Criticism of Facebook
Facebook has received criticism on a wide range of issues, including its treatment of its users, online privacy, child safety, hate speech, and the inability to terminate accounts without first manually deleting the content. In 2008, many companies removed their advertising from the site because it was being displayed on the pages of individuals and groups they found controversial. The content of some user pages, groups, blogs, and forums has been criticized for promoting or dwelling upon controversial and often divisive topics (e.g., politics, religion, sex, etc.). There have been several censorship issues, both on and off the site.
- 1 Facebook's treatment of users
- 2 Privacy concerns
- 2.1 Widening exposure of member information 2011–12
- 2.2 Issues during 2007
- 2.3 News Feed and Mini-Feed
- 2.4 Cooperation with government search requests
- 2.5 Complaint from CIPPIC
- 2.6 Data mining
- 2.7 Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts
- 2.8 Memorials
- 2.9 Customization and security
- 2.10 Quit Facebook Day
- 2.11 Photo recognition and face tagging
- 2.12 Investigation by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner 2011/2012
- 2.13 Non-users of Facebook
- 2.14 Divorce
- 3 Psychological effects
- 4 Misleading campaigns
- 5 Inappropriate content controversies
- 6 Facebook hate groups
- 7 Technical
- 8 Censorship controversies
- 9 Surveillance
- 10 Third-party responses to Facebook
- 11 Litigation
- 13 Interoperability and data portability
- 14 Better Business Bureau review
- 15 Security
- 16 Environment
- 17 Advertising
- 18 Fake accounts
- 19 See also
- 20 References
- 21 Further reading
Facebook's treatment of users
On August 19, 2013, it was reported that a Facebook user from Palestinian Autonomy Khalil Shreateh found a bug that allowed him to post material to other users' Facebook Walls. Users are not supposed to have the ability to post material to the Facebook Walls of other users unless they are approved friends of those users that they have posted material to. To prove that he was telling the truth, Shreateh posted material to Sarah Goodin's wall, a friend of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Following this, Shreateh contacted Facebook's security team with the proof that his bug was real, explaining in detail what was going on. Facebook has a bounty program in which it compensates people a $500+ fee for reporting bugs instead of using them to their advantage or selling them on the black market. However, it was reported that instead of fixing the bug and paying Shreateh the fee, Facebook originally told him that "this was not a bug" and dismissed him. Shreateh then tried a second time to inform Facebook, but they dismissed him yet again. On the third try, Shreateh used the bug to post a message to Mark Zuckerberg's Wall, stating "Sorry for breaking your privacy ... but a couple of days ago, I found a serious Facebook exploit" and that Facebook's security team was not taking him seriously. Within minutes, a security engineer contacted Shreateh, questioned him on how he performed the move and ultimately acknowledged that it was a bug in the system. Facebook temporarily suspended Shreateh's account and fixed the bug after several days. However, in a move that was met with much public criticism and disapproval, Facebook refused to pay out the 500+ fee to Shreateh; instead, Facebook responded that by posting to Zuckerberg's account, Shreateh had violated one of their terms of service policies and therefore "could not be paid." Included with this, the Facebook team strongly censured Shreateh over his manner of resolving the matter. In closing, they asked that Shreateh continue to help them find bugs.
On August 22, 2013, Yahoo News reported that Marc Maiffret, a chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm BeyondTrust, is prompting hackers to support in raising a $10,000 reward for Khalil Shreateh. On August 20, Maiffret stated that he had already raised $9,000 in his efforts, including the $2,000 he himself contributed. He and other hackers alike have denounced Facebook for refusing Shreateh compensation. Maiffret said: "He is sitting there in Palestine doing this research on a five-year-old laptop that looks like it is half broken. It's something that might help him out in a big way." Facebook representatives have since responded, "We will not change our practice of refusing to pay rewards to researchers who have tested vulnerabilities against real users." Facebook representatives also claimed they'd paid out over $1 million to individuals who have discovered bugs in the past.
Widening exposure of member information 2011–12
In 2010, the Electronic Frontier Foundation identified two personal information aggregation techniques called "connections" and "instant personalization". They demonstrated that anyone could get access to information saved to a Facebook profile, even if the information was not intended to be made public. A "connection" is created when a user clicks a "Like" button for a product or service, either on Facebook itself or an external site. Facebook treats such relationships as public information, and the user's identity may be displayed on the Facebook page of the product or service.
Instant Personalization was a pilot program which shared Facebook information with affiliated sites, such as sharing a user's list of "liked" bands with a music website, so that when the user visits the site, their preferred music plays automatically. The EFF noted that "For users that have not opted out, Instant Personalization is instant data leakage. As soon as you visit the sites in the pilot program (Yelp, Pandora, and Microsoft Docs) the sites can access your name, your picture, your gender, your current location, your list of friends, all the Pages you have Liked—everything Facebook classifies as public information. Even if you opt out of Instant Personalization, there's still data leakage if your friends use Instant Personalization websites—their activities can give away information about you, unless you block those applications individually."
On December 27, 2012, CBS News reported that Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, criticized a friend for being "way uncool" in sharing a private Facebook photo of her on Twitter, only to be told that the image had appeared on a friend-of-a-friend's Facebook news feed. Commenting on this misunderstanding of Facebook's privacy settings, Eva Galperin of the EFF said "Even Randi Zuckerberg can get it wrong. That's an illustration of how confusing they can be."
Issues during 2007
In August 2007, the code used to generate Facebook's home and search page as visitors browse the site was accidentally made public. A configuration problem on a Facebook server caused the PHP code to be displayed instead of the web page the code should have created, raising concerns about how secure private data on the site was. A visitor to the site copied, published and later removed the code from his web forum, claiming he had been served and threatened with legal notice by Facebook. Facebook's response was quoted by the site that broke the story:
|“||A small fraction of the code that displays Facebook web pages was exposed to a small number of users due to a single misconfigured web server that was fixed immediately. It was not a security breach and did not compromise user data in any way. Because the code that was released powers only Facebook user interface, it offers no useful insight into the inner workings of Facebook. The reprinting of this code violates several laws and we ask that people not distribute it further.||”|
In November, Facebook launched Beacon, a system (discontinued in September 2009) where third-party websites could include a script by Facebook on their sites, and use it to send information about the actions of Facebook users on their site to Facebook, prompting serious privacy concerns. Information such as purchases made and games played were published in the user's news feed. An informative notice about this action appeared on the third party site and gave the user the opportunity to cancel it, and the user could also cancel it on Facebook. Originally if no action was taken, the information was automatically published. On November 29 this was changed to require confirmation from the user before publishing each story gathered by Beacon.
On December 1, Facebook's credibility in regard to the Beacon program was further tested when it was reported that the New York Times "essentially accuses" Mark Zuckerberg of lying to the paper and leaving Coca-Cola, which is reversing course on the program, a similar impression. A security engineer at CA, Inc. also claimed in a November 29, 2007 blog post that Facebook collected data from affiliate sites even when the consumer opted out and even when not logged into the Facebook site. On November 30, 2007, the CA security blog posted a Facebook clarification statement addressing the use of data collected in the Beacon program:
|“||When a Facebook user takes a Beacon-enabled action on a participating site, information is sent to Facebook in order for Facebook to operate Beacon technologically. If a Facebook user clicks 'No, thanks' on the partner site notification, Facebook does not use the data and deletes it from its servers. Separately, before Facebook can determine whether the user is logged in, some data may be transferred from the participating site to Facebook. In those cases, Facebook does not associate the information with any individual user account, and deletes the data as well.||”|
The Beacon service ended in September 2009 along with the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Facebook resulting from the service.
