Banned From Facebook? It's All in the Fine Print

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Facebook's taken plenty of flak over its policies lately. The company's shift in licensing terms this February led to a user backlash, a nearly filed federal complaint, and ultimately, a decision to let the community help rewrite the site's guiding code.

Buried in the mix, though, one group of users fears another change in Facebook's terms could prove to be even more troublesome -- a change that, by a casual interpretation, appears to ban large subsets of people from using the service.

The Unseen Struggle

Suzie McCarthy introduces herself as a nerd. An NYU grad student studying comparative politics, McCarthy is passionate about international relations. That's why, when she looked carefully through Facebook's proposed new policies, McCarthy found herself doing a double-take.

"The new Facebook governance policy is not simply about privacy," she says. "Facebook has dramatically increased the amount of restrictions as to who can use the site."

The restrictions to which McCarthy refers come in clause 4.3 of Facebook's new "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" document, one of two revised files being voted on by Facebook users this week. The section, not present in the previous "Terms of Use" agreement, 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."

Given Facebook's "One World" principle -- "The Facebook service should transcend geographic and national boundaries and be available to everyone in the world" -- McCarthy was moved to take action. With so many users in nations such as Cuba, Sudan, and Iran relying on Facebook for communication, she saw the need to stand up and address what seemed to be a dangerous disconnect.

"Internet global networking allows for the possibility of reaching past the agendas of our various home states to connect with each other. It provides a picture of Iranians within Iran other than Ahmadinejad," she says.

"Facebook must remain a networking tool allowing for the free exchange of ideas across national boundaries without linkage to a particular government or cause."

Next: Facebook's assurance

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