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Facebook, Inc.
Type Private
Founded Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA[1]
Headquarters Palo Alto, California
Dublin, Ireland (international headquarters for Europe, Africa, Middle East)
Seoul, South Korea (international headquarters for Asia)
Key people Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO
Dustin Moskovitz, Co-founder
Sheryl Sandberg, COO
Matt Cohler, VP of Product Management
Chris Hughes, Co-founder
Revenue 300 million USD (2008 est.)[2]
Employees 1000+[3]
Website www.facebook.com
Alexa rank 2[4]
Type of site Social network service
Advertising Banner ads, referral marketing
Registration Required
Available in Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Azeri, Basque, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (Hong Kong), Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK), English (US), English (Pirate), English (Upside down), Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Filipino, Finnish, French (Canada), French (France), Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Latvian Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Malayalam, Maltese, Nepali, Norwegian (Bokmål), Norwegian (Nynorsk), Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Europe), Persian, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Spanish (Castile), Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh
Launched February 4, 2004

Facebook is a social networking website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc.[1] Users can add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Additionally, users can join networks organized by city, workplace, and school or college. The website's name stems from the colloquial name of books given at the start of the academic year by university administrations with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better.

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook with his college roommates and fellow computer science students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes while he was a student at Harvard University.[5] The website's membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It later expanded further to include (potentially) any university student, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The website currently has more than 350 million active users worldwide.[6]

The original concept for Facebook was borrowed from a product produced by Zuckerberg's prep school Phillips Exeter Academy which for decades published and distributed a printed manual of all students and faculty at the Exeter, NH-based boarding school.

Facebook has met with some controversy. It has been blocked intermittently in several countries including Syria,[7] China,[8] Vietnam,[9] and Iran.[10] It has also been banned at many places of work to discourage employees from wasting time using the service.[11] Privacy has also been an issue, and it has been compromised several times. Facebook settled a lawsuit regarding claims over source code and intellectual property.[12] The site has also been involved in controversy over the sale of fans and friends.[13]

A January 2009 Compete.com study ranked Facebook as the most used social network by worldwide monthly active users, followed by MySpace.[14]

There have recently been reports of Facebook proposing an initial public offering (IPO), i.e. issue equity shares in the form of stock to investors. However, Zuckerberg stresses that it will not be for a few more years, and the company is in no need of additional capital.[15][16] Also, some analysts fear the Facebook IPO might be a particularly weak one.[17]




Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.

Mark Zuckerberg invented Facemash on October 28, 2003 while attending Harvard as a sophomore. The site represented a Harvard University version of Hot or Not, according to the Harvard Crimson.[18] That night, Zuckerberg was blogging about a girl who had dumped him and trying to think of something to do to get her off his mind:[19][20][21]

I'm a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it's not even 10 p.m. and it's a Tuesday night? What? The Kirkland [dorm] facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendous facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.
9:48 pm
Yea, it's on. I'm not exactly sure how the farm animals are going to fit into this whole thing (you can't really ever be sure with farm animals...), but I like the idea of comparing two people together.
11:09 pm
Let the hacking begin.
12:58 am

According to The Harvard Crimson, Facemash "used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the 'hotter' person." To accomplish this, Zuckerberg hacked into the protected areas of Harvard's computer network and copied the houses' private dormitory ID images.

Harvard at that time did not have a student directory with photos and basic information and the initial site generated 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours online.[22] That the initial site mirrored people’s physical community—with their real identities—represented the key aspects of what later became Facebook.[23]

"Perhaps Harvard will squelch it for legal reasons without realizing its value as a venture that could possibly be expanded to other schools (maybe even ones with good-looking people...)," Zuckerberg wrote in his personal blog. "But one thing is certain, and it’s that I’m a jerk for making this site. Oh well. Someone had to do it eventually..."[24] The site was quickly forwarded to several campus group list-servers but was shut down a few days later by the Harvard administration. Zuckerberg was charged by the administration with breach of security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy and faced expulsion, but ultimately the charges were dropped.[25]

Zuckerberg expanded on this initial project that same semester by creating a social study tool ahead of an art history final by uploading 500 Augustan images to a website, with one image per page along with a comment section.[23] He opened the site up to his classmates and people started sharing their notes. "The professor said it had the best grades of any final he’d ever given. This was my first social hack. With Facebook, I wanted to make something that would make Harvard (and more open that) more open," Zuckerberg said in a TechCrunch interview.


