Facebook Press Conference: Live With Mark Zuckerberg

    February 26, 2009

Mark ZuckerbergFacebook looks set to adopt a fresh approach to site governance, and we’ll be bringing you live coverage.  The setup, as explained in an email to WebProNews: Mark Zuckerberg "will announce the new steps Facebook is taking to improve user understanding and ownership of the Facebook terms of service and, more generally, the policies of the Facebook service."

2:00 – Classical hold music.

2:02 – An operator tells us things will begin momentarily — after more hold music.

2:05 – An operator thanks us for our patience, and back to the classical music we go.

2:09 – Still on hold.  Here’s an interesting excerpt from the press release, anyway: "The 10 Principles include the ‘Freedom to Share and Connect’, ‘Fundamental Equality’ of people on Facebook, ‘Ownership and Control of Information,’ and other basic tenets of the Facebook service. Achieving these Principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms about sharing."  And there’s the operator again, too.

2:11 – Here we go.

2:12 – Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s VP of Communications and Public Policy, is discussing the talk’s structure.  Sounds like Mark Zuckerberg will do most of the speaking, followed by a Q&A session.

2:13 – Zuckerberg: "We wanted to build a set of documents that matched our mission . . . make the world more open and transparent."

2:14 – "We really took last week as a strong signal" of how much people care about Facebook and want to be involved.  "We’re happy to roll these out today."

2:16 – "New forms of user participation and control" will amount to a principles document and a statement of rights and responsibilities.  The principles are "aspirational goals."  The rights and responsibilities are operating rules.

2:17 – "When we amend the document . . . we’re going to notify everyone on Facebook who wants to be notified and have a period of time" for them to make suggestions.  Voting may even follow.

2:18 – "We do not own user data; they own their own data.  That’s always been our stance."  In reference to the recent shoutsthat Facebook was trying to control everyone’s personal information, "We never really intended to give that impression," and feel bad that they did.

2:19 – Zuckerberg opens floor for questions.

2:20 – Kara Swisher asks how Facebook got to this point.  Zuckerberg answers that they’ve been moving more and more in this direction for some time, coming from a stance of using standard legalese like everybody else.

2:22 – Swisher asks how it’ll be determined if a vote’s needed.  Zuckerberg says it’ll be based on the interest users express — they won’t bother with votes when people aren’t interested.

2:24 – Rafe Needleman brings up Beacon and how Facebook has encountered problems like this before.  Zuckerberg talks about users’ sense of ownership, and how Facebook is a different kind of service, spinning it in a positive way.  "Really have some real dialogue . . ."

2:28 – Someone from Forbes asks if Facebook is worrying about international laws as it recasts its terms of service.  "We will comply with whatever laws are applicable to us," says Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s VP and General Counsel.

2:30 – Question about scams dismissed as not relevant to today’s announcement.  Whoopsie.  Next one comes from Staci Kramer concerning News Feed experience — what Facebook learned and how it manages expectations about letting users write the terms of service.  Zuckerberg says Facebook "should have been communicating . . . more broadly."  "Being as transparent as possible is a really valuable thing."  "This is all about us trusting our users."

 2:34 – Someone from Gartner points out that this will affect not only user terms, but also what applies to developers and advertisers.  Zuckerberg says "this needs to include all the different activities" in which people are participating.  Making one set of governing documents was seen as important.

2:36 – Gartner rep gets pointed to Ullyot after he says it seems like there’s a need for legal language somewhere.  Ullyot says what used to be about 40 pages’ worth of material was taken down to 5.

2:37 – Conference over.  Here’s the press release.