Facebook needs an Ombudsman

by Karl Sakas on April 30, 2010

As everyone’s saying, Facebook isn’t too concerned about putting its users first. In just a few weeks, this has led to Congressional investigations (grandstanding for a purpose) and various articles decrying the company’s approach to privacy.

Tamar Weinberg has an excellent writeup on Techipedia, “An Open Letter to Facebook.” As I commented there, Facebook needs an ombudsperson to represent its otherwise voiceless individual users:

Part of the problem is the disconnect between Facebook’s users and customers. The Facebook experience is primarily about individuals interacting with each other (and with businesses, sure), but those individuals are not a source of the company’s revenue.

It’s kind of like newspapers, where the advertisers (customers) bring in most of the revenues, while the readers (users) are a negligible direct contributor to profits. But at least newspapers have a long-standing duty to put its readers first. Not so with Facebook (or at least, the company sure isn’t acting like it).

Solution? Facebook needs an ombudsperson (or an ombudsteam) to represent the needs of its individual users, along with its business users and advertisers. Right now, no one is speaking for those 400 million users Facebook loves to tout.

Given Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s apparent disregard for privacy, it’s already becoming, “What next?” with ever-increasing frequency. They’re going to lose users, and that’s a business problem.

It’s his company, and some would disagree, but maybe it’s time for Zuckerberg to step aside and let a professional CEO run the show. I have no desire to run a multi-billion dollar company but “prompt user protests and a PR firestorm every time you update your product” isn’t exactly a sustainable business strategy. Where are you taking us, Mark?

What do you think about Facebook and privacy  (well, the Facebook privacy issue-of-the-week)?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Gus Martinez December 24, 2012

They really need someone to be able to interact with the users.

I just got a block, because I supposedly tried to friend an unknown person and there is no information who that was , why they objected, when it happened, just a screen that says I have to accept their judgement and accept that I “broke the rules”.. I think I’d get better justice in Cuba or North Korea compared to these arrogant bozos

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Karl Sakas December 30, 2012

Gus, thanks for sharing your experience with Facebook! I’m sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time — it sounds like there isn’t any way for you to easily appeal the “block” decision, which has to be pretty frustrating.

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Jennifer R. Cook (@catsinthebagpur) April 1, 2013

Karl,

I have had a personal profile on Facebook for years, I am Canadian. For almost two years I posted a daily, illustrated series called What my #Coffee says to me and another one called What my Tea says to me. The illustrated series began January 1, 2012 to beat depression, become creative and help other people with positive daily messages. I post the images public on Facebook through my personal page, and I post throughout social media. December 31 I reached a goal of 366 positive caffeine inspired illustrations, I moved away from depression and I made people happy with my posts.

On March 4th, 2013, without warning, Facebook took my profile down and blocked my account for 15 days. Literally, I disappeared off the face of search engines for Facebook, my family and friends did not see me anymore. Followers of the series have no idea what happened to me or my posts as that was the only way they connected with me. Facebook blocked my posts because they think What my Coffee says to me and What my Tea says to me twice daily posts are spam.

The 15 days are up, however, if I wish to log back in I have to agree that I am spam. I am not spam. If posting positive messages is regarded as spam, then everyone on Facebook should be blocked. If Facebook thinks I am spam, then why do the allow businesses to post annoying “like” us ads in your stream? If Facebook thinks I am spam, and yet they allow racist Facebook pages to thrive.

I have no way to connect with Facebook, email did not work, if you call Facebook you get their voice mail which leads you back to their Facebook page. There is no way for a person to state their position, or case. While my page was down two coffee companies posted my illustrations to their Facebook pages, without providing full credit to myself as creator. They received thousands of likes and hundreds of shares off of my work. Facebook does not care about anything but themselves.

This is the link to my Pinterest page, it shows the What my Coffee says to me and What my Tea says to me illustrations. They are just, good, positive images. I have some for sale, but so few sales they would only support a small church mouse.

Facebook should have an ombudsman, or a transparent way to reach out and talk to someone at Facebook. I really need to find someone at Facebook to discuss this with. Do you have any idea how to reach anyone at Facebook?

Jennifer R. Cook

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Jennifer R. Cook (@catsinthebagpur) April 1, 2013

Hello Karl Sakas,

I forgot the link to Pinterest so you can see how harmless the posts are
http://pinterest.com/catsmeo/

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Karl Sakas April 3, 2013

@Jennifer: I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a difficult time with Facebook — it sounds frustrating, especially without an opportunity for due process.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any contacts at Facebook, and I don’t think Facebook has ever created an ombudsman role. Your illustrations certainly don’t look objectionable — I wish you the best in sorting this out.

Reply

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