Thefacebook on February 12, 2004

The following semester, Zuckerberg began writing code for a new website in January 2004. He was inspired, he said, by an editorial in The Harvard Crimson about the Facemash incident. "It is clear that the technology needed to create a centralized Website is readily available," the paper observed. "The benefits are many."[19] On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched "Thefacebook", originally located at thefacebook.com.[26] "Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard," Zuckerberg told The Harvard Crimson. "I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week."[27] "When Mark finished the site, he told a couple of friends. And then one of them suggested putting it on the Kirkland House online mailing list, which was, like, three hundred people," according to roommate Dustin Moskovitz. "And, once they did that, several dozen people joined, and then they were telling people at the other houses. By the end of the night, we were, like, actively watching the registration process. Within twenty-four hours, we had somewhere between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred registrants."[28]

Membership was initially restricted to students of Harvard College, and within the first month, more than half the undergraduate population at Harvard was registered on the service.[29] Eduardo Saverin (business aspects), Dustin Moskovitz (programmer), Andrew McCollum (graphic artist), and Chris Hughes soon joined Zuckerberg to help promote the website. In March 2004, Facebook expanded to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale.[30] This expansion continued when it opened to all Ivy League and Boston area schools, and gradually most universities in Canada and the United States.[31] Facebook incorporated in the summer of 2004 and the entrepreneur Sean Parker, who had been informally advising Zuckerberg, became the company's president.[32] In June 2004, Facebook moved its base of operations to Palo Alto, California.[30] The company dropped The from its name after purchasing the domain name facebook.com in 2005 for $200,000.[33]

Facebook launched a high school version in September 2005, which Zuckerberg called the next logical step.[34] At that time, high school networks required an invitation to join.[35] Facebook later expanded membership eligibility to employees of several companies, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft.[36] Facebook was then opened on September 26, 2006 to everyone of ages 13 and older with a valid e-mail address.[37][38] In October 2008, Facebook announced that it was to set up its international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.[39]


Entrance to Facebook's current headquarters in the Stanford Research Park, Palo Alto, California
Another view of Facebook's current headquarters

Facebook received its first investment of US$500,000 in June 2004 from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.[40] This was followed a year later by $12.7 million in venture capital from Accel Partners, and then $27.5 million more from Greylock Partners.[40][41] A leaked cash flow statement showed that during the 2005 fiscal year, Facebook had a net loss of $3.63 million.[42]

With the sale of social networking website MySpace to News Corp on July 19, 2005, rumors surfaced about the possible sale of Facebook to a larger media company.[43] Zuckerberg had already said he did not want to sell the company, and denied rumors to the contrary.[44] On March 28, 2006, BusinessWeek reported that a potential acquisition of Facebook was under negotiation. Facebook reportedly declined an offer of $750 million from an unknown bidder, and it was rumored the asking price rose as high as $2 billion.[45]

In September 2006, serious talks between Facebook and Yahoo! took place concerning acquisition of Facebook, with prices reaching as high as $1 billion.[46] Thiel, by then a board member of Facebook, indicated that Facebook's internal valuation was around $8 billion based on their projected revenues of $1 billion by 2015, comparable to Viacom's MTV brand, a company with a shared target demographic audience.[47]

On July 17, 2007, Zuckerberg said that selling Facebook was unlikely because he wanted to keep it independent, saying "We're not really looking to sell the company... We're not looking to IPO anytime soon. It's just not the core focus of the company."[48]

In September 2007, Microsoft approached Facebook, proposing an investment in return for a 5% stake in the company, offering an estimated $300–500 million.[49] That month, other companies, including Google, expressed interest in buying a portion of Facebook.[50]

On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a total implied value of around $15 billion.[51] However, Microsoft bought preferred stock that carried special rights, such as "liquidation preferences" that meant Microsoft would get paid before common stockholders if the company is sold. Microsoft's purchase also included rights to place international ads on Facebook.[52]

In November 2007, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing invested $60 million in Facebook.[53]

