject to a vote of users. It’s not necessarily going to be an up or down vote – there may be alternatives. We trust our users, and we think they are going to respond positively to this. We underestimated the amount of ownership Facebook users feel on the site. We feel pretty confident that users will make good decisions.
Question: Didn’t you know people would get upset?
11:25am Mark Zuckerberg: One of the things that we felt was that this was a pretty foundational question for us. We are one of the only services on the web where people are sharing pretty personal and intimate information. We thought it made sense that instead of having a traditional terms of service, developing new governing documents was a pretty important thing to do here. We thought thought this was a good opportunity to roll this out.
Schrage: What was proposed as an alternative solution to the terms of service was similar to terms used by other sites, but we felt this comparison was not appropriate.
Zuckerberg: It doesn’t matter what the industry standard is, Facebook is such a different type of service, it warrants a governing document like this. We expect a lot of good dialogue about this.
Question: To what extent are you considering international laws in this?
Ullyot: We will of course comply with whatever laws are applicable to us wherever those requirements come from.
Question: What could you have learned from the News Feed experience, and how do you manage expectations?
11:30am Zuckerberg: This announcement is about policy and not products. We believe that the right way to govern the site is to have principles, and within that framework, we’re going to go about building the product the best we can. What all these things have in common like News Feed and Beacon, and we should have been communicating about them more broadly. What we’ve learned is that being as transparent as possible is a really valuable thing. There will be many more product changes, including some in the next few weeks.
Question: Everyone has diverse ideas about how it should go, and you have a lot of business upside. How do you manage this tension?
11:35am Zuckerberg: You hit it on the head. Ultimately we have a lot of trust in our users, and listening to user input is very important. We’re making it so that we can’t just put in a new terms of service without everyone’s permission. We think these changes will increase the bonding and trust users place in the service.
Question: This is a fairly ambitious undertaking – to aggregate all these documents in plain English language. How do you feel this will work out?
Zuckeberg: We felt this was pretty important to do, because it’s a governing document for the site, and it needs to encompass what everyone does on the site. There are a lot of users who are also developing on the Facebook Platform, for example. We think it’s a big step forward.
Ullyot: I encourage you to take a look at the statement of rights and responsibilities – it’s not just for users, but also advertisers and developers. Our old document used to be about 44 pages, it’s now down to about 5 pages with these documents.
For more background on the response to recent changes in Facebook’s Terms of Service, check out:
- Facebook Reverts Terms of Service After Complaints (February 18th, 2009)
- Zuckerberg Responds to Concerns About Facebook’s Updated Terms of Service (February 16th, 2009)