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Is Facebook comparable to the phone company?

Interesting article in the Media section of The Australian today about Facebook’s lack of response to the defacing of tribute sites to two Australian children. Facebook is dodging responsibility for what happened to those pages, since they were open pages. When someone sets up a group or fan page, they can control what gets published.

This brings up an interesting issue as to whether Facebook is a publisher or a platform. They are saying they’re a platform that gives people the tools to create content. The spokesperson’s response was, “If I phone you up and say really offensive things, does that mean the mobile phone operator is liable for that?” I don’t think the phone company is liable in that case, any more than iinet was found liable for what its users downloaded from the web.

The mobile phone operator and iinet are not trying to sell advertising against phone calls or downloads, they provide a utility which people pay for. Facebook seems to want its cake and eat it too – give people free tools to create content – which they can sell advertising on (the business model) – but remain simply a platform. Doesn’t work for me. What do you think?

Patty Keegan
Digital Chameleon

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