In August 2008, BusinessWeek reported that private sales by employees, as well as purchases by venture capital firms, had and were being done at share prices that put the company's total valuation at between $3.75 billion and $5 billion.[52]

In October 2008, Zuckerberg said "I don't think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search did... In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today."[54]

In August 2009, Facebook acquired social media real-time news aggregator FriendFeed,[55] a startup created by the former Google employee and Gmail's first engineer Paul Buchheit who, while at Google, coined the phrase "Don't be evil".[56][57][58]

In September 2009, Facebook claimed that it had turned cash flow positive for the first time.[59]


File:Facebook log in.png
Facebook's homepage features a login form on the top right for existing users and a registration form directly underneath for new visitors.

Users can join and create up to 200 groups according to their interests or areas of expertise.[60] It will appear in the search results of Facebook if the group is on public.[61] Users can choose fan pages according to their interests to connect and interact with other strangers.[62] Users can set their profiles on private so as to prevent acquaintances from contacting them. Users can also set their profiles on public.[63] This allows close friends to send messages and add the user as a friend. It lets users update their personal profiles to notify their close friends about themselves. They can also join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with their close friends.[64] Public profiles also allow any stranger or acquaintance to contact the user which results in lack of privacy. Public profiles can be blocked by any user but private profiles cannot.

The website is free to users and generates revenue from advertising, such as banner ads.[65] Users can create profiles including photos and lists of personal interests, exchange private or public messages, and join groups of friends.[66] By default, the viewing of detailed profile data is restricted to users from the same network and "reasonable community limitations".[67]

Microsoft is Facebook's exclusive partner for serving banner advertising,[68] and as such Facebook only serves advertisements that exist in Microsoft's advertisement inventory. According to comScore, an internet marketing research company, Facebook collects as much data from its visitors as Google and Microsoft, but considerably less than Yahoo!.[69]

Interface evolution

Facebook Lite

In August 2009, Facebook announced the rollout of a "lite" version of the site, optimized for users on slower or intermittent internet connections. Facebook Lite offered fewer services, excluded most third-party applications and required less bandwidth.[1] A beta version of the slimmed-down interface was released first to invited testers,[2] before a broader rollout across users in the USA, Canada, and India.[1]


The media often compares Facebook to MySpace, but one significant difference between the two websites is the level of customization.[3] MySpace allows users to decorate their profiles using HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), while Facebook only allows plain text.[4]

Facebook has a number of features with which users may interact. They include the Wall, a space on every user's profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see;[5] Pokes, which allows users to send a virtual "poke" to each other (a notification then tells a user that they have been poked);[6] Photos, where users can upload albums and photos;[7] and Status, which allows users to inform their friends of their whereabouts and actions.[8] Depending on privacy settings, anyone who can see a user's profile can also view that user's Wall. In July 2007, Facebook began allowing users to post attachments to the Wall, whereas the Wall was previously limited to textual content only.[5]

Over time, Facebook has added features to its website. On September 6, 2006, a News Feed was announced[by whom?], which appears on every user's homepage and highlights information including profile changes, upcoming events, and birthdays of the user's friends.[9] Initially, the News Feed caused dissatisfaction among Facebook users; some complained it was too cluttered and full of undesired information, while others were concerned it made it too easy for other people to track down individual activities (such as changes in relationship status, events, and conversations with other users).[10] In response to this dissatisfaction, Zuckerberg issued an apology for the site's failure to include appropriate customizable privacy features. Since then, users have been able to control what types of information are shared automatically with friends. Users are now able to prevent friends from seeing updates about certain types of activities, including profile changes, Wall posts, and newly added friends.[11]

One of the most popular applications on Facebook is the Photos application, where users can upload albums and photos.[12] Facebook allows users to upload an unlimited number of photos, compared with other image hosting services such as Photobucket and Flickr, which apply limits to the number of photos that a user is allowed to upload. During the first years, Facebook users were limited to 60 photos per album. As of May, 2009, this limit has been increased to 200 photos per album.[13][14][15][16] Privacy settings can be set for individual albums, limiting the groups of users that can see an album. For example, the privacy of an album can be set so that only the user's friends can see the album, while the privacy of another album can be set so that all Facebook users can see it. Another feature of the Photos application is the ability to "tag", or label users in a photo. For instance, if a photo contains a user's friend, then the user can tag the friend in the photo. This sends a notification to the friend that they have been tagged, and provides them a link to see the photo.[17]