News Feed and Mini-Feed
On September 5, 2006, Facebook introduced two new features called "News Feed" and "Mini-Feed". The first of the new features, News Feed, appears on every Facebook member's home page, displaying recent Facebook activities of the member's friends. The second feature, Mini-Feed, keeps a log of similar events on each member's profile page. Members can manually delete items from their Mini-Feeds if they wish to do so, and through privacy settings can control what is actually published in their respective Mini-Feeds.
Some Facebook members still feel that the ability to opt out of the entire News Feed and Mini-Feed system is necessary, as evidenced by a statement from the Students Against Facebook News Feed group, which peaked at over 740,000 members in 2006. Reacting to users' concerns, Facebook developed new privacy features to give users some control over information about them that was broadcast by the News Feed. According to subsequent news articles, members have widely regarded the additional privacy options as an acceptable compromise.
In December 2009, Facebook removed the privacy controls for the News Feed and Mini Feed. This change made it impossible for users to control what activities are published on their walls (and consequently the public news feed). Since users can post anything they want, this allowed people to post things that could target certain groups of people or abuse other users through other means.
In May 2010, Facebook added privacy controls and streamlined its privacy settings, giving users more ways to manage status updates and other information that is broadcast to the public News Feed. Among the new privacy settings is the ability to control who sees each new status update a user posts: Everyone, Friends of Friends, or Friends Only. Users can now hide each status update from specific people as well. However, a user who presses "like" or comments on the photo or status update of a friend cannot prevent that action from appearing in the news feeds of all the user's friends, even non-mutual ones. The "View As" option, used to show a user how privacy controls filter out what a specific given friend can see, only displays the user's timeline and gives no indication that items missing from the timeline may still be showing up in the friend's own news feed.
Cooperation with government search requests
In July 2011, aided by Facebook, Israeli authorities prevented several pro-Palestinian activists, who "announced on their Internet sites that they planned to come [t]here and cause disruptions, and told their friends", from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights in Europe by "contact[ing] other foreign ministries and simply giv[ing] them links".
The 2013 mass surveillance disclosures identified Facebook as a participant in the U.S. National Security Administration's PRISM program. Facebook now reports the number of requests it receives for user information from governments around the world.
Complaint from CIPPIC
On May 31, 2008 the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), per Director Phillipa Lawson, filed a 35-page complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner against Facebook based on 22 breaches of the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). University of Ottawa law students Lisa Feinberg, Harley Finkelstein, and Jordan Eric Plener, initiated the "minefield of privacy invasion" suit. Facebook's Chris Kelly contradicted the claims, saying that: "We've reviewed the complaint and found it has serious factual errors—most notably its neglect of the fact that almost all Facebook data is willingly shared by users." Assistant Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a report of her findings on July 16, 2009. In it, she found that several of CIPPIC's complaints were well-founded. Facebook agreed to comply with some, but not all, of her recommendations. The Assistant Commissioner found that Facebook did not do enough to ensure users granted meaningful consent for the disclosure of personal information to third parties and did not place adequate safeguards to ensure unauthorized access by third party developers to personal information.
The possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook has been a concern, as evidenced by the fact that two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students were able to download, using an automated script, over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools (MIT, NYU, the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard University) as part of a research project on Facebook privacy published on December 14, 2005. Since then, Facebook has bolstered security protection for users, responding: "We've built numerous defenses to combat phishing and malware, including complex automated systems that work behind the scenes to detect and flag Facebook accounts that are likely to be compromised (based on anomalous activity like lots of messages sent in a short period of time, or messages with links that are known to be bad)."
|“||In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to preapproved third party websites and applications that use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged into Facebook). Similarly, when one of your friends visits a preapproved website or application, it will receive General Information about you so you and your friend can be connected on that website as well (if you also have an account with that website). In these cases we require these websites and applications to go through an approval process, and to enter into separate agreements designed to protect your privacy…You can disable instant personalization on all preapproved websites and applications using your Applications and Websites privacy setting. You can also block a particular preapproved website or application by clicking "No Thanks" in the blue bar when you visit that application or website. In addition, if you log out of Facebook before visiting a preapproved application or website, it will not be able to access your information.||”|
In the United Kingdom, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has encouraged employers to allow their staff to access Facebook and other social-networking sites from work, provided they proceed with caution.
In September 2007, Facebook drew a fresh round of criticism after it began allowing non-members to search for users, with the intent of opening limited "public profiles" up to search engines such as Google in the following months. Facebook's privacy settings, however, allow users to block their profiles from search engines.
Concerns were also raised on the BBC's Watchdog program in October 2007 when Facebook was shown to be an easy way in which to collect an individual's personal information in order to facilitate identity theft. However, there is barely any personal information presented to non-friends - if users leave the privacy controls on their default settings, the only personal information visible to a non-friend is the user's name, gender, profile picture, networks, and user name.
A New York Times article in February 2008 pointed out that Facebook does not actually provide a mechanism for users to close their accounts, and raised the concern that private user data would remain indefinitely on Facebook's servers. As of 2013[update], Facebook gives users the options to deactivate or delete their accounts. Deactivating an account allows it to be restored later, while deleting it will remove the account "permanently", although some data submitted by that account ("like posting to a group or sending someone a message") will remain.
Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts
Such memorial groups have also raised legal issues. Notably, on January 1, 2008, one such memorial group posted the identity of murdered Toronto teenager Stefanie Rengel, whose family had not yet given the Toronto Police Service their consent to release her name to the media, and the identities of her accused killers, in defiance of Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act which prohibits publishing the names of under-age criminals. While police and Facebook staff attempted to comply with the privacy regulations by deleting such posts, they noted that it was difficult to effectively police the individual users who repeatedly republished the deleted information.
Customization and security
Facebook is often compared to MySpace but one significant difference between the two sites is the level of customization. MySpace allows users to decorate their profiles using HTML and CSS while Facebook allows only plain text. However, a number of users have tweaked their profiles by using "hacks." On February 24, 2006, a pair of users exploited a cross-site scripting (XSS) hole on the profile page and created a fast-spreading worm, loading a custom CSS file on infected profiles that made them look like MySpace profiles.
On April 19, 2006, a user was able to embed an iframe into his profile and load a custom off-site page featuring a streaming video and a flash game from Drawball. He has since been banned from Facebook.[unreliable source?]
Quit Facebook Day
Quit Facebook Day was an online event which took place on May 31, 2010 (coinciding with Memorial Day), in which Facebook users stated that they would quit the social network, due to privacy concerns. It was estimated that 2% of Facebook users coming from the United States would delete their accounts. However, only 33,000 users quit the site. The number one reason for users to quit Facebook was privacy concerns (48%), being followed by a general dissatisfaction with Facebook (14%), negative aspects regarding Facebook friends (13%) and the feeling of getting addicted to Facebook (6%). Facebook quitters were found to be more concerned about privacy, more addicted to the Internet and more conscientious.
Photo recognition and face tagging
Facebook enabled an automatic facial recognition feature in June 2011, called "Tag Suggestions", a product of a research project named "DeepFace". The feature compares newly uploaded photographs to those of the uploader's Facebook friends, in order to suggest photo tags. Facebook has defended the feature, saying users can disable it. Facebook introduced the feature in an opt-out basis. European Union data-protection regulators said they would investigate the feature to see if it violated privacy rules.
