Facebook screws iFart author

Facebook mat on 151 University

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

OK, I’m on the phone with Joel Comm right now. He’s been doing business online since 1995. He’s the co-creator of Yahoo Games. He wrote the Adsense Code, which got onto New York Times best selling list. He hosted and produced the first Internet reality show called the Next Internet Millionaire. He was the guy who came up with iFart, which got to be the #1 iPhone app on the iTunes store for three weeks. He also has “Twitter Power,” a book about Twitter coming out next month. You can find Joel on Twitter here.

Translation: he’s not a “nobody” on the Internet who is a spammer.

But, Facebook had a problem with him and kicked him off. Just like Facebook did to me just about a year ago. Why did this happen?

Well, he like me, has 4,999 friends which is the maximum allowed by Facebook. That’s not what got him in trouble. “So, Scoble, why you writing about him?”

Here’s why: he has 900 people who want to be his friend on Facebook. So, since he can’t add them to his social graph he sends them an a nice individual note, customized each time. He would look at each person’s profile and send them a nice note. What did the notes say? Something like “nice seeing you at XYZ conference, I can’t add you as a friend because Facebook doesn’t let me add more than 4,999 friends so could you please join me over on my fan page?” Sometimes also he’d send them over to his book page, or his Twitter page. Again, he customized each message to the person who was asking. Nothing automatic.

But yesterday Facebook disabled his account and removed his account from the public social graph. “I am the invisible man.” Facebook did exactly the same thing to me a year ago.

You still can get to his fan page, but he can’t administer it any longer (he has 734 fans). He also has a group on Facebook, which has more than 2,000 members. Fifty people have already joined a group to petition to have Joel added back to Facebook.

“So, why did they kick him off?” Because he triggered some sort of automatic alert that he was participating in spamming behavior.

“Did you get a warning,” I asked Comm.

“Yes. When we were sending the messages we got a warning and we stopped,” Comm says.

“Why did they kick you off then?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I stopped after they warned me. They kicked me off two days later. I have 900 people waiting to hear from me wondering why I’m ignoring them,” he told me.

“I try to log in now and it says my account is disabled. He sent them an inquiry and he got an email on January 22 at 1:42 p.m. Mountain Time. It says “Hi. The Facebook team has received your inquiries. We should get back to you soon. In the meantime, we encourage you to review our terms of use ( http://www.facebook.com/terms.php ). For more information. Thanks for contacting Facebook. — the Facebook team.”

Comm has no access to his photos. No access to his videos. No access to his wall posts. “I have no access, period,” he says. He wrote about the whole experience on his blog. I Googled his Facebook account and, right now, get a “Page Not Found” error. He has been “erased.”

I had almost the same experience a year ago and got more than 600 comments on that post. Every few days a new person leaves a sob story of getting kicked off of Facebook. I’ve complained about this quite a few times, including in public at SXSW when Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Facebook’s developer event there in 2008. I also have talked with Chris Putnam, head of Facebook’s video and security teams, as well as Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. Each time they say they will look into it. Each time nothing happens and the account disabling continues.

My account was closed like Joel’s although Facebook reinstated my account within 24 hours. I answered my email just like Joel did. Nicely and calmly. But I always assumed that getting to the top of TechMeme and getting hundreds of blogs to talk about the event helped get me reinstated too.

Irony: He wrote a 30 page report on Facebook on how social networking can improve your business which was very positive about Facebook.

Comm, like me, says he’ll be back on Facebook if they reenable his account but warns that people will get tired of this kind of treatment. “You know what, I don’t need big brother watching me and I’ll go use another site.”

Get Satisfaction, a site where you can leave customer complains for companies, has an extensive thread on this issue.

I agree. I refuse to use Facebook to conduct business and don’t upload many videos or photos there because I don’t support companies that “erase” MY data without my permission. I know of no other social network that does this in this way.

“So, Scoble, how should Facebook keep from having spammers take over its site? What should it do if it finds a legitimate spammer?”

