Updated Facebook terms aren't new, just stripped of legalese

Facebook introduced a new terms of service page Wednesday in its official blog.

Facebook introduced a new terms of service page Wednesday in its official blog, but a spokesman said there are no new rules for users to follow.

The blog entry, written by Facebook's corporate counsel for commercial transactions Suzie White, makes it sound as if the overhauled TOS takes new aim at fakers and flamers. However, "we just consolidated and simplified the wording," said Barry Schnitt, senior manager of corporate communications and public policy for Facebook.

In addition to combining two TOS pages into one location on the site, White wrote:

"We've also simplified and clarified a lot of information that applies to you, including some things you shouldn't do when using the site. Most of these things are pretty obvious; you probably wouldn't ever do them. For example, you probably don't 'provide any false personal information in your profile' or 'intimidate or harass other users.' But in order to help Facebook remain a safe and trusted environment, we think it's important to specifically mention behaviors like these in the 'Prohibited Conduct' section."

Schnitt said Facebook has always had similar rules. The only difference is that now the language is not as cumbersome. "For instance, previously it said, 'You agree not to impersonate any person or entity or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself, your age, or your affiliation with any person or entity.' Now, it just says 'you will not post false, misleading or fraudulent information,'" said Schnitt.

Another example: the words "obscene or sexually explicit" have been replaced with "nudity."

Not everyone is happy with the new TOS. Blogger Rax Lakhani complains that Facebook violates its own rule against creating pages for others without authorization when it allows fan pages devoted to various brands.

Schnitt said that Facebook only takes action when a company complains. "Most of the time, they like having a viral fan base."

Another rule, against using a profile (versus a page) for commercial purposes, is intended to shortcut spamming, said Schnitt, not to prevent an individual occasionally using the Share This option to inform friends of a discount, coupon or other opportunity offered by his business.

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Carla Thornton

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