Investigation by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner 2011/2012
In August 2011, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) started an investigation after receiving 22 complaints by europe-v-facebook.org which was founded by a group of Austrian students. The DPC stated in first reactions that the Irish DPC is legally responsible for privacy on Facebook for all users within the European Union and that he will "investigate the complaints using his full legal powers if necessary". The complaints were filed in Ireland because all users who are not residents of the United States or Canada have a contract with "Facebook Ireland Ltd", located in Dublin, Ireland. Under European law Facebook Ireland is the "data controller" for facebook.com, and therefore, facebook.com is governed by European data protection laws. Facebook Ireland Ltd. was established by Facebook Inc. to avoid US taxes (see Double Irish arrangement).
The group europe-v-facebook.org made access requests at Facebook Ireland and received up to 1.222 pages of data per person in 57 data categories that Facebook was holding about them, including data that was previously removed by the users. Despite the amount of information given, the group claimed that Facebook did not give them all of its data. Some of the information not included was "likes", data about the new face recognition function, data about third party websites that use "social plugins" visited by users and information about uploaded videos. Currently the group claims that Facebook holds at least 84 data categories about every user.
In an interview with the Irish Independent a spokesperson said that the DPC will "go and audit Facebook, go into the premises and go through in great detail every aspect of security". He continued by saying: "It's a very significant, detailed and intense undertaking that will stretch over four or five days." In December 2011 the DPC has published a first report on Facebook. This report was not legally binding but suggested changes that Facebook should undertake until July 2012. The DPC is planning to do a review about Facebook's progress in July 2012.
Non-users of Facebook
An article published by USA Today claimed that Facebook has created a web log of pages visited both by its members and by others. Facebook relies on tracking cookies to keep track of pages visited by more than 800 million individuals.
According to the article, the United States Congress and the world wide web consortium are attempting to set new guidelines to deal with privacy concerns. It is not clear whether the information collected in this manner is provided only to advertisers and no others.
Social networks, like Facebook, can have a detrimental effect on marriages with users becoming worried about their spouse's contacts and relations with other people online, leading to marital breakdown and divorce. In a 2009 commercial survey in the UK, around 20 percent of divorce petitions included some kind of reference to Facebook.
Facebook has been criticized for making people envious and unhappy due to the constant exposure to positive yet unrepresentative highlights of their peers. Such highlights include, but are not limited to, wall posts, videos, and photos that depict or reference such positive or otherwise outstanding activities, experiences, and facts. This effect is caused mainly by the fact that most users of Facebook usually only display the positive aspects of their lives while excluding the negative, though it is also strongly connected to inequality and the disparities between social groups as Facebook is open to users from all classes of society. Sites such as AddictionInfo.org state that this kind of envy has profound effects on other aspects of life and can lead to severe depression, self-loathing, rage and hatred, resentment, feelings of inferiority and insecurity, pessimism, suicidal tendencies and desires, social isolation, and other issues that can prove very serious. This condition has often been called "Facebook Envy" or "Facebook Depression" by the media.
A joint study conducted by two German universities demonstrated Facebook envy and found that as many as one out of three people actually feel worse and less satisfied with their lives after visiting the site. Vacation photos were found to be the most common source of feelings of resentment and jealousy. After that, social interaction was the second biggest cause of envy, as Facebook users compare the number of birthday greetings, likes, and comments to those of their friends. Visitors who contributed the least tended to feel the worst. "According to our findings, passive following triggers invidious emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations; and socialize," the study states.
A 2013 study found that the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt afterwards.
Research performed by psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University indicated that Facebook adds stress to users' lives. Causes of stress included fear of missing important social information, fear of offending contacts, discomfort or guilt from rejecting user requests or deleting unwanted contacts or being unfriended or blocked by Facebook friends or other users, the displeasure of having friend requests rejected or ignored, the pressure to be entertaining, criticism or intimidation from other Facebook users, and having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of friends. Many people who started using Facebook for positive purposes or with positive expectations have found that the website has negatively impacted their lives.
Next to that, the increasing number of messages and social relationships embedded in SNS also increases the amount of social information demanding a reaction from SNS users. Consequently SNS users perceive they are giving too much social support to other SNS friends. This dark side of SNS usage is called ‘social overload’. It is caused by the extent of usage, number of friends, subjective social support norms, and type of relationship (online-only vs offline friends) while age has only an indirect effect. The psychological and behavioral consequences of social overload include perceptions of SNS exhaustion, low user satisfaction, and high intentions to reduce or stop using SNS.
The "World Unplugged" study, which was conducted in 2011, claims that for some users quitting social networking sites is comparable to quitting smoking or giving up alcohol. Another study conducted 2012 by researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the U.S. found that drugs like alcohol and tobacco could not keep up with social networking sites regarding their level of addictiveness. A 2013 study in the journal CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that some users actually decide to quit social networking sites because of their feeling of getting addicted to Facebook.
Other psychological effects
It has been admitted by many students that they have faced bullying on the site, which leads to psychological harms. Students of high schools face a possibility of bullying and other adverse behaviors over Facebook every day. Many studies have attempted to discover whether Facebook has a positive or negative effect on children’s and teenagers’ social lives, and many of them have come to the conclusion that there are distinct social problems that arise with Facebook usage. British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield stuck up for the issues that children encounter on social media sites. She said that they can rewire the brain, which caused some hysteria over whether or not social networking sites are safe. She did not back up her claims with research, but did cause quite a few studies to be done on the subject. When that self is then broken down by others by badmouthing, criticism, harassment, criminalization or vilification, intimidation, demonization, demoralization, belittlement, or attacking someone over the site it can cause much of the envy, anger, or depression.
Sherry Turkle, in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, argues that social media bring people closer and further apart at the same time. One of the main points she makes is that there is a high risk in treating persons online with dispatch like objects. Although people are networked on Facebook, their expectations of each other tend to be lessened. According to Turkle, this could cause a feeling of loneliness in spite of being together.
Experiment on users
A March 2014 research paper written by authors affiliated to Facebook claimed to have experimented on over 689,003 of its users from January 11 to January 18, 2012, in an attempt to identify emotional contagion effects by altering the amount of emotional content in the targeted users' news feed. The experiment was later criticised in the media, with disagreements over whether applicable guidelines for human subject research had been followed. Participants had not been specifically warned about the experiments or given an opportunity to opt out, though the users had agreed to Facebook's Data Use Policy when registering to Facebook; there was disagreement about whether this constituted informed consent. A correction to the paper was later published to clarify the ethical situation of the research article.
In May 2011, emails were sent to journalists and bloggers making critical allegations about Google's privacy policies; however, it was later discovered that the anti-Google campaign, conducted by PR giant Burson-Marsteller, was paid for by Facebook in what CNN referred to as "a new level skullduggery" and which Daily Beast called a "clumsy smear." While taking responsibility for the campaign, Burson-Marsteller said it should not have agreed to keep its client's (Facebook's) identity a secret. "Whatever the rationale, this was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined," it said in a statement.
Inappropriate content controversies
Intellectual property infringement
One can easily create an account and impersonate another person, such as a celebrity, often for malicious or mischievous reasons and to harass and/or deceive others. This criticism is not unique to Facebook, since any social-networking site with user accounts has the potential for users to create false accounts but due to its popularity and wide use Facebook is cited as the main cause of this on the internet. Identity theft is also a potential problem for any celebrity or public figure who uses Facebook and other social network accounts to get in touch with their fans as any identity thief(s) who creates multiple accounts for one celebrity makes it almost impossible to prove the authenticity of any real celebrity's actual account and can cause many issues both for the fans and the figure in question. Some online scammers have used the photos of porn stars or other models to engage in "love fraud" and extort money from unsuspecting online lovers or fans.