If I were in charge at Facebook I would have a “jail.” If you broke the rules I’d move your account into “jail.” Everyone would be able to get to it, although you might have an icon that indicates the account has been thrown into jail. I would also turn off certain features on the account. I would just turn off messaging, for instance, if that person was abusing messaging. Or, turn off his/her ability to write on wall posts if he’s abusing privileges there.

I would NEVER delete or erase data. That’s highly unethical and really stupid when you need the trust of your users. Right now Facebook can do no wrong. It is getting 450,000 new users a day. So, they don’t care. But what about in four years when growth slows down and people discover a better system? I bet that they will wish they paid more attention to those issues then (sort of like Microsoft wishes it paid more attention to being a nice citizen back in the 1990s because it would help them get a better search service going today).

This week at the World Economic Forum I expect I’ll be seeing several executives from Facebook (they told me they were going). I’ll bring this issue up again with them and see if they have a better answer than they’ve had to date.

What do you think?

254 thoughts on “Facebook screws iFart author

  1. Don’t use Facebook for business, use it to create friendships and if these “friends” buy something from you then hey, that’s a plus!

    Seriously, Facebook is about as predictable as your job, it can be gone in a flash.

    Take the conversation off Facebook and over to phone and/or email as quickly as possible. This way if your account gets zapped, you’ll have a record of your communication.

    Expect Success,
    Shannon Denniston
    http://shannondenniston.com/twitter

  2. Don’t use Facebook for business, use it to create friendships and if these “friends” buy something from you then hey, that’s a plus!

    Seriously, Facebook is about as predictable as your job, it can be gone in a flash.

    Take the conversation off Facebook and over to phone and/or email as quickly as possible. This way if your account gets zapped, you’ll have a record of your communication.

    Expect Success,
    Shannon Denniston
    http://shannondenniston.com/twitter

  3. It’s hard for them to differentiate who’s a spammer, and who’s a marketer, or who’s just popular… which may end up being their downfall. Invest in priorities – In a time when people are cloning Facebook, and new social hubs are being formed, they need to take a lesson from Zappos.com, and focus on making sure their users are thrilled, and spreading joyous word of mouth… not talking crap about how they’ve had it, and are moving to _________ (Insert new hot social site here).

  4. It’s hard for them to differentiate who’s a spammer, and who’s a marketer, or who’s just popular… which may end up being their downfall. Invest in priorities – In a time when people are cloning Facebook, and new social hubs are being formed, they need to take a lesson from Zappos.com, and focus on making sure their users are thrilled, and spreading joyous word of mouth… not talking crap about how they’ve had it, and are moving to _________ (Insert new hot social site here).

  5. Watch this get “moderated”…

    CaptOliver Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    January 27th, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Good for Facebook!! Go back to Myspace Joel Comm!

  6. Watch this get “moderated”…

    CaptOliver Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    January 27th, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Good for Facebook!! Go back to Myspace Joel Comm!

  7. Crazy… Facebook beware. You just be the next Myspace, when something better comes along. Deleting info (read – content) is not a wise move either…

  8. Crazy… Facebook beware. You just be the next Myspace, when something better comes along. Deleting info (read – content) is not a wise move either…

  9. Once again Facebook proves itself to be run by children and pure EVIL. Half the personal data I have on there is fake, I don’t even trust them with my birthday. It’s fine for finding old high school friends or whatnot but I’ll probably never trust them enough to use it for anything else.

    It’s all too obvious that everyone else knows this also. People who get things done are all over on LinkedIn. Facebook is full of time wasters and barely worth logging into even if you’ve got lots of friends there.

  10. Once again Facebook proves itself to be run by children and pure EVIL. Half the personal data I have on there is fake, I don’t even trust them with my birthday. It’s fine for finding old high school friends or whatnot but I’ll probably never trust them enough to use it for anything else.

    It’s all too obvious that everyone else knows this also. People who get things done are all over on LinkedIn. Facebook is full of time wasters and barely worth logging into even if you’ve got lots of friends there.

