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Gavin Shulman

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Facebook Takes Lesson From Arizona

Posted: 04/26/2012 6:12 pm

Facebook announced today a new policy whereby if the social networking site deems any new photos posted on your profile to be suspicious than your service can be stopped and subject to further investigation. These suspicious materials could include but are not limited to candid photos at a construction site or in front of a store, photos of able-bodied men assisting with lawn care or gardening or pictures of anyone attending a quinceanera. The company also said pictures of people just standing around in wide-brimmed hats or eating burritos could additionally be seen as cause for suspending service.

The company defends the new policy by insisting they are not targeting any specific racial group, they are just trying to protect original, native users from having to share a cyber space with those who may have received their passwords illegally. The company also claims that all profiles are subject to this new policy, and it has nothing to do with their last names ending in a "z" or a vowel.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had the following to say, "In order to keep Facebook the greatest site on the planet it is important to protect the legitimacy of all profiles. We must ensure that they were all created equally. This means making sure that anyone who doesn't belong is removed from the database immediately." Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg added, "We can't have all these people who steal who knows how much of our wireless Internet establishing profiles and then sometimes even creating multiple ones. It's taking away valuable space and resources in our cloud."

Civil rights leaders however are up in arms, claiming it is a violation to judge people solely on their pictures, likening it to social profiling. "Since when is eating an enchilada in a photograph a crime," asks ACLU President Susan Herman, "Since when is posting a picture in a sombrero illegal? If that was the case I'd be guilty for participating in the chicken dance at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I even shook some maracas." Photographic evidence has confirmed Ms. Herman's account.

The government thus far has only stepped in to say that it believes it should be in sole control of deciding what photographs are appropriate for Internet posting. "Photo-sharing is the domain of the Federal Government," according to Attorney General Eric Holder, "No matter what domain the photos are attempted to be shared on." Pressed on whether he felt Facebook was infringing on civil rights, Holder responded, "We don't care about any of that. We just think it's our place to decide."

Facebook has long sought a policy of fast and furious expansion, trying to attract as many unique users as possible. But recently the company has come under increased scrutiny. With profits sinking this quarter and about to offer its initial IPO Facebook has been asked to clean up it's act by potential investors. This is seen as a first step in that process. It is being viewed as a clear attempt to rid the site of any undesirable groups and accounts.

Interestingly though the very people Facebook is targeting may be some of the best users the site contains. Studies have shown they are unquestionably solid status updaters and the most willing to accept the plethora of advertising and sponsored sites that most users would rather avoid and ignore. Their click-through rate is phenomenal. Many people actually fear what the site would be like if they were forced to delete their online presence.

Facebook is sticking to its guns though despite a probable challenge in the courts. According to the announcement, "Facebook feels it's in everyone's best interest to protect the site from those who attempt to post pictures of themselves making guacamole, working in the back of the house at restaurants, or speaking Spanish. All cases of such will be investigated. And if the photographs are deemed legitimate, those profiles will be removed and placed on the other side of a soon to be constructed wall of fire."

 

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