On July 24, 2008, the High Court in London ordered a British cameraman to pay £22,000 (then about US$43,700) for breach of privacy and libel. He had posted a fake Facebook page purporting to be that of a former schoolfriend and business colleague, Mathew Firsht, with whom he had fallen out in 2000. The fake page claimed that Firsht was homosexual and untrustworthy. The case is believed to be the first successful invasion of privacy and defamation verdict against someone over an entry on a social-networking site.
Approval of violent content
In early 2013, Facebook was criticised for allowing users to upload and share videos depicting violent content (e.g. clips of people apparently being decapitated by terrorists). Facebook subsequently banned such material from appearing on the site. However, in October 2013 Facebook stated that while continuing a ban on Breastfeeding pictures, they would now allow clips of extreme violence, claiming that users should be allowed to watch and condemn, but not celebrate such acts. This move was heavily criticised and much concern was expressed for such material causing long-term psychological damage to viewers, as well as being accessible by young users of the site. Facebook later turned around their decision again to accept such content and later stated that any material in future must be accompanied by a warning.
Anorexia and bulimia
Facebook has received criticism from users and from people outside the Facebook community about hosting pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia information. British eating disorder charity B-EAT called on all social-networking sites to curb "pro-ana" (anorexia) and "pro-mia" (bulimia) pages and groups, naming MySpace and Facebook specifically.
On August 3, 2007, British companies including First Direct, Vodafone, Virgin Media, The Automobile Association, Halifax and the Prudential removed their advertisements from Facebook. A Virgin Media spokeswoman said "We want to advertise on social networks but we have to protect our brand". The companies found that their services were being advertised on pages of the British National Party, a far-right political party in the UK. New Media Age magazine was first to alert the companies that their ads were coming up on BNP's Facebook page.
Facebook hate groups
Virtual groups differ from traditional hate groups, which are defined as any organized group that advocates hostility to a certain individual, or a specific group of individuals. A hate group, in a traditional sense, is any organized group that advocates hostility to a certain individual, or a specific group of individuals. Traditionally, the primary means by which hate groups recruited members or spread their message of intolerance were by word of mouth, or by pamphleteering. However, on the Web, a hate group does not have to have any corresponding offline organisation.
Facebook hate group creators choose their target, set up a site, and then recruit members. Any Facebook user can make a "group" at any time. The creator invites followers to post comments, add pictures and participate in discussion boards. A Facebook "page" is similar, except one must "like" the page to become a member. Because of the ease of creating and joining such groups, many so-called "hate" groups exist only in cyberspace.
Pro-mafia groups' case
In Italy, the discovery of pro-mafia groups caused an alert in the country and brought the government, after a short debate, to rapidly issue a law which will force ISPs to deny access to entire sites in case of refused removal of illegal contents; the removal can be requested by a prosecutor in any case in which there is a suspicion that criminal speech (a defense of or incitement to crime) is published on a website. The amendment was passed by the Italian Senate and now needs to be passed unchanged by the Chamber of Deputies to become immediately effective.
On March 31, 2010, the Today Show ran a segment detailing the deaths of three separate adolescent girls and trolls' subsequent reactions to their deaths. Shortly after the suicide of high school student Alexis Pilkington, anonymous posters began trolling for reactions across various message boards, referring to Pilkington as a "suicidal CUSS", and posting graphic images on her Facebook memorial page. The segment also included an exposé of a 2006 accident, in which an eighteen-year-old student out for a drive fatally crashed her father's car into a highway pylon; trolls e-mailed her grieving family the leaked pictures of her mutilated corpse.
There have been cases where Facebook "trolls" were jailed for their communications on Facebook, particularly memorial pages. In Autumn 2010, Colm Coss of Ardwick, Britain, was sentenced to 26 weeks in jail under s127 of the Communications Act 2003 of Great Britain, for "malicious communications" for leaving messages deemed obscene and hurtful on Facebook memorial pages.
In April 2011, Bradley Paul Hampson was sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of using a carriage service, the Internet, to cause offense, for posts on Facebook memorial pages, and one count each of distributing and possessing child pornography when he posted images on the memorial pages of the deceased with phalluses superimposed alongside phrases such as "Woot I'm dead".
A series of pro-rape and 'rape joke' content on Facebook drew attention from the media and women's groups. Rape Is No Joke (RINJ), a group opposing the pages, argued that removing "pro-rape" pages from Facebook and other social media was not a violation of free speech in the context of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the concepts recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. RINJ repeatedly challenged Facebook to remove the rape pages. RINJ then turned to advertisers on Facebook telling them not to let their advertising be posted on Facebook's 'rape pages'.
Following a campaign that involved the participation of Women, Action and the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and the activist Soraya Chemaly, who were among 100 advocacy groups, Facebook agreed to update its policy on hate speech. The campaign highlighted content that promoted domestic and sexual violence against women, and used over 57,000 tweets and more than 4,900 emails to create outcomes such as the withdrawal of advertising from Facebook by 15 companies, including Nissan UK, House of Burlesque and Nationwide UK. The social media website initially responded by stating that "While it may be vulgar and offensive, distasteful content on its own does not violate our policies.", but then agreed to take action on May 29, 2013 after it had "become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate."
Disabling of user accounts
There have been complaints of user accounts easily being mistakenly disabled for violating Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The disabling is often automated and can be easily triggered by a user filing a report on an account, regardless of whether or not the report is legitimate. This can also be triggered by attempting to earn free Facebook credits for the first time after signing up on Facebook, or by users adding money to their accounts or making a purchase, regardless of having a verified account via email or phone number, credit or bank account. Once Facebook disables an account, whether it does so for unconfirmed reasons or a suspicion that something may be awry, it is impossible to reinstate the account, partly due to lack of in-person support and partly because any attempt to do so sends the account holder into a closed loop.
Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities is often misleading. For example, it states that joining a school network is not a requirement, even though users are often disabled for not joining a school network. Facebook has disabled user accounts for having names deemed to be fake despite being real. Once an account is disabled, it can no longer be logged into and all public traces of it disappear.
Deleting users' statuses
There have been complaints of user statuses being mistakenly or intentionally deleted for alleged violations of Facebook's posting guidelines. Especially for non-English speaking writers, Facebook does not have a proper support system to genuinely read the content and make decisions. Sometimes the content of a status did not have any "abusive" or defaming language, but it nevertheless got deleted on the basis that it had been secretly reported by a group of people as "offensive". For other languages than English, Facebook till now is not able to identify the group approach that is used to vilify humanitarian activism. In another incident, Facebook had to apologize after it deleted a free speech group's post about the abuse of human rights in Syria. In that case, a spokesman for Facebook said the post was "mistakenly" removed by a member of its moderation team after receiving a high volume of take-down requests.
Enabling of harassment
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Facebook instituted a policy by which it is now self-policed by the community of Facebook users. Some users have complained that this policy allows Facebook to empower abusive users to harass them by allowing them to submit reports on even benign comments and photos as being "offensive" or "in violation of Facebook Rights and Responsibilities" and that enough of these reports result in the user who is being harassed in this way getting their account blocked for a predetermined number of days or weeks, or even deactivated entirely.
Lack of customer support
Facebook lacks live support, making it difficult to resolve issues that require the services of an administrator or are not covered in the FAQs, such as the enabling of a disabled account. The automated emailing system used when filling out a support form often refers users back to the help center or to pages that are outdated and cannot be accessed, leaving users at a dead end with no further support available.[not in citation given]
Downtime and outages
Facebook has had a number of outages and downtime large enough to draw some media attention. A 2007 outage resulted in a security hole that enabled some users to read other users' personal mail. In 2008, the site was inaccessible for about a day, from many locations in many countries. In spite of these occurrences, a report issued by Pingdom found that Facebook had less downtime in 2008 than most social-networking websites. On September 16, 2009, Facebook started having major problems with loading when people signed in. On September 18, 2009, Facebook went down for the second time in 2009, the first time being when a group of hackers were deliberately trying to drown out a political speaker who had social networking problems from continuously speaking against the Iranian election results. On August 10, 2011 Facebook was in-accessible. On March 5, 2012 again, the website was in-accessible for about half an hour. On November 9, 2012, Facebook had major loading problems, sometimes not loading at all, and messages could not be sent. The problem was resolved within an hour.