  11. Yes, I know what it is like to have your account shut down with no apparrent warning and doing nothing apparently wrong, as I have with twitter and paypal. It seems to me that the bigger these already huge online companies get, the worse they treat their loyal users and the more faceless and arrogant they become. I agree with keeping your valuable data on your own hardrive and never trusting it to the like of these mammoth people munchers, guzzling us down for their own nourishment and spitting out our bones as it suits them. But rest assured, their gluttony will surely catch up with them and they will choke on their own fat. Remember, we as a mass are much bigger than all of them put together, and if we choose, together we can force them to their knees and make them serve us, as it should be, free or not. We should have user rights. Let’s start uniting as a world and demand a better one. Peace be with you all, now and always…

    Luc Agosti

  12. Yes, I know what it is like to have your account shut down with no apparrent warning and doing nothing apparently wrong, as I have with twitter and paypal. It seems to me that the bigger these already huge online companies get, the worse they treat their loyal users and the more faceless and arrogant they become. I agree with keeping your valuable data on your own hardrive and never trusting it to the like of these mammoth people munchers, guzzling us down for their own nourishment and spitting out our bones as it suits them. But rest assured, their gluttony will surely catch up with them and they will choke on their own fat. Remember, we as a mass are much bigger than all of them put together, and if we choose, together we can force them to their knees and make them serve us, as it should be, free or not. We should have user rights. Let’s start uniting as a world and demand a better one. Peace be with you all, now and always…

    Luc Agosti

  13. Incidents that occur such as this one, involving Joel Comm, a reliable & well respected Internet figure (among other communication modes) have a way of causing waves for themselves for years to come. Some providers, who were huge in the past are paying or have paid the price for their just plain, thoughtless, stupid actions that they justify through their own regulatory, lack of forethought, internal regulations book. Instead of seeing behind the violation to the what, why, who, when and where, they just made a blind decision and that’s that, or so they think. It may take time, but Patterns and Practices can live on to haunt, long after they are finally changed.
    A company I worked for a few years back told plaintiff’s counsel that the policy they wrote was only good for $1,000,000 and they wouldn’t pay anymore than that, ever! Even looking down the barrel of the so-called loaded gun they would not change their minds, despite the fact that they could have settled for $2,000,000. Ultimately the verdict was in excess of $15,000,000 and they were forced by the way the matter was handled into a position of probably owing the whole amount. That company is no longer in business some 7 years later. Gee, you think?
    I don’t wish anyone any malice, but Facebook ought to be more concerned than their standard “We will review it and get back to you” response. Personally I respect Joel even more now after I see the gentlemanly way he handled this.
    Good luck to you Joel.

  14. Incidents that occur such as this one, involving Joel Comm, a reliable & well respected Internet figure (among other communication modes) have a way of causing waves for themselves for years to come. Some providers, who were huge in the past are paying or have paid the price for their just plain, thoughtless, stupid actions that they justify through their own regulatory, lack of forethought, internal regulations book. Instead of seeing behind the violation to the what, why, who, when and where, they just made a blind decision and that’s that, or so they think. It may take time, but Patterns and Practices can live on to haunt, long after they are finally changed.
    A company I worked for a few years back told plaintiff’s counsel that the policy they wrote was only good for $1,000,000 and they wouldn’t pay anymore than that, ever! Even looking down the barrel of the so-called loaded gun they would not change their minds, despite the fact that they could have settled for $2,000,000. Ultimately the verdict was in excess of $15,000,000 and they were forced by the way the matter was handled into a position of probably owing the whole amount. That company is no longer in business some 7 years later. Gee, you think?
    I don’t wish anyone any malice, but Facebook ought to be more concerned than their standard “We will review it and get back to you” response. Personally I respect Joel even more now after I see the gentlemanly way he handled this.
    Good luck to you Joel.