Facebook Notes was introduced on August 22, 2006, a blogging feature that allowed tags and embeddable images. Users were later able to import blogs from Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, and other blogging services.[18] During the week of April 7, 2008, Facebook released a Comet-based[19] instant messaging application called "Chat" to several networks,[20] which allows users to communicate with friends and is similar in functionality to desktop-based instant messengers.

Facebook launched Gifts on February 8, 2007, which allows users to send virtual gifts to their friends that appear on the recipient's profile. Gifts cost $1.00 each to purchase, and a personalized message can be attached to each gift.[21][22] On May 14, 2007, Facebook launched Marketplace, which lets users post free classified ads.[23] Marketplace has been compared to Craigslist by CNET, which points out that the major difference between the two is that listings posted by a user on Marketplace are only seen by users that are in the same network as that user, whereas listings posted on Craigslist can be seen by anyone.[24]

On July 20, 2008, Facebook introduced "Facebook Beta", a significant redesign of its user interface on selected networks. The Mini-Feed and Wall were consolidated, profiles were separated into tabbed sections, and an effort was made to create a "cleaner" look.[25] After initially giving users a choice to switch, Facebook began migrating all users to the new version beginning in September 2008.[26]

On December 11, 2008, it was announced that Facebook is testing out a new simpler signup process.[27] On June 13, 2009, Facebook introduced a "Usernames" feature, whereby pages can be linked with simpler URLs such as http://www.facebook.com/facebook, as opposed to http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=20531316728.[28]


Facebook's former headquarters in downtown Palo Alto, California

Facebook launched the Facebook Platform on May 24, 2007, providing a framework for software developers to create applications that interact with core Facebook features.[29][30] A markup language called Facebook Markup Language was introduced simultaneously; it is used to customize the "look and feel" of applications that developers create. Using the Platform, Facebook launched several new applications,[29][30] including Gifts, allowing users to send virtual gifts to each other, Marketplace, allowing users to post free classified ads, Events, giving users a method of informing their friends about upcoming events, and Video, letting users share homemade videos with one another.[31][32]

Applications that have been created on the Platform include chess, which both allow users to play games with their friends.[33] In such games, a user's moves are saved on the website, allowing the next move to be made at any time rather than immediately after the previous move.[34]

By November 3, 2007, seven thousand applications had been developed on the Facebook Platform, with another hundred created every day.[35] By the second annual f8 developers conference on July 23, 2008, the number of applications had grown to 33,000,[36] and the number of registered developers had exceeded 400,000.[37]

Within a few months of launching the Facebook Platform, issues arose regarding "application spam", which involves Facebook applications "spamming" users to request it be installed.[38] Application spam has been considered[by whom?] one of the possible causes to the drop in visitors to Facebook starting from the beginning of 2008, when its growth had fallen from December 2007 to January 2008, its first drop since its launch in 2004.

Facebook Connect was announced for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DSi on June 1 at E3.[39]

Facebook on smartphones

Many new smartphones offer access to the Facebook services either through their web-browsers or applications. The Facebook iPhone app was launched August 2007 and as of July 2008 over 1.5 million people use it regularly.[40] A free application for the iPhone OS named "Facebook for iPhone" was launched July 2008.[40] Version 2.0 of this app was released in September 2008 and featured improved services such as being able to respond to friend requests and notifications.[41] Version 3.0 was released in August 2009 and added features such as events, and uploading video with a iPhone 3GS.[42]

Nokia offers a Facebook app on its Ovi Store for Nokia S60 devices such as the N97 and contains most of the functionality of the full website.[43]

Google's Android 2.0 OS automatically includes an official Facebook app. The first device to utilize this is the Motorola Droid. The app has options to sync Facebook friends with contacts, which adds profile pictures and status updates to the contacts list. RIM also offers a Facebook application for the BlackBerry. It includes a range of functions, including an ability to integrate Facebook events into the BlackBerry calendar, and using Facebook profile pictures for Caller ID.[44]

Server infrastructure

At QCon San Francisco 2008,[45] Director of Engineering Aditya Agarwal indicated that the front-end servers are running a PHP LAMP stack with the addition of Memcache, and the back-end services are written in a variety of languages including C++, Java, Python and Erlang. Other components of the Facebook infrastructure (which have been released as open source projects) include Scribe, Thrift and Cassandra, as well as existing open-source components such as ODS.