In October 2009, an unspecified number of Facebook users were unable to access their accounts for over three weeks. On September 23, 2010, nobody within the UK, US, and Latin America could log into Facebook. Facebook quoted a DNS failure.
In September 2008, Facebook permanently moved its users to what they termed the "New Facebook" or Facebook 3.0. This version contained several different features and a complete layout redesign. Between July and September, users had been given the option to use the new Facebook in place of the original design, or to return to the old design.
In October 2009, Facebook redesigned the news feed so that the user could view all types of things that their friends were involved with. In a statement, they said,
... your applications [stories] generate can show up in both views. The best way for your stories to appear in the News Feed filter is to create stories that are highly engaging, as high quality, interesting stories are most likely to garner likes and comments by the user's friends.
This redesign was explained as:
News Feed will focus on popular content, determined by an algorithm based on interest in that story, including the number of times an item is liked or commented on. Live Feed will display all recent stories from a large number of a user's friends.
The redesign was met immediately with criticism with users, many who did not like the amount of information that was coming at them. This was also compounded by the fact that people couldn't select what they saw. Immediately, groups formed, one getting over 1,600,000 within the first two weeks of the update.
The change was described by Gawker as Facebook's Great Betrayal, forcing user profile photos and friends lists to be visible in users' public listing, even for users who had explicitly chosen to hide this information previously, and making photos and personal information public unless users were proactive about limiting access. For example, a user whose "Family and Relationships" information was set to be viewable by "Friends Only" would default to being viewable by "Everyone" (publicly viewable). That is, information such as the gender of partner the user is interested in, relationship status, and family relations became viewable to those even without a Facebook account. Facebook was heavily criticized for both reducing its users' privacy and pushing users to remove privacy protections. Groups criticizing the changes include the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, had hundreds of personal photos and his events calendar exposed in the transition. Facebook has since re-included an option to hide friends lists from being viewable; however, this preference is no longer listed with other privacy settings, and the former ability to hide the friends list from selected people among one's own friends is no longer possible. Journalist Dan Gillmor deleted his Facebook account over the changes, stating he "can't entirely trust Facebook" and Heidi Moore at Slate's Big Money temporarily deactivated her account as a "conscientious objection". Other journalists have been similarly disappointed and outraged by the changes. Defending the changes, founder Mark Zuckerberg said "we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it". The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada launched another investigation into Facebook's privacy policies after complaints following the change.
Facebook has been criticized heavily for 'tracking' users, even when logged out of the site. Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovic discovered that when a user logs out of Facebook, the cookies from that login are still kept in the browser, allowing Facebook to track users on websites that include "social widgets" distributed by the social network. Facebook has denied the claims, saying they have 'no interest' in tracking users or their activity. They also promised after the discovery of the cookies that they would remove them, saying they will no longer have them on the site. A group of users in the United States have sued Facebook for breaching privacy laws.
In September 2011, Facebook announced a new feature called Timeline, which Zuckerberg claimed would make navigating through profiles easier. It was later decided that Timeline would become mandatory for all profiles; however, a large percentage of Facebook users have rejected this change.
A similar change to the news feed in September 2011 also resulted in controversy.
As of August 2012, Facebook started migrating profiles to the Timeline format.
Facebook was met with further criticism following an announcement on 12 October 2013 stating that they would now retire the 'Who can look you up?' feature, enabling user's profiles to be now looked up by anyone using the site, whereas previously the feature enabled users to place high restrictions on searching of their profiles.
Facebook's search function has been accused of preventing users from searching for certain terms. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has written about Facebook's possible censorship of "Ron Paul" as a search term. MoveOn.org's Facebook group for organizing protests against privacy violations could for a time not be found by searching. The very word privacy was also restricted. Facebook claimed that the problem was a bug.
Although many groups praising 'controversial' Islamic practices, such as pictures of Islamic terrorists beheading captives, sexually provocative pictures of young children with salacious comments (often in Arabic), and posts praising 'Jihad' against the West, are permitted, despite hundreds of people reporting them, Facebook consistently reply with "These posts do not violate Facebook community standards". Meanwhile many posts or links to external articles criticising these Islamic posts & pictures, are removed and the accounts posting the criticisms are often blocked and hacked, while members with 'Islamic' sounding names posting threats of violence & death threats remain un-censured.
Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for removing photos uploaded by mothers breastfeeding their babies and canceling their Facebook accounts. Although photos that show an exposed breast violate Facebook's decency code, even when the baby covered the nipple, Facebook took several days to respond to criticism and deactivate a paid advertisement for a dating service that used a photo of a topless model.
The breastfeeding photo controversy continued following public protests and the growth in the online membership in the Facebook group titled "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)." In December 2011, Facebook removed photos of mothers breastfeeding and after public criticism, restored the photos. The company said it removed the photos they believed violated the pornographic rules in the company's terms and conditions. During February 2012, the company renewed its policy of removing photos of mothers breastfeeding. Founders of a Facebook group "Respect the Breast" reported that "women say they are tired of people lashing out at what is natural and what they believe is healthy for their children."
Censorship of editorial content
On February 4, 2010, a number of Facebook groups against the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) were removed without any reason given. The DAB is one of the largest pro-Beijing political parties in Hong Kong. The affected groups have since been restored.
Accusation of politically biased granting of group upgrades
In May 2011, Facebook announced that in the coming months it will be "archiving" all groups in the old format, part of the consequence of which is losing all the existing members of a group, which would effectively destroy many groups, forcing them to re-acquire members from scratch. A few groups have been given an option to "upgrade" to the new groups format, which keeps the members, but the criteria for determining whether a group is offered this "upgrade" are unknown. Some groups have had success in getting this upgrade by having activity in their group, while others have not. One article has claimed an empirical observation that disproportionately more "liberal" groups have been able to upgrade than "conservative" groups, leading to accusations of potential political bias, or of politically motivated censorship of conservative groups.
The notion that people are very much aware that they are being surveiled on websites, like Facebook, and use the surveillance as an opportunity to portray themselves in a way that connotes a certain lifestyle—of which, that individual may, or may not, distort how they are perceived in reality.
Employer-employee privacy issues
In an effort to surveil the personal lives of current, or prospective, employees, some employers have asked employees to disclose their Facebook log-in information. This has resulted in the passing of a bill in New Jersey making it illegal for employers to ask (potential, or current) employees for access to their Facebook accounts. Friedman, Matt (21 March 2013), "Bill to ban companies from asking about workers' Facebook accounts is headed to governor", The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)
Student privacy concerns
Students who post illegal or otherwise inappropriate material have faced disciplinary action from their universities, colleges, and schools including expulsion.[further explanation needed] Others posting libelous content relating to faculty have also faced disciplinary action.