  15. My account was also recently disabled for messaging too much, or too often, or something similar. The most annoying things about it are;

    a. I checked the terms of service and there’s nothing about too much messaging- only about advertising, spamming, and inappropriate material.
    b. There’s no mention anywhere of how much is too much messaging, apparently they can’t tell us ‘for security reasons’, or so I was told when I wrote to ask.

    The jailing idea is certainly a good one. At the very least, they could do what some other sites do, to enforce their apparent frequency limit on messaging- if someone’s messaging too much, inform that person that there’s a certain amount of time to be waited between messages, and tell them they have so-and-so seconds left before they can send another message.

  16. My account was also recently disabled for messaging too much, or too often, or something similar. The most annoying things about it are;

    a. I checked the terms of service and there’s nothing about too much messaging- only about advertising, spamming, and inappropriate material.
    b. There’s no mention anywhere of how much is too much messaging, apparently they can’t tell us ‘for security reasons’, or so I was told when I wrote to ask.

    The jailing idea is certainly a good one. At the very least, they could do what some other sites do, to enforce their apparent frequency limit on messaging- if someone’s messaging too much, inform that person that there’s a certain amount of time to be waited between messages, and tell them they have so-and-so seconds left before they can send another message.

  17. I have a Facebook page, but never did much with it because of this possibility hanging out there. Have heard about it for awhile and I don’t want to give my info to a company whose customer service sucks.

    When the “better than Facebook” alternative comes along and offers actual customer care – I’m in, and I’d even pay a bit each month for it. I’m done spending countless hours over months developing something that someone else (who I cannot even talk to one to one) could just erase my data from exisstence — errrrr.

    - Signed “Not a Facebook or a MySpace fan”

  18. I have a Facebook page, but never did much with it because of this possibility hanging out there. Have heard about it for awhile and I don’t want to give my info to a company whose customer service sucks.

    When the “better than Facebook” alternative comes along and offers actual customer care – I’m in, and I’d even pay a bit each month for it. I’m done spending countless hours over months developing something that someone else (who I cannot even talk to one to one) could just erase my data from exisstence — errrrr.

    - Signed “Not a Facebook or a MySpace fan”

  19. 1: Just because Joel Comm has been an Internet Marketer for years does not mean he is not a spammer. Ask yourself this. Why has Joel got 5000 friends? What is his main purpose for doing so? It all comes down to one thing – trying to sell more stuff.

    2: Joel Comm has not met everyone on his list. His list would be made up of many people whom he has never met and never has the intention of meeting. Facebook was created as a social network where friends and family can stay connected. Joel is using it predominantly as a business tool – this is not its intended purpose and he has found that out the hard way.

    3: There is no point whinging about having an account banned. Millions of people use Facebook everyday the way it was intended to be used and never have any problems. If your account has been banned them clearly you have not been using Facebook the way it was intended – for connecting with family and friends – NOT marketing your business.

    4: I applaud Facebook for trying to get rid of people who use the system for business purposes only. We get enough spam in our email and it seems we can’t go anywhere without having sales message shoved down our throat. Facebook should be somewhere people can go without having to be subjected to this same old rubbish.

    5: You ask where Facebook will be in five years time if they keep deleting people’s accounts who they think are abusing the system? Well where do you think Facebook will be in 5 years if they don’t put a stop to this idea of using facebook as a business tool? People will get fed up and go somewhere else. I think they are making the smart choice – you don’t just because your account was deleted.

    6: Knowing Joel, chances are he deleted his own account in an attempt to get some more free publicity. Has he got a product launch coming up? I wouldn’t be suprised….

    5:

  20. 1: Just because Joel Comm has been an Internet Marketer for years does not mean he is not a spammer. Ask yourself this. Why has Joel got 5000 friends? What is his main purpose for doing so? It all comes down to one thing – trying to sell more stuff.

    2: Joel Comm has not met everyone on his list. His list would be made up of many people whom he has never met and never has the intention of meeting. Facebook was created as a social network where friends and family can stay connected. Joel is using it predominantly as a business tool – this is not its intended purpose and he has found that out the hard way.