In January 2010, Facebook confirmed it is building the company's first custom data center in Prineville, Oregon.[46] When completed in June 2011, the 147,000-square-foot (13,700 m2) building will occupy 30 acres (12 ha) of the 124-acre (50 ha) site they purchased, and will house 35 employees.[47][48]

Downtime and outages

Facebook has had a number of outages and downtime large enough to draw some media attention. A 2007 outage resulted in a security hole that enabled some users to read other users' personal mail.[49] In 2008, the site was inaccessible for about a day, from many locations in many countries.[50] In spite of these occurrences, a report issued by Pingdom found that Facebook had less downtime in 2008 than most social networking websites.[51] On September 16, 2009, Facebook started having major problems with loading when people signed in. On September 18, 2009, Facebook went down for the second time in 2009, the first time being when a group of hackers were deliberately trying to drown out a political speaker who had social networking problems from continuously speaking against the Iranian election results.[citation needed] In October 2009, an unspecified number of Facebook users were unable to access their accounts for over three weeks.[52][53][54][55][56]

URL shortener

On December 14, 2009 Facebook has launched its own URL shortener based on FB.me domain name.[57] From that point on, all links based on facebook.com can be accessed under fb.me, which is seven characters shorter.

Effect on politics

Facebook's effect on the American political system became clear in 2008, as Facebook teamed up with ABC and Saint Anselm College to allow users to give live feedback about the "back to back" Republican and Democratic January 5th debates[58][59][60]. Charles Gibson moderated both debates, held at the Dana Center for the Humanities at Saint Anselm College. Facebook users could take part in debate groups organized around specific topics, register to vote, and message questions[61]. Over 1,000,000 people installed the facebook application - US politics and there was measurable responses to specific comments made by candidates during the debate[62]. This debate aside had shown many what young students had already known; Facebook was a new way to interact and voice opinions. An article written by Michelle Sullivan of Uwire.com illustrates how the "facebook effect" has affected youth voting rates, support and general involvement in the 2008 election[63].


According to comScore, Facebook is the leading social networking site based on monthly unique visitors, having overtaken main competitor MySpace in April 2008.[64] ComScore reports that Facebook attracted 132.1 million unique visitors in June 2008, compared to MySpace, which attracted 117.6 million.[65]

According to Alexa, the website's ranking among all websites increased from 60th to 7th in terms of worldwide traffic, from September 2006 to September 2007, and is currently 2nd.[66] Quantcast ranks the website 4th in the U.S. in terms of traffic,[67] and Compete.com ranks it 2nd in the U.S.[68] The website is the most popular for uploading photos, with 14 million uploaded daily.[69]

Facebook is the most popular social networking site in several English-speaking countries, including Canada,[70] the United Kingdom,[71] and the United States.[72][73][74][75] The website has won awards such as placement into the "Top 100 Classic Websites" by PC Magazine in 2007,[76] and winning the "People's Voice Award" from the Webby Awards in 2008.[77] In a 2006 study conducted by Student Monitor, a New Jersey-based company specializing in research concerning the college student market, Facebook was named the second most popular thing among undergraduates, tied with beer and only ranked lower than the iPod.[78]

By 2005, the use of Facebook had already become so ubiquitous that the generic verb "facebooking" had come into use to describe the process of browsing others' profiles or updating one's own.[79]

In 2008, The Collins English dictionary declared "Facebook" as their new Word of the Year [80]. In December 2009, The New Oxford American Dictionary declared their word of the year to be the verb "unfriend":

unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook. As in, “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”

Use by courts

In December 2008, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory ruled that Facebook is a valid protocol to serve court notices to defendants. It is believed to be the world's first legal judgement that defines a summons posted on Facebook as legally binding.[81]

In March 2009, the New Zealand High Court associate justice David Glendall allowed for the serving of legal papers on Craig Axe by the company Axe Market Garden via Facebook.[82]


Facebook has met with some controversy over the past few years.