Effect on higher education
On January 23, 2006, The Chronicle of Higher Education continued an ongoing national debate on social networks with an opinion piece written by Michael Bugeja, director of the Journalism School at Iowa State University, entitled "Facing the Facebook". Bugeja, author of the Oxford University Press text Interpersonal Divide (2005), quoted representatives of the American Association of University Professors and colleagues in higher education to document the distraction of students using Facebook and other social networks during class and at other venues in the wireless campus. Bugeja followed up on January 26, 2007 in The Chronicle with an article titled "Distractions in the Wireless Classroom", quoting several educators across the country who were banning laptops in the classroom. Similarly, organizations such as the National Association for Campus Activities, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and others have hosted seminars and presentations to discuss ramifications of students' use of Facebook and other social-networking sites.
The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative has also released a brief pamphlet entitled "7 Things You Should Know About Facebook" aimed at higher education professionals that "describes what [Facebook] is, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning".
Some research on Facebook in higher education suggests that there may be some small educational benefits associated with student Facebook use, including improving engagement which is related to student retention. More recent research has found that time spent on Facebook is related to involvement in campus activities. This same study found that certain Facebook activities like commenting and creating or RSVPing to events were positively related to student engagement while playing games and checking up on friends was negatively related. Furthermore, using technologies such as Facebook to connect with others can help college students be less depressed and cope with feelings of loneliness and homesickness.
Effect on college student grades
As of February 2012, only four published peer-reviewed studies have examined the relationship between Facebook use and grades. There is considerable variance in the findings. Pasek et al. (2009) found there was no relationship between Facebook use and grades. Kolek and Saunders (2008) found that there were no differences in overall grade point average (GPA) between users and non-users of Facebook. Kirschner and Karpinski (2010) found that Facebook users reported a lower mean GPA than non-users. Junco's (2012) study clarifies the discrepancies in these findings. While Junco (2012) found a negative relationship between time spent on Facebook and student GPA in his large sample of college students, the real-world impact of the relationship was negligible. Furthermore, Junco (2012) found that sharing links and checking up on friends were positively related to GPA while posting status updates was negatively related. In addition to noting the differences in how Facebook use was measured among the four studies, Junco (2012) concludes that the ways in which students use Facebook are more important in predicting academic outcomes.
Third-party responses to Facebook
In 2010, the Office of the Data Protection Supervisor, a branch of the government of the Isle of Man, received so many complaints about Facebook that they deemed it necessary to provide a "Facebook Guidance" booklet (available online as a PDF file), which cited (amongst other things) Facebook policies and guidelines and included an elusive Facebook telephone number. This number when called, however, proved to provide no telephone support for Facebook users, and only played back a recorded message advising callers to review Facebook's online help information.
In 2010, Facebook reportedly allowed an objectionable page, deemed by the Islamic Lawyers Forum (ILF), to be anti-Muslim. The ILF filed a petition with Pakistan's Lahore High Court. On May 18, 2010, Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry ordered Pakistan's Telecommunication Authority to block access to Facebook until May 31. The offensive page had provoked street demonstrations in Muslim countries due to visual depictions of Prophet Mohammed, which are regarded as blasphemous by Muslims. A spokesman said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority would move to implement the ban once the order has been issued by the Ministry of Information and Technology. "We will implement the order as soon as we get the instructions", Khurram Mehran told AFP. "We have already blocked the URL link and issued instruction to Internet service providers yesterday", he added. Rai Bashir told AFP that "We moved the petition in the wake of widespread resentment in the Muslim community against the Facebook contents". The petition called on the government of Pakistan to lodge a strong protest with the owners of Facebook, he added. Bashir said a PTA official told the judge his organization had blocked the page, but the court ordered a total ban on the site. People demonstrated outside court in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan, carrying banners condemning Facebook. Protests in Pakistan on a larger scale took place after the ban and widespread news of that objectionable page. The ban was lifted on May 31 after Facebook reportedly assured the Lahore High Court that it would remedy the issues in dispute.
Organizations blocking access
Ontario government employees, Federal public servants, MPPs, and cabinet ministers were blocked from access to Facebook on government computers in May 2007. When the employees tried to access Facebook, a warning message "The Internet website that you have requested has been deemed unacceptable for use for government business purposes". This warning also appears when employees try to access YouTube, MySpace, gambling or pornographic websites. However, innovative employees have found ways around such protocols, and many claim to use the site for political or work-related purposes.
A number of local governments including those in the UK and Finland imposed restrictions on the use of Facebook in the workplace due to the technical strain incurred. Other government-related agencies, such as the US Marine Corps have imposed similar restrictions. A number of hospitals in Finland have also restricted Facebook use citing privacy concerns.
Employees of Broward County, Florida have been blocked from accessing Facebook and most social-networking and blog sites since 2009.
Schools blocking access
The University of New Mexico (UNM) in October 2005 blocked access to Facebook from UNM campus computers and networks, citing unsolicited e-mails and a similar site called UNM Facebook. After a UNM user signed into Facebook from off campus, a message from Facebook said, "We are working with the UNM administration to lift the block and have explained that it was instituted based on erroneous information, but they have not yet committed to restore your access." UNM, in a message to students who tried to access the site from the UNM network, wrote, "This site is temporarily unavailable while UNM and the site owners work out procedural issues. The site is in violation of UNM's Acceptable Computer Use Policy for abusing computing resources (e.g., spamming, trademark infringement, etc.). The site forces use of UNM credentials (e.g., NetID or email address) for non-UNM business." However, after Facebook created an encrypted login and displayed a precautionary message not to use university passwords for access, UNM unblocked access the following spring semester.
The Columbus Dispatch reported on June 22, 2006, that Kent State University's athletic director had planned to ban the use of Facebook by athletes and gave them until August 1 to delete their accounts. On July 5, 2006, the Daily Kent Stater reported that the director reversed the decision after reviewing the privacy settings of Facebook.
Several web sites concerned with social networking, such as Plugtodo.com and Salesforce.com have criticized the lack of information that users get when they share data. Advanced users cannot limit the amount of information anyone can access in their profiles, but Facebook promotes the sharing of personal information for marketing purposes, leading to the promotion of the service using personal data from users who are not fully aware of this. Facebook exposes personal data, without supporting open standards for data interchange. According to several communities and authors closed social networking, on the other hand, promotes data retrieval from other people while not exposing one's personal information.
Class action lawsuit
On November 17, 2009, Rebecca Swift, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, filed a class action lawsuit against Zynga Game Network Inc. and Facebook, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for violation of the Unfair competition law and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and for unjust enrichment.
Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss, and Tyler Winklevoss, founders of the social network ConnectU, filed a lawsuit against Facebook in September 2004. The lawsuit alleged that Zuckerberg had broken an oral contract to build the social-networking site, copied the idea, and used source code that they provided to Zuckerberg to create competing site Facebook. Facebook countersued in regards to Social Butterfly, a project put out by The Winklevoss Chang Group, an alleged partnership between ConnectU and i2hub. It named among the defendants ConnectU, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Divya Narendra, and Wayne Chang, founder of i2hub. The parties reached a settlement agreement in February 2008, for $20 million in cash and 1,253,326 Facebook shares. On August 26, 2010, The New York Times reported that Facebook shares were trading at $76 per share in the secondary market, putting the total settlement value now at close to $120 million.
ConnectU filed another lawsuit against Facebook on March 11, 2008, attempting to rescind the settlement, claiming that Facebook, in settlement negotiations, had overstated the value of stock it was granting the ConnectU founders as part of the settlement. ConnectU argued that Facebook represented itself as being worth $15 billion at the time, due to the post-money valuation arising from Microsoft's purchase in 2007 of a 1.6% stake in Facebook for US $246 million. Facebook announced that valuation in a press release. However, Facebook subsequently performed an internal valuation that estimated a company value of $3.75 billion. ConnectU then fired the law firm Quinn Emanuel that had represented it in settlement discussions. Quinn Emanuel filed a $13 million lien against the settlement proceeds and ConnectU sued for malpractice. On August 25, 2010, an arbitration panel ruled that Quinn Emanuel had "earned its full contingency fee". It also found that Quinn Emanuel committed no malpractice. ConnectU's lawsuit against Facebook to quadruple its settlement remains ongoing.