    3: There is no point whinging about having an account banned. Millions of people use Facebook everyday the way it was intended to be used and never have any problems. If your account has been banned them clearly you have not been using Facebook the way it was intended – for connecting with family and friends – NOT marketing your business.

    4: I applaud Facebook for trying to get rid of people who use the system for business purposes only. We get enough spam in our email and it seems we can’t go anywhere without having sales message shoved down our throat. Facebook should be somewhere people can go without having to be subjected to this same old rubbish.

    5: You ask where Facebook will be in five years time if they keep deleting people’s accounts who they think are abusing the system? Well where do you think Facebook will be in 5 years if they don’t put a stop to this idea of using facebook as a business tool? People will get fed up and go somewhere else. I think they are making the smart choice – you don’t just because your account was deleted.

    6: Knowing Joel, chances are he deleted his own account in an attempt to get some more free publicity. Has he got a product launch coming up? I wouldn’t be suprised….

    5:

  21. The ONE thing you gotta remember about Facebook is that it’s run by a bunch of 25 year old kids. That one fact is all that is needed to understand why they do the idiotic things that they do… ie: erasing people’s accounts erroneously, having a terrible user interface that is completely illogical (and people seem to ignore this, most likely because their closest competitor is MySpace’s UI, aka Geocities), having a horrible API that is both poorly written and documented, having all those ridiculous issues with privacy, etc etc.

  22. The ONE thing you gotta remember about Facebook is that it’s run by a bunch of 25 year old kids. That one fact is all that is needed to understand why they do the idiotic things that they do… ie: erasing people’s accounts erroneously, having a terrible user interface that is completely illogical (and people seem to ignore this, most likely because their closest competitor is MySpace’s UI, aka Geocities), having a horrible API that is both poorly written and documented, having all those ridiculous issues with privacy, etc etc.

  23. Hi Robert,

    I just feel the whole social networking thing is ‘broken’ by design – it encourages a siloed approach to data federation and syndication and most of all, it puts immense power in the hands of a few individuals.

    I first noticed this flaw during my participation in other social networks (precursors to ‘book) – especially when witnessing the “community vs. Ecademy” debacle at the beginning of this decade that spurred what has since been known as the “night of the long knives” when one of the directors and general goodwill ambassadors ran roughshod over the account system and banned many members for speaking out against site policy. This same social network also took a few other decisions that made many leave – there was a horrible stench of group think everywhere and people were in ‘fear’ of speaking out about site policy should they get banned for expressing their opinions.

    This decade has been the most successful yet in showing how community-led systems can rival traditional commercial models. I continue to hope that as Facebook and other SNs continue to promote the benefit of adopting these tools there will reach a critical mass that puts weight behind the initiatives such as data portability, ownership and identity.

    If SNs such as Facebook continue to struggle with these challenges then fragmentation will be further encouraged and contribute to this momentum, the sooner the better I believe – today’s SNs are already looking dated and boring – tomorrow’s SN will be just another application layer on top of today’s well-known tools and devices.

    In January 2008 I was exploring methods and means to achieve this, as are many others – hopefully one day a peer to peer social network will exist that will make these ventures superfluous and remove their monopolistic power over crowd-sourcing.

  24. Hi Robert,

    I just feel the whole social networking thing is ‘broken’ by design – it encourages a siloed approach to data federation and syndication and most of all, it puts immense power in the hands of a few individuals.

    I first noticed this flaw during my participation in other social networks (precursors to ‘book) – especially when witnessing the “community vs. Ecademy” debacle at the beginning of this decade that spurred what has since been known as the “night of the long knives” when one of the directors and general goodwill ambassadors ran roughshod over the account system and banned many members for speaking out against site policy. This same social network also took a few other decisions that made many leave – there was a horrible stench of group think everywhere and people were in ‘fear’ of speaking out about site policy should they get banned for expressing their opinions.

