Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saving Face

It was with some amusement that I saw the following verbiage when I opened up my Facebook account today:

Terms of Use Update Today we announced new opportunities for users to play a meaningful role in determining the policies governing our site. We released the first proposals subject to these procedures – The Facebook Principles, a set of values that will guide the development of the service, and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that governs Facebook’s operations. Users will have the opportunity to review, comment and vote on these documents over the coming weeks and, if they are approved, other future policy changes. We’ve posted the documents in separate groups and invite you to offer comments and suggestions. For more information and links to the two groups, check out the Facebook Blog.

In a hilariously sanctimonious posting called "Governing the Facebook Service in an Open and Transparent Way," founder Mark Zuckerberg actually makes the following claim: "Our main goal at Facebook is to help make the world more open and transparent. We believe that if we want to lead the world in this direction, then we must set an example by running our service in this way."

Of course, Facebook's shareholders probably believe that the main goal of the company is to make money by using a huge database of user-generated content for purposes like online advertising and harvesting marketing data. Although this sound byte didn't seem to allow comments, based on their absence, Zuckerberg referred readers to "Town Hall" sites about Proposed Facebook Principles and a Proposed Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

It is interesting to see more generally how "town hall" in the American vernacular has become a figure for the spectacle of deliberative processes in which there may be no actual policy making but merely a ceremonial airing of public views in a highly constrained situation or platform.

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Blogger Jeff said...

It seems like a step in the right direction. This sort of deliberation is showing up all over the internet, but it's not quite true deliberation yet. I wonder how long before we take the next step toward real deliberation.

4:01 PM  

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