In January 2010, it was reported that i2hub founder Wayne Chang and The i2hub Organization launched a lawsuit against ConnectU and its founders, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, seeking 50% of the settlement. The complaint states "Through this litigation, Chang asserts his ownership interest in The Winklevoss Chang Group and ConnectU, including the settlement proceeds." Lee Gesmer (of Gesmer Updegrove, LLP) posted the detailed 33-page complaint online. On April 12, 2011, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the Winklevoss brothers, whose fight over Facebook's origins was a major narrative arc of the film The Social Network, cannot back out of a settlement they signed with the company in 2008.
Aaron Greenspan and houseSYSTEM
As the President of the Harvard College Student Entrepreneurship Council (a now-defunct student group) and the CEO of Think Computer Corporation, Aaron Greenspan created a web portal as a Harvard undergraduate called houseSYSTEM that launched on August 1, 2003. Designed to centralize student life in a more user-friendly manner than Harvard's official student portal, my.harvard, houseSYSTEM had a variety of features, including an event calendar with digital RSVP, a photo album, user-uploadable "posters", a teaching feedback system called CriticalMass, an on-line trading post called Student Exchange, and, as of September 19, 2003, a "Universal Face Book", which was also referred to at times as "The Facebook." Greenspan began communicating with classmate Mark Zuckerberg via e-mail shortly after launching the houseSYSTEM Facebook in September after reading a profile of Zuckerberg in The Harvard Crimson news magazine. They met in person in early January 2004, at which point Zuckerberg, as well as future Facebook, Inc. co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes were already houseSYSTEM members. (Cameron Winklevoss and Victor Gao of the ConnectU team were also houseSYSTEM members.) Though Greenspan and Zuckerberg decided to work on their respective projects independently, they frequently discussed technological aspects of houseSYSTEM related to the Facebook, as well as Zuckerberg's unspecified latest project, about which he was secretive, using AOL Instant Messenger. Throughout the spring semester of 2004, Greenspan and Zuckerberg were both enrolled in CS91r (also called Applied Math 91r), a ten-person computer science seminar that focused on using the PHP programming language with voice recognition technology.
On January 11, 2004, a few days after meeting Greenspan and concurrent with using the Universal Face Book on houseSYSTEM, Zuckerberg registered the domain name "thefacebook.com" independently. On February 4, 2004, when thefacebook.com launched, Greenspan recognized aspects of his own work in the site, and later came to believe that Zuckerberg was copying his work one feature at a time—a claim that Zuckerberg denied. Many of the features Greenspan created for houseSYSTEM, such as the digital event posters, electronic RSVPs, organizational pages, photo album, and marketplace, did eventually appear on thefacebook.com under similar names. Zuckerberg was aware of these features, eventually telling Greenspan at one point, "your facenet thing is hot". Social-networking functionality was added to houseSYSTEM in March 2004, and the name "FaceNet" replaced the "Universal Face Book". Regarding Greenspan's allegations, Zuckerberg was described in The New York Times as "saying through a spokeswoman that he was not sure how to respond."
In 2008, when Greenspan published a book entitled Authoritas: One Student's Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era describing his side of the story of Facebook's birth as well as events leading up to it (including aggressive actions on behalf of the Harvard University administration), he was prohibited from advertising the book using Google AdWords because of the inclusion of the word "Facebook" in the book's subtitle, and the existence of Facebook, Inc.'s registered trademark on the term "Facebook". The trademark had come into existence two years before in 2006, partially as a defensive measure during a battle over the "facebook.com" domain name in the ConnectU lawsuit.
Greenspan's company filed a Petition to Cancel the "Facebook" trademark, which included claims of prior use and fraud by Facebook, Inc. against the USPTO. Greenspan represented himself for the majority of the proceedings, and the USPTO TTAB found his claims to be adequate. Facebook, Inc. agreed to a formal settlement with Greenspan in late May 2009 and issued a press release, but the terms were not disclosed.
Greenspan is incorrectly referred to repeatedly as "Aaron Grossman" in Ben Mezrich's book, The Accidental Billionaires. Greenspan declined to cooperate with Mezrich on the book due to Mezrich's reputation for character distortion and consequently was not included in the resulting screenplay for The Social Network, even though Mezrich cited Authoritas as a source.
On June 30, 2010, Paul Ceglia, the owner of a wood pellet fuel company in Allegany County, New York, filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, claiming 84% ownership of Facebook as well as additional monetary damages. According to Ceglia, he and Zuckerberg signed a contract on April 28, 2003, that for an initial fee of $1,000, entitles Ceglia to 50% of the website's revenue, as well as additional 1% interest per each day after January 1, 2004, until website completion. Zuckerberg was developing other projects at the time, among which was Facemash, the predecessor of Facebook, but did not register the domain name thefacebook.com until January 1, 2004. Facebook management has dismissed the lawsuit as "completely frivolous". Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt issued a statement indicating that the counsel for Ceglia had unsuccessfully attempted to seek an out-of-court settlement. In an interview to ABC World News, Zuckerberg stated he is confident of never signing such an agreement. At the time, Zuckerberg worked for Ceglia as a code developer on a project named "StreetFax". Judge Thomas Brown of Allegany Court issued a restraining order on all financial transfers concerning ownership of Facebook until further notice; in response, Facebook management successfully filed for the case to be moved to federal court. According to Facebook, the order does not affect their business but lacks legal basis.
Young v. Facebook, Inc.
In Young v. Facebook, Inc., plaintiff Karen Beth Young alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related state laws on disability as well as breach of contract and negligence. A District Court judge dismissed the complaint, ruling that Facebook is a website, not a physical place, so the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply.
You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.
This new voting system was initially applauded as Facebook's step to a more democratized social network system. However, the new terms were harshly criticized in a report by computer scientists from the University of Cambridge, who stated that the democratic process surrounding the new terms is disingenuous and significant problems remain in the new terms. The report was endorsed by the Open Rights Group.
In December 2009, EPIC and a number of other U.S. privacy organizations filed another complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding Facebook's Terms of Service. In January 2011 EPIC filed a subsequent complaint claiming that Facebook's new policy of sharing users' home address and mobile phone information with third-party developers were "misleading and fail[ed] to provide users clear and privacy protections", particularly for children under age 18. Facebook temporarily suspended implementation of its policy in February 2011, but the following month announced it was "actively considering" reinstating the third-party policy.
Interoperability and data portability
Facebook has been criticized for failing to offer users a feature to export their friends' information, such as contact information, for use with other services or software. The inability of users to export their social graph in an open standard format contributes to vendor lock-in and contravenes the principles of data portability. Automated collection of user information without Facebook's consent violates its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and third-party attempts to do so (e.g., Web scraping) have resulted in suspension of accounts, cease and desist letters, and litigation with one of the third parties, Power.com.
Better Business Bureau review
As of December 2010[update], the 36-month running count of complaints about Facebook logged with the Better Business Bureau is 1136, including 101 ("Making a full refund, as the consumer requested"), 868 ("Agreeing to perform according to their contract"), 1 ("Refuse [sic] to adjust, relying on terms of agreement"), 20 ("Unassigned"), 0 ("Unanswered") and 136 ("Refusing to make an adjustment"). Facebook reportedly claimed to the BBB that some customers had received warnings for violations when none were actually sent.