Children under 13

Facebook does not actively enforce the age limit, resulting in children under the age of 13 using it.[83] This has raised concerns in regards to the safety of children.[84]

Local Cases

In October 2005, the University of New Mexico blocked access to Facebook from its campus computers and networks.[85] It cited a violation of the university's Acceptable Use Policy for abusing computer resources as the reason, stating the website forces use of the university's credentials for activity not related to the university. The school later unblocked Facebook after the website rectified the situation by displaying a notice on the login page stating the credentials used on the website are separate from the ones used for their school accounts.[86] The Ontario government also blocked access to Facebook for its employees in May 2007, stating the website was "not directly related to the workplace".[87]

On January 1, 2008, a memorial group on Facebook posted the identity of murdered Toronto teenager Stefanie Rengel, whose family had not yet given the Toronto Police Service their consent to release her name to the media, as well as the identities of her accused killers (Melissa Todorovic[88] and D.B.) — despite the fact that under Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act, it is illegal to publish the name of an underage criminal.[89] While police and Facebook staff attempted to comply with the privacy regulations by deleting posts mentioning her name, they noted it was difficult to effectively police individual users who repeatedly republished the deleted information.[90]

In January 2010 in North Syracuse, New York a seventh grade student at Roxboro Road Middle School was suspended for creating a Facebook group page that libeled one of her teachers. The school's principal said that the young girl's intent was to "hurt her teacher" who had, apparently, angered her in some way. Twenty-five other students who had contributed to her page were given lesser punishments.[91] The Superintendent of the North Syracuse Central School District Dr. Jerome Melvin said that the comments on the page were "sexual in nature". He has emphasized the seriousness of the case and expressed his hope that it will trigger parents into taking a more serious effort in monitoring their children's internet activities.[92]

In March 2009 in Finland city of Kokkola had a temporary ban of Facebook usage; The reason was spread of viruses through Facebook usage. [93] [94]

In August 2009 US Marine Corps issued an immediate ban of internet social networking sites on marine corps enterprise network. [95]

In September 2009 Portsmouth City Council blocked access to the social networking sites, including Facebook. [96]

In October 2010 in Finland Central Finland Hospital District prevented usage of Facebook. The reason was the Facebook group of Hospital District, and joking about the patients in the group. Also sensitive patient information was discussed in the group, even though names of the patients were not mentioned in the group(s). [97] [98]

In Janurary 2010 in Finland city of Vaasa prevented Facebook usage from all workstations of the city; According to CIO of the city, the main reason was the level of overwhelming internet traffic from workstations to the Facebook service, and after technical measures to prevent Facebook usage the level of internet traffic was controllable. It remains to be seen, if these technical measures will be used indefinetely. [99]

In Janurary 2010 in Finland Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District prevented usage of Facebook and several other social media websites. The reasons were prevention of leakages of critical patient information and prevention of usage of Facebook during working hours. [100]

Banned by governments

Because of the open nature of Facebook, several countries have banned access to it including Syria,[101] China,[102] Iran,[103] and Vietnam.[104]

Africa and Middle East

The Syrian government cited the ban was on the premise that the website promoted attacks on authorities.[101][105] The government also feared Israeli infiltration of Syrian social networks on Facebook.[101] Facebook was also used by Syrian citizens to criticize the government, and public criticism of the Syrian government is punishable by imprisonment.[101]

On February 5, 2008, Fouad Mourtada, a citizen of Morocco, was arrested for the alleged creation of a faked Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco.[106][107][108][109][110][111][112]

During the 2009 election in Iran, the website was banned because of fears that opposition movements were being organized on the website. Access has since been reinstated.[103]

Far East

In China, Facebook was blocked following the July 2009 Ürümqi riots.[102] Huanqi.com had asserted that "Xinjiang Independence" activists were using Facebook as part of their communications network.[113]

