When Facebook Policy Goes Wrong

Earlier today Facebook shut down the highly successful Burger King Whopper Sacrifice application. The application that we previously wrote about, encourages users to remove ten of their friends in exchange for a free Whopper. The campaign was insanely successful and then Facebook shut it down due to privacy issues. Now the campaign has become arguably even more successful given all the press they’ve received due to today’s events.

Facebook has an ongoing conflict within the organization surrounding policy about what is an acceptable practice and what isn’t on the platform. This is a regular issue for Facebook, especially for Facebook Connect which still doesn’t have a clear policy on fourth party widgets. Mike Arrington argues that Facebook just damaged their ability to show what type of engagement applications can really have.

I’d have to agree. Facebook has shut down promotional applications in the past that have violated their terms, including at least one by Budweiser that was launched prior to Facebook’s change in their terms to enable depiction of alcoholic beverages within applications under certain conditions. Lack of top down control would actually bolster Facebook’s position as a leading platform rather than damage it yet the company continues to step in to police the platform.

Policing the platform is unscalable though and just like on our personal computers, users should have the choice to damage their Facebook experience if they choose to. While temporarily removing a few friends probably didn’t damage user experiences, Facebook argued that the sending of notifications when friends were removed, violated user privacy.

Honestly, I believe that the only thing that was violated is brands’ trust in the security of branded campaigns on Facebook. Alternatively, perhaps it suggests that the only safe company to run a campaign on Facebook is Facebook themselves.