Facebook Feature Fiasco: Zuckerburg Apologizes

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In an open letter posted on the Facebook blog early this morning, founder Mark Zuckerburg finally moved publicly from denial to acceptance about the events of the week: “We really messed this one up … we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them.” (It’s a conclusion you might think could have been reached and admitted by Wednesday given the rapid negative reaction.) Zuckerburg and other Facebook staffers will take part in a chat Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. eastern in a Facebook group he started last week addressing net neutrality and the upcoming election; “Free Flow of Information on the Internet” is open to Facebook subs only.
Zuckerburg says the company has been coding nonstop for two days to provide better privacy controls: “This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly.” He doesn’t say why they left the News Feed and Mini-Feed feature live in the interim or failed to communicate that effort directly to upset subscribers. (Some of the protest groups heard about the fixes from reporters first.) A simple post saying that’s what they were doing could have gone a long way towards stemming the tide much earlier.
He does thank the protestors — though he can’t resist pointing out how the new features aided the protest by highlighting the new groups.
So far, the response to the new controls and the greater clarity over what the feeds do or do not show seems to be positive with a number of people thanking him for listening. Should also reiterate here that a lot of users liked the feeds from the start.
Update: Two words that might have made Saturday’s session more useful: “Moderated chat.” Hundreds of messages posted in minutes; little in the way of real dialogue.
danah boyd explores the intersection of social networking and privacy: “Facebook lost some of its innocence this week. Even when things return to ‘normal,’ a scar will persist. Yet, the question remains: what will the long-term social effects of this ‘privacy trainwreck’ be?”

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