Facebook: all your content are belong to us. FOREVER! Protests ensue.

Facebook’s terms of service (TOS) used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

Chris Walters in The Consumerist

And people aren’t happy about it.  Anne Kathrine Yojana Petterøe’s People Against the new Terms of Service (TOS) protest group had about 900 members when I joined at 7:30.  By the time I posted this at 9:30 it was over 1650, which puts the growth rate at an astonishing 35%+ per hour.  After inviting another 50+ people on Facebook and retweeting, I sent mail to some colleagues encouraging them to check it out:

If you haven’t been tracking social network activism campaigns, this could be an intersting one.  The “call to action” in the protest group is very crisp; and it’s a great example of a campaign crossing social networks.

A Twitter search for “TOS” is a good way to follow the discussion; the Twitter #facebook hashtag is hopping as well.  Both have been in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter all morning, with TOS currently at #2.

Will the protests matter?  It’s hard to know.  In late 2007 and early 2008, protest against Facebook’s Beacon and application invites quickly grew to a million people early this year — and sure enough, Facebook changed their friends policy.  On the other hand, Facbook’s ignored led to changes in Facebook policy; more recently, Facebook’s ignored several  multi-million person protest groups asking them to offer an option for the previous user interface as well as the “new Facebook”.  We shall see.

More generally, Facebook’s arrogance in imposing harsh terms on users without notification or discussion and ignore feedback fits in with their overall pattern (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 …).  Presumably other commercial social networks are taking notice of the opportunities here.  And this also is likely to increase the momemtum for a completely different approach, one where users have rights and meaningful control of their information.  On the protest group’s wall, Andy Famiglietti wrote

Facebook’s business model is to data-mine us. We might get them to do it less obtrusively, but they have to do it, it is how they pay the bills.

Thus, what we have to do is leave facebook and join an open-source peer-to-peer distributed social network. One that doesn’t rely on big servers that have to be fed with big ads. If we can’t find one, we’ll have to build one. Who’s with me!

Count me in.


Update: 1:15: The group’s up over 4000 people, continuing to grow at 20%/hour.  In the 90 minutes we were out for lunch, there were over 3750 messages on #facebook.  Can you say “firestorm of protest”?

Amanda French has a detailed post comparing Facebook’s terms of use to other social network sites.  Her conclusion?  “Go ahead and be outraged. Facebook’s claims to your content are extraordinarily grabby and arrogant.”  Paul’s complementary analysis on web.tech.law focuses on the legal side.  Both are worth reading.

Facebook graphic from AJC1’s flickr site, licensed under Creative Commons