    This decade has been the most successful yet in showing how community-led systems can rival traditional commercial models. I continue to hope that as Facebook and other SNs continue to promote the benefit of adopting these tools there will reach a critical mass that puts weight behind the initiatives such as data portability, ownership and identity.

    If SNs such as Facebook continue to struggle with these challenges then fragmentation will be further encouraged and contribute to this momentum, the sooner the better I believe – today’s SNs are already looking dated and boring – tomorrow’s SN will be just another application layer on top of today’s well-known tools and devices.

    In January 2008 I was exploring methods and means to achieve this, as are many others – hopefully one day a peer to peer social network will exist that will make these ventures superfluous and remove their monopolistic power over crowd-sourcing.

  25. They already have the features you mention. they can disable just messaging and leave other functions intact.

    I must conclude that their action was not as a result of just the amount of messaging. Perhaps he broke some other unpublished rules.

    Your summing up is correct. If he is not happy with Facebook, he shouldn’t use it. However, millions of ordinary people (not the early adopters like your good self) are perfectly happy with Facebook.

    When my messaging was suspended I wrote about it and then I got in touch with the Company that looks after the PR For Facebook in the UK and you knwo what, within 24 hours I had my account back. No threats, no holier than thou attitude. I kindly asked for access back and I received it. It’s amazing what a bit of politeness (and not threats) can do when required.

    btw, did you know that your blog is not supported by backtype :-(

    Mike Ashworth

  26. They already have the features you mention. they can disable just messaging and leave other functions intact.

    I must conclude that their action was not as a result of just the amount of messaging. Perhaps he broke some other unpublished rules.

    Your summing up is correct. If he is not happy with Facebook, he shouldn’t use it. However, millions of ordinary people (not the early adopters like your good self) are perfectly happy with Facebook.

    When my messaging was suspended I wrote about it and then I got in touch with the Company that looks after the PR For Facebook in the UK and you knwo what, within 24 hours I had my account back. No threats, no holier than thou attitude. I kindly asked for access back and I received it. It’s amazing what a bit of politeness (and not threats) can do when required.

    btw, did you know that your blog is not supported by backtype :-(

    Mike Ashworth

  27. The outright deletion of profiles and information on Facebook is obscene, considering most of their “spam detectors” are automatic and are not humans actually looking into the matter.

    I do believe that the very people who drive Facebook to be the powerhouse that it is, should be treated with respect and as individuals… not instant spammers because of one or two “spam alerts” they receive from a non-human source.

    “Jailing” accounts is a great idea, and it would be very wise of Facebook to implement something like this.

  28. The outright deletion of profiles and information on Facebook is obscene, considering most of their “spam detectors” are automatic and are not humans actually looking into the matter.

    I do believe that the very people who drive Facebook to be the powerhouse that it is, should be treated with respect and as individuals… not instant spammers because of one or two “spam alerts” they receive from a non-human source.

    “Jailing” accounts is a great idea, and it would be very wise of Facebook to implement something like this.

  29. Interesting and thought-provoking article, Robert!

    In defense of you, Joel and countless others who have been suspended or removed from Facebook, it certainly doesn’t seem like you’re being treated fairly. It’s hard to imagine that someone with 5,000 confirmed Facebook friends and ten times as many followers on Twitter could be considered a spambot. Generally speaking, online communities, wikis, social networks, etc. have a way of policing themselves; content that other people enjoy gets shared and promoted while spam and other “noise” gets blocked or ignored. Facebook and other social sites would all be best-served by this sort of grassroots self-policing, rather than a top-down approach.

    However, there’s a subtle point to which some other readers have alluded in the comments. You wrote, “I don’t support companies that ‘erase’ MY data without my permission.” What you may not realize is that based on Facebook’s TOS (http://www.facebook.com/terms.php), what you think are “your data” actually are not “your data,” not by a long shot, not once you’ve posted them on Facebook.

