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Summary:

The Internet seems to have gone mad over comments by Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook. I applaud Zuckerberg for finally taking a stand on this important issue but the company and Zuckerberg need to take actions that speak louder than words.

markzuckerberg

The Internet seems to have gone mad over comments by Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook. Zuckerberg on Wednesday came out against the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation and in a Facebook status message wrote:

The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet. The world today needs political leaders who are pro-internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-internet.

Facebook also outlined its official stance on SOPA and PIPA.

I applaud Zuckerberg for finally taking a stand on this important issue. However, forgive me for thinking that Zuckerberg and Facebook are doing what is politically ‘correct.’ Today, it took till about 10 am Pacific Time — long after the anti-SOPA “blackout” had spread widely across the web. Even Google (a company that tends to talk out of both sides of its mouth on policy issues) came out with a strong statement against SOPA and PIPA and carried the protest “black” banner on its homepage.

The late reaction — as well meaning as it seems to be — makes me wonder if this was something that was an expedient, low-risk public relations move. I know people are going to call me a Facebook hater, but I do have a reason to question why there was such a slow reaction. As one of the Internet’s largest destinations, Facebook should have been talking about this issue long before today. SOPA isn’t a recent problem, and a threat of a boycott from Facebook would have made politicians pay attention a lot sooner.

What makes up social companies like Facebook and Twitter is we the people — not the software, the hardware and the data centers they own. It is not the money but the people who make a place vibrant, exciting and livable.

In an ideal world, Facebook should reflect our world. Unfortunately, it does not. In the past the company has made questionable decisions about user privacy and other similar issues. Now the company is proposing its suggestions. I disagree with that approach — Facebook’s suggestions should be the suggestions of its users. Here is what I wrote as a comment in response to Zuckerberg’s status message.

..it be great if you/Facebook actually shared and had a conversation about your suggestions and proposals to the legislators mostly because I believe since this impacts individuals – they need to be part of the process.

Much as I would like to believe Facebook, the company’s stance has been less than stellar when it comes to things like privacy and rights of the citizens. What I would love for Facebook to do is have a town hall.

So if Facebook and Zuckerberg really mean it — if they really want to come out with a real statement against SOPA — it is time for them to stand-up and show it. Involve the people — not the politicians, not the big companies, and definitely not the lobbyists — and have them weigh in on the future of our Internet.

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  1. Basically the same way Wikipedia did with it’s community. They came together and as a community worked out the most appropriate response. I think you are completely right that the response from Facebook really is too little too late and a mere PR exercise. As a leading destination on the internet they should also be a leading voice.

  2. I appreciate what you are saying, and the cynic in me suspects the same.

    However, in terms of effectiveness, I think the sheer number of people using Facebook to talk about SOPA, share all these other blackouts (etc) speaks far more volumes and possibly has more of an effect when it comes to awareness, than a protest (whether black out or notice) forced on its users, top-down.

    1. Agreed. But that said, I would love to see Facebook create a simple graphic and making sure everyone was aware of the SOPA issues. There is a lot more education they could have done than this mealy mouthed response. I think if you believe in something you figure out a way to make your point and opinions known.

      But hey, that’s just me.

    2. I suspect some wag went to Mark with some metrics about how many posts are going up about the protest (my newsfeed is full of them), which led to an “official” chiming in. As Om says, they already knew which way the wind (of their user base) was blowing.

      Funny thing is, a lot of the posts on my news feed are from content originators like musicians and writers. The very people the legislation is supposed to be protecting. If you’ve played video games, watched TV or movies, you’ve heard some of these people who are paying the rent from the royalties they receive. And they know that this isn’t going to improve their world one bit. Only make it harder for them.

      1. Steve

        Thanks for your comment. I think that is the issue I was trying to talk about.

        Best

  3. It’s not a race about who can get a statement out fastest. It’s about getting it right. The real work on this goes far beyond stunts with your website.

    1. That is correct and that is my point exactly. Writing a status post isn’t enough – need to do more!

  4. The silence of paranoid, controlling, socially-disconnected maker of the wealthy fashion trinkets Apple on SOPA and PIPA is deafening, even with Ping.

    1. It is so silent that I can hear the sound of silence.

      1. Would you please write about “That Apple”

      2. Silent, but hardly surprising. Apple is no friend of the open internet, and has been assiduously working with Murdoch and the rest of the SOPA-PIPA in crowd to move everything possible into their walled garden.

    2. Apple is one of the largest publicly-traded companies in the world. Facebook is still a private company. There is a huge difference.

      Apple’s officers are constrained by something called fiduciary duty. All of their actions must be in the best interests of the shareholders or they can wind up in a lot of trouble. If Apple thinks that the net impact of SOPA and PIPA would hurt Apple’s share value, then they are almost *required* to speak out against it. On the other hand, if they feel that speaking out against SOPA and PIPA might damage their relationships with the studios and therefore Apple’s business results, they can get in a lot of trouble for speaking out. I hate this fact, but I think that’s how our corporate regulations work.

      Facebook is a private company and has none of these issues.

      1. Ah, so Steve Jobs was doing his “fiduciary duty” when he told Isaacson he didn’t care if Apple had to spend its entire (then) $40billion in cash to kill Android?

        Fiduciary duty or not, Apple’s interests clearly align with the SOPA-PIPA crowd. No need to get all fiduciary about it. I’d be willing to take out a Romney-sized wager at least that nobody would sue Apple if they came out against SOPA-PIPA. If they had the guts to state they were for it, it would probably hurt Apple a lot more with the internet-savvy component of their customer base than coming out against it would hurt them with the Murdoch crowd. So they’ll take the fifth, that’s their right too.

        Of course, the behavior of the Wall St. crowd over the past decade or so has made a total joke of the whole “fiduciary duty” thing, but that’s another story.

  5. I know that I am a bit of a naysayer on this one, but while there is ZERO doubt that if SOPA + PIPA passes it would be hugely destructive to the Internet economy, there is an aspect of the ‘blackout’ that is so PR-charged that it’s reminiscent of the “red ribbon” episode of Seinfeld, where Kramer gets attacked by an angry mob at an AIDS rally for refusing to wear the Red AIDs Ribbon. How dare he! (http://youtu.be/rGaqI20WHyk)

    My only point is that one gets the sense that companies like Facebook and Apple have herd-mentality antibodies that sometimes makes them look like jerks, but it’s just not in their nature to get sucked into the adornments that the crowd expects, which is ironic given how central their roles are in the daily goings of that same crowd.

    That may may not make them warm/fuzzy, but you sort of know that what they say and what they do are usually going to be in the same ballpark.

  6. Facebook is spineless. How dare they have values that don’t agree with everybody. I really wish the actual Zuck was more like the character in the social network as that guy had balls and this Zuck is a eunuch.

  7. Tons of Facebook pages are landing pages that their customers are paying lots of $$ to drive traffic to… and many of those are SOPA supporters.
    Unlike many sites, Facebook pages in iframes can use javasccript and have a huge amount of design flexibility, thus all those page owners are free to make whatever protest they want.

    Freedom is also freedom of choice… lets let Facebook fight SOPA in whatever way they feel is appropriate for thier business… especially in the runup to their IPO

  8. He is a thinker Om :)

  9. this is just latest evidence zuckerberg has no clue what’s going on, I’m kinda surprised your surprised

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