Facebook. Don’t even pretend that you’re not into it. Several hours of your week are probably dedicated to wasting time on this ridiculous, yet somehow simultaneously amazing, networking system. And it’s not just stalking friends or reading updates about how “Jen is currently eating homemade coleslaw while wearing her new underwear.“
Admit it: Every aspect of Facebook has you sucked in. You now know the last name, relationship status and hometown of every one of your friends‘ friends. You can also sleep easily at night knowing which city you should live in, what your kissing style is and what campus bathroom you are. I’m the bathroom in Giedt Hall, by the way.
But are you as tuned in when it comes to more serious matters that surround our beloved Facebook? Case in point – last week Facebook allowed users to vote on new Terms of Service (TOS). This document included a few additions, including section 4.3 which states: “You will not use Facebook if you are located in a country embargoed by the U.S., or are on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals.” I’ll admit that I don’t see the latter half of that statement needing to be enforced. How likely is it that the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine will want to start a Facebook group? But I guess I shouldn’t be making assumptions since my friends‘ mothers started friending me.
Anyway, what really has people up in arms is the first half of that statement. This bans users from Facebook for the act of simply being from a certain country. These aren’t people who have committed crimes or somehow violated Facebook TOS in the past; their only fault is being from a country that the U.S. just really isn’t that fond of right now. According to the new TOS, users from Iran, Sudan, Myanmar, Cuba, North Korea and Syria will no longer have access to Facebook. This ban is sandwiched between the restrictions for users younger than 13 and sex offenders – as if the offense of being from a foreign country is less than being a preteen, but greater than touching little children.
Suzie McCarthy is the creator of “Users United in Support of Global Accessibility to Facebook,” a group protesting the enforcement of section 4.3 of the new TOS. A graduate student studying Comparative Politics at NYU, the injustice of section 4.3 caught her eye the minute she read it.
“Internet global networking allows for the possibility of reaching past the agendas of our various home states to connect with each other.” Suzie is concerned, as many others are, that with the new TOS a valuable means of communication with relatives and friends will be lost. Ironic since Facebook states that its mission is “to make the world more open and connected.“
Suzie is not the only one interested in this issue. Her Facebook group has grown to over 500 users, with other similar groups boasting thousands. Unfortunately for the members of these groups (many of whom are users from the aforementioned countries), the voting ended last week with an alarming number of users for the new TOS.
So, why haven’t we noticed a significant decrease in Facebook users over the past few days? According to a spokesperson, Facebook will continue to allow users from embargoed countries to have accounts as long as they aren’t engaging in commercial activities on the site.
Suzie’s new mission is stated proudly on her Facebook group’s main page: “We must make sure they never enforce an inch/centimeter of clause 4.3! Facebook must remain a networking tool allowing for the free exchange of ideas across national boundaries without linkage to a particular government or cause.“
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
DANIELLE RAMIREZ thinks that everyone should check out “Users United in Support of Global Accessibility to Facebook.” To let her know your opinion of the new TOS, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.