Facebook accused of breaking ‘rights’ promise

Cambridge researchers have slammed Facebook’s latest attempt to create a governance scheme.

Facebook has allegedly failed in its attempts at democracy, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

The computer science researchers dubbed the attempt by Facebook to placate its users following a terms and conditions row in February as "democracy theatre".

In February, Facebook introduced new terms of service, which among other changes included a line saying the social networking site owned any content uploaded by its users, even if they closed their accounts.

Following user uproar, the site promised to change the terms and create a new 'Statement of Rights and Responsibilities' to protect users.

Last month, the site posted its new statement as well as a set of principles "which reflect the philosophy and values we aspire to", according to Simon Axten, an associate on the public policy team, writing on Facebook's blog.

But these new documents don't meet the promises made by Facebook when it was trying to calm down its users, the Cambridge report claims, which even alleges that some provisions may not even be legal.

"We mostly agree with Facebook's proposed principles and the goal of an open, transparent, user-driven process for governing a social network. However, the currently drafted statement fails to fulfill these goals, and we feel that well-stated but empty promises are even worse for users than the obfuscated Terms of Use currently in place."

It added: "They fail to meet not only our own wishes for how a social network like Facebook might be governed, but Facebook's self-professed goal to lead the world' in openness and equality."

The report added that the social networking site may have meant well, but stumbled when "confronted with a litany of legal and business complications".

One of the researchers, Joseph Bonneau, said the outrage over the changed terms showed how much Facebook's users care about the site. He added that the attempts at clarity are a major step forward but it's not enough.

"It seems the goal is not to actually turn governance over to users, but to use the appearance of democracy and user involvement to ward off future criticism," wrote Bonneau in his blog. "Our term [democracy theatre] may be new, but this trick is not, it has been used by autocratic regimes around the world for decades."

The group of researchers also slammed the social networking site for continuing to use confusing legal language in its terms, suggesting it follow Creative Commons and publish both legal and "human-readable" versions.

The report also called for Facebook to act as an intermediary between users and application developers, and to intervene when asked by Facebookers. It also said Facebook should seek more balance in its terms, and rather than give itself carte blanche over users' content, it should give itself limits to how such content can be used.

Facebook had not responded to our request for comment at the time of publication.

Featured Resources

Seven steps to connect and empower your frontline workers

How business leaders can improve communication with a secure platform

Free download

Create what’s next

The future of collaboration and productivity

Free Download

Leveraging the cloud without relinquishing control

Your data. Their cloud.

Free download

Re-architecting for nonstop innovation

Unlocking productivity, scalability, and lower costs for cloud natives

Free Download

Recommended

Meta delays product-wide end-to-end encryption rollout until 2023
encryption

Meta delays product-wide end-to-end encryption rollout until 2023

22 Nov 2021
Podcast transcript: Can the US take on big tech?
Policy & legislation

Podcast transcript: Can the US take on big tech?

19 Nov 2021
The IT Pro Podcast: Can the US take on big tech?
Policy & legislation

The IT Pro Podcast: Can the US take on big tech?

19 Nov 2021
Microsoft and Meta announce integration deal between Teams and Workplace
collaboration

Microsoft and Meta announce integration deal between Teams and Workplace

11 Nov 2021

Most Popular

What should you really be asking about your remote access software?
Sponsored

What should you really be asking about your remote access software?

17 Nov 2021
How to speed up Microsoft's Windows 11
Microsoft Windows

How to speed up Microsoft's Windows 11

9 Nov 2021
Nike to take customers into the metaverse with 'NIKELAND'
virtualisation

Nike to take customers into the metaverse with 'NIKELAND'

19 Nov 2021