In Vietnam, an unauthenticated document supposedly issued by the Ministry of Public Security dating August 27, 2009 instructing ISPs to block Facebook sparked shutdown fears.[114] Access to Facebook became intermittent in mid-November and major ISPs were swamped by complaints.[114] Some technicians confirmed being ordered by the government to block access to Facebook while government officials denied it.[104]


Facebook announced Facebook Beacon on November 7, 2007, a marketing initiative that allows websites to publish a user's activities to their Facebook profile as "Social Ads" and promote products.[115] When launching Beacon, Facebook stated "no personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad", and that "Facebook users will only see Social Ads to the extent their friends are sharing information with them."[116] After Facebook was criticized for collecting more user information for advertisers than was previously stated, Zuckerberg publicly apologized on December 5, 2007 for the way Facebook launched Beacon, saying, "The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends."[117][118]


Several concerns have emerged regarding the use of Facebook as a means of surveillance and data mining.[119] Two MIT students were able to download over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools (MIT, New York University, the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard University) using an automated shell script, as part of a research project on Facebook privacy published on December 14, 2005.[120] The possibility of data mining remains open, as evidenced in May 2008, when the BBC technology program "Click" demonstrated that personal details of Facebook users and their friends could be stolen by submitting malicious applications.[121]

Privacy proponents have criticized the site's privacy agreement, which states: "We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services, Facebook Platform developers and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile."[122] Another clause that received criticism concerned Facebook's right to sell a user's data to private companies, stating: "We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship."[123] This concern was addressed by Facebook spokesman Chris Hughes who said, "Simply put, we have never provided our users' information to third party companies, nor do we intend to."[124]

Concerns have also been raised regarding the difficulty of deleting user accounts. Previously, Facebook only allowed users to "deactivate" their accounts so that their profile was no longer visible. However, any information the user had entered into the website and on their profile remained on the website's servers. This outraged many users who wished to remove their accounts permanently, citing reasons such as the inability to erase "embarrassing or over-personal online profiles from their student days as they entered the job market, for fear employers would locate the profiles".[125] Facebook changed its account deletion policies on February 29, 2008, allowing users to contact the website to request that their accounts be permanently deleted.[126] On May 7, 2009 it was revealed by the New York Times that a bug allowed personal e-mail addresses of Facebook users to be easily accessible. The bug was fixed "within hours of it being reported to us."[127]

In July 2009 it came to light that there are concerns by the Canadian Privacy Commission that Facebook is breaching several Canadian privacy laws by not deleting a user's information when their account is deactivated and by giving "confusing or incomplete" information to subscribers. Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly was quoted as saying that "[Facebook] was working with the commission to resolve the issues". The CPC have given Facebook 30 days before they make a further review and recommendations. If Facebook does not comply with the Canadian statutes, it is possible the issue could be taken to the federal courts.[128]

In December 2009, Facebook altered its privacy settings, in what has been described by Gawker as Facebook's Great Betrayal[129], forcing user profile photos and friends lists to be visible in users' public listing, even for users who had explicitly chosen to hide this information previously,[130] and making photos and personal information public unless users were proactive about limiting access.[131] For example, a user whose "Family and Relationships" information was set to be viewable by "Friends Only" would default to being viewable by "Everyone" (publicly viewable). That is, information such as the gender of partner you are interested in, relationship status, and family relations became viewable to those even without a facebook account. Facebook is being heavily criticized[132] for both reducing its users' privacy and pushing users to remove privacy protections. Groups criticizing the changes include the Electronic Frontier Foundation[130] and American Civil Liberties Union.[133] Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, had hundreds of personal photos and his events calendar exposed in the transition.[134][135] Facebook have since re-included an option to hide friends lists from being viewable, however this preference is no longer listed with other privacy settings.[136] Journalist Dan Gillmor deleted his Facebook account over the changes, stating he "can’t entirely trust Facebook"[137] and Heidi Moore at Slate's Big Money temporarily deactivated her account as a "conscientious objection".[138] Other journalists have been similarly disappointed and outraged by the changes.[129] Defending the changes, founder Mark Zuckerberg said "we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it." [139] The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has launched another investigation into Facebook's privacy policies after complaints following the change.[140]

Also, in late 2009, regional networks were removed due to privacy concerns because of the increasing number of members of each regional network. Before this, a lot of information, including friends lists, gender, and birthday were available for all members of a user's region to see.