    If you think there are safer or better places than Facebook to put “your data” on the internet, you’re also mistaken. Take a peek at Google’s TOS (http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS). In particular, read section 11, where you hand over all rights to “your” content to them (except basic copyright, which you automatically have any time you produce an original work and put your name on it). You’re basically giving Google a free license to use your content — even for their own commercial gain!

    Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In return for providing “free” distribution of “your” content, companies like Facebook, Google and the likes are creating massive databases of incredibly valuable “information capital.” This in turn allows them to offer you a “free” service while they sell this information capital — the stuff you gave them, remember? — to advertisers. That pays their bills, which in turn allows them to continue to give you “free” content distribution.

    Average people (who upload videos of dogs on skateboards, etc. to Facebook) don’t care about data ownership and are perfectly happy to hand the rights to their content over to Facebook or Google it order to share it more easily with their friends. Average people — however — aren’t one man media outlets, either, but YOU are. So, being an internet/social media mogul, I’m sure you understand that content distribution isn’t free.

    The solution? Host your content yourself! People like you and Joel have the resources to pay for your own hosting AND you have loyal audiences that will follow you wherever you go. You can leverage social media to help the viral spread of your content, but the obvious goal of your participation in social media and social networking should be to drive eyeballs/click-throughs back to YOUR site so people can view YOUR content, ensuring that YOUR advertisers get bang for their buck.

    It really all boils down to two old sayings: there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for. Want to pay for your own hosting and distribution? Then you can own your own content. Want to get free distribution from Facebook or Google? Then be prepared to give them something in return.

    http://twitter.com/bucchere

  30. Interesting and thought-provoking article, Robert!

    In defense of you, Joel and countless others who have been suspended or removed from Facebook, it certainly doesn’t seem like you’re being treated fairly. It’s hard to imagine that someone with 5,000 confirmed Facebook friends and ten times as many followers on Twitter could be considered a spambot. Generally speaking, online communities, wikis, social networks, etc. have a way of policing themselves; content that other people enjoy gets shared and promoted while spam and other “noise” gets blocked or ignored. Facebook and other social sites would all be best-served by this sort of grassroots self-policing, rather than a top-down approach.

    However, there’s a subtle point to which some other readers have alluded in the comments. You wrote, “I don’t support companies that ‘erase’ MY data without my permission.” What you may not realize is that based on Facebook’s TOS (http://www.facebook.com/terms.php), what you think are “your data” actually are not “your data,” not by a long shot, not once you’ve posted them on Facebook.

    If you think there are safer or better places than Facebook to put “your data” on the internet, you’re also mistaken. Take a peek at Google’s TOS (http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS). In particular, read section 11, where you hand over all rights to “your” content to them (except basic copyright, which you automatically have any time you produce an original work and put your name on it). You’re basically giving Google a free license to use your content — even for their own commercial gain!

    Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In return for providing “free” distribution of “your” content, companies like Facebook, Google and the likes are creating massive databases of incredibly valuable “information capital.” This in turn allows them to offer you a “free” service while they sell this information capital — the stuff you gave them, remember? — to advertisers. That pays their bills, which in turn allows them to continue to give you “free” content distribution.

    Average people (who upload videos of dogs on skateboards, etc. to Facebook) don’t care about data ownership and are perfectly happy to hand the rights to their content over to Facebook or Google it order to share it more easily with their friends. Average people — however — aren’t one man media outlets, either, but YOU are. So, being an internet/social media mogul, I’m sure you understand that content distribution isn’t free.

    The solution? Host your content yourself! People like you and Joel have the resources to pay for your own hosting AND you have loyal audiences that will follow you wherever you go. You can leverage social media to help the viral spread of your content, but the obvious goal of your participation in social media and social networking should be to drive eyeballs/click-throughs back to YOUR site so people can view YOUR content, ensuring that YOUR advertisers get bang for their buck.

    It really all boils down to two old sayings: there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for. Want to pay for your own hosting and distribution? Then you can own your own content. Want to get free distribution from Facebook or Google? Then be prepared to give them something in return.

    http://twitter.com/bucchere

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