Facebook's software has proven vulnerable to likejacking. On July 28, 2010, the BBC reported that security consultant Ron Bowes used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles to collect data of 100 million profiles. The data collected was not hidden by the user's privacy settings. Bowes then published the list online. This list, which has been shared as a downloadable file, contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, their name and unique ID. Bowes said he published the data to highlight privacy issues, but Facebook claimed it was already public information.
In early June 2013, the New York Times reported that increase in malicious links related to the Trojan horse malware program Zeus were identified by Eric Feinberg, founder of the advocacy group Fans Against Kounterfeit Enterprise (FAKE). Feinberg said that the links were present on popular NFL Facebook fan pages and, following contact with Facebook, was dissatisfied with the corporation's "after-the-fact approach". Feinberg called for oversight, stating, "If you really want to hack someone, the easiest place to start is a fake Facebook profile—it's so simple, it's stupid."
In 2010, Prineville, Oregon was chosen as the site for a new Facebook data center. However, the center has been met with criticism from environmental groups such as Greenpeace because the power utility company contracted for the center, PacifiCorp, generates 60% of its electricity from coal. In September 2010, Facebook received a letter from Greenpeace containing half a million signatures asking the company to cut its ties to coal based electricity.
On April 21, 2011, Greenpeace released a report showing that of the top ten big brands in cloud computing, Facebook relied the most on coal for electricity for its data centers. At the time, data centers consumed up to 2% of all global electricity and this amount was projected to increase. Phil Radford of Greenpeace said "we are concerned that this new explosion in electricity use could lock us into old, polluting energy sources instead of the clean energy available today." On Thursday, December 15, 2011, Greenpeace and Facebook announced together that Facebook would shift to use clean and renewable energy to power its own operations. Marcy Scott Lynn, of Facebook's sustainability program, said it looked forward "to a day when our primary energy sources are clean and renewable" and that the company is "working with Greenpeace and others to help bring that day closer."
In July 2012, startup Limited Run claimed that 80% of its Facebook clicks came from bots. Limited Run co-founder Tom Mango told TechCrunch that they "spent roughly a month testing this" with six web analytics services including Google Analytics and in-house software.
Facebook offers an advertising tool for pages to get more “likes”. According to Business Insider, this advertising tool is called “Suggested Posts” or “Suggested Pages”, allowing companies to market their page to thousands of new users for as little as $50 USD.
Global fortune 100 firms are increasingly using social media marketing tools as the number of “likes” per Facebook page has rose by 115% globally. Biotechnology company Comprendia investigated Facebook’s “likes” through advertising by analyzing the life science pages with the most likes. They concluded that at as much as 40% of “likes” from company pages are suspected to be fake. to Facebook’s annual report, an estimated 0.4% and 1.2% of active users are undesirable accounts that create fake likes.
Small companies such as PubChase have publicly testified against Facebook’s advertising tool, claiming legitimate advertising on Facebook creates fraudulent Facebook “likes”. In May 2013, PubChase decided to build up their Facebook following through Facebook’s advertising, which promises to “connect with more of the people who matter to you.” After the first day, the company grew suspicious of the increased likes as they ended up with 900 likes from India. According to PubChase, none of the users behind the “likes” seemed to be scientists. The statistics from Google Analytics indicate that India is not in the company’s main user base. PubChase continues by stating that Facebook has no interface to delete the fake likes; rather, the company must manually delete each follower themselves.
In February 2014, Derek Muller uses his YouTube account Veritasium to upload a YouTube video “Facebook Fraud”. Within 3 days, the video has turned viral with more than a million views (It has reached 2,521,614 views as of June 10, 2014). In the video, Muller illustrates how after paying $50 USD to Facebook advertising, the “likes” to his fan page have tripled in a few days and soon reached 70,000 “likes”, compared to his original 2,115 likes before the advertising. Despite the significant increase in likes, Muller noticed his page has actually decreased in engagement – there were less people commenting, sharing, and liking his posts and updates despite the significant increase in “likes”. Muller also noticed that the users that “liked” his page were users that liked hundreds of other pages, including competing pages such as AT&T and T-Mobile. He theorizes that users are purposely clicking “like” on any and every page in order to deter attention away from the pages they were paid to “like”. Muller claims, “I never bought fake likes, I used Facebook legitimate advertising, but the results are as if I paid for fake likes from a click farm”
In response to the fake “likes” complaints, Facebook told Business Insider:
We're always focused on maintaining the integrity of our site, but we've placed an increased focus on abuse from fake accounts recently. We've made a lot of progress by building a combination of automated and manual systems to block accounts used for fraudulent purposes and Like button clicks. We also take action against sellers of fake clicks and help shut them down.
Lawsuits over privacy
Facebook’s strategy of making revenue through advertising has created a lot of controversy for its users as some argue that it is “a bit creepy… but it is also brilliant.” Some Facebook users have raised privacy concerns because they do not like that Facebook sells user’s information to third parties. In 2012, users sued Facebook for using their pictures and information on a Facebook advertisement. Facebook gathers user information by keeping track of pages users have “Liked” and through the interactions users have with their connections. They then create value of the gathered data by selling it. In 2009 users also filed a lawsuit for Facebook’s privacy invasion through Facebook Beacon system. Facebook’s team believed that through the Beacon system people could inspire their friends to buy similar products, however, users did not like the idea of sharing certain online purchases with their Facebook friends. Users were against Facebook’s invasion of privacy and sharing that privacy with the world. Facebook users became more aware of Facebook’s behavior with user information in 2009 as Facebook launched their new Terms of Service. In Facebook’s terms of service, Facebook admits that user information may be used for some of Facebook’s own purposes such as sharing a link to your posted images or for their own commercials and advertisements. As Dijck argues in his book that, “the more users know about what happens to their personal data, the more inclined they are to raise objections.” This created a battle between Facebook and Facebook users described as the “battle for information control.” Facebook users have become aware of Facebook’s intentions and people now see Facebook “as serving the interests of companies rather than its users.” In response to Facebook selling user information to third parties, concerned users have resorted to the method of “Obfuscation.” Through obfuscation users can purposely hide their real identity and provide Facebook with false information that will make their collected data less accurate. By obfuscating information through sites such as “FaceCloak,” Facebook users have regained control of their personal information. In other cases, Facebook’s revenue strategy of collecting user data and selling it to third parties is described as a “good business.” This is because there have been cases where Facebook users that are “engaged” have been targeted with advertisements that are wedding correlated. This is regarded as a “good business” because the strategy is beneficial for Facebook and the user that will be planning their wedding. Marketing brands via Facebook can help create an organic reach as opposed to billboards because fans are directly targeted with information and ads of companies that they “like” or may benefit from. Although some users or marketers may appreciate the direct marketing that Facebook has produced, users that have filed lawsuits win the case. That is because in the end “Facebook’s response to lawsuits and other allegations over its privacy policies has been to listen to user complaints.”
In August 2012, Facebook revealed that more than 83 million Facebook accounts (8.7% of total users) are fake accounts. These fake profiles consist of duplicate profiles, accounts for spamming purposes and personal profiles for business, organization or non-human entities such as pets. As a result of this revelation, the share price of Facebook dropped below $20.
- Social media and suicide
- Unauthorized access in online social networks
- Criticism of Google
- Criticism of Microsoft
- Criticism of Yahoo!
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- Mims, Christopher (June 1, 2011). "How Facebook Leveraged Publishers' Desperation to Build a Web-Wide Tracking System". Technology Review. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
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- "Facebook's Fake Policy" by Hafiz Muhammad Usman
- Facebook: Friend or Foe? - LifeIvy Magazine - May 15, 2013