Teen suicide and relationships

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, England's top Catholic bishop, placed a warning that Facebook and other social networking sites may lead teens to commit suicide. Nichols warned that social networking sites can damage intimate relationships and leave teenagers without strong social ties.[141]

Pro-mafia groups' case

In Italy, the discovery of pro-mafia groups[142] caused an alert in the country[143][144][145] and brought the government, after a short debate,[146] to rapidly issue a law which will force ISPs to deny access to entire sites in case of refused removal of illegal contents; the removal can be requested by a prosecutor in any case there is a suspicion that criminal speech (apology or incitement to crime) is published on a website. The amendment was passed by the Senate on February 5, 2008, and now needs to be passed unchanged[147] by the Chamber of Deputies to become immediately effective.

Facebook and other websites, Google included,[148] criticized the amendment emphasizing the eventual effects on the freedom of speech of those users who do not violate any law.


As predicted by Symantec in April 2007,[149] Facebook users all over the world suffered a massive phishing campaign, launched in May 2009 by Russian hackers from servers in Latvia and China, that led to thousands of accounts being hijacked.[150] Facebook was criticized[who?] for its late reaction to this issue and the fact that initially it merely tried to block the attack, rather than notifying users of the situation.

Holocaust denial groups

JIDF, an activist group fighting Antisemitism, has criticized Facebook for condoning and hosting Holocaust denial groups on its network, which are in violation of the Facebook Terms of Service. David Appletree, the founder of JIDF states, "Holocaust denial is hate speech and Antisemitism."[151][152][153]

Prominent technology bloggers are also joining in to criticize Facebook. Brian Cuban, the brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in his blog post says, "Holocaust denial is repulsive and ignorant"[154] and calls Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to remove the groups.[155] Techcrunch CEO Michael Arrington says that Facebook’s stubbornness on not removing the groups is wrong and offensive.[156]


In April 2009, two Austin graphic designers created Lamebook, a blog where Facebook users can submit funny entries from the social networking site. The site averages about 800,000 hits per day.[157]



In November 2009, Facebook sent social media marketing company uSocial a cease and desist notice regarding the sale of fans and friends on the site.[158] While uSocial claimed that they were not conducting any illegal activity,[159] they did remove the friend-selling service from their website.[160] However, they still continue to sell fans for Facebook pages.[citation needed]



In 2004, ConnectU, a company founded by classmates of Zuckerberg, filed a lawsuit against Facebook. They claimed that Zuckerberg had broken an oral contract for them to build the Facebook site, copied their idea,[161] and used source code that belonged to them.[162][163][164][165] The parties reached a confidential settlement agreement in February 2008.[166] In 2008, they attempted unsuccessfully to rescind the settlement, claiming that Facebook had understated its valuation in connection with its settlement negotiations.[167][168][169][170][171] Despite the confidentiality agreement, a law firm that represented ConnectU inadvertently disclosed the $65 million settlement amount.[172]


On July 18, 2008, Facebook sued StudiVZ in a California federal court, alleging that StudiVZ copied its look, feel, features, and services. StudiVZ denied the claims, and asked for declaratory judgment at the District Court in Stuttgart, Germany.[173] On September 10, 2009, a settlement was reached, resulting in StudiVZ paying an undisclosed sum to Facebook and both companies continuing business as usual.[174]

Grant Raphael

On July 24, 2008, the High Court in London ordered Grant Raphael to pay GBP £22,000 (about USD $43,700 at the then-current exchange rate) for breach of privacy and libel. Raphael had posted a fake Facebook page purporting to be that of a former schoolfriend and business colleague, Mathew Firsht, with whom Raphael had fallen out in 2000. The fake page claimed that Firsht was homosexual and untrustworthy. The case is believed to be the first successful invasion of privacy and defamation verdict against someone over an entry on a social networking site.[175][176][177][178][179][180]

Adam Guerbuez

Facebook won a lawsuit against Canadian Adam Guerbuez, of Montreal, worth $873 million. Guerbuez had spammed the website with various advertisements including penis enhancements and marijuana. Guerbuez founded Atlantis Blue Capital.[181]

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