ReadersBillofRights.info

Please Keep Our Conversations off Facebook

I'm sharing a copy of an email that I sent to ALA President Roberta Stevens because I worry about the profession's use of restrictive communication platforms on the web, like Facebook. I recently canceled my Facebook account, and because of this larger decision, I haven't been able to read President Stevens' recent statement on the HarperCollins situation in full (nor can I participate in the "Librarians Against DRM" group discussion any longer).

I don't think an ALA member should have to agree to Facebook's terms of service in order to read news from our president. I also think that librarians at large should understand the dangers of restricting information in this way. Let's keep our professional conversations that happen online out of walled gardens and gated communities and on the open web. I highly recommend this piece (that I also mention below) by friends dkg and jrollins: The Problem with Proprietary Social Networks

If President Stevens responds to my email, I will ask her if I can share her response here. My hope is that she will understand these issues and communicate with ALA members in an open platform.

****Please see the update below****

I am interested to know whether my colleagues also feel that this calls for some kind of resolution to be proposed to the Council--that ALA should not communicate via restricted third party sites that require a membership to view content. If there are librarians who are interested to bring this resolution to the Council, please get in touch with me, or leave a comment here. I'm interested to hear others' thoughts about this topic and to get some guidance about ALA resolutions in general.

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Hello President Stevens,

I am wondering if you would consider publishing your recent statement about ebooks on a platform other than Facebook?

As a ALA member without a Facebook account (and with concerns about Facebook), I am hoping that you would be willing to share these and other statements with all ALA members.

More so than just because of my personal inclinations, I think it is important not to have professional conversations in gated communities on the internet, such as Facebook. Social networking sites are appropriate for personal interactions, but I think larger conversations should take place on the open web.

Friends have published a piece that I think summarizes the restrictive nature of Facebook here: http://cmrg.fifthhorseman.net/wiki/ProprietarySocialNetworks.
Here is an important excerpt:
[W]e think that "closed" social networks operated by 3rd parties are damaging to the health of the internet as a whole.
The web itself is effectively the largest "social network" in the world, and it has an open architecture; anyone can set up pages that link to anyone else. As soon as a group like Facebook sets up private membership requirements for viewing most of its content, that content is closed off from everyone else. This means the content can't be indexed by any search engine except the agents run by the owners of the domain. This privacy is occasionally useful, but it puts too much power in the hands of the domain owners, and by default walls too much of the information off from the rest of the world, who might legitimately make use of to the information. It also means if a Facebook member wants to allow a friend access to her pages there, she must recruit her friend to participate in Facebook, including agreeing to Facebook's rather unpleasant Terms of Use.

I appreciate your consideration in this matter,
Alycia Sellie

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Update: President Stevens' responded to my email and let me know that her remarks on Facebook were an "update" not a "statement." You can now view her update here: http://www.robertastevens.com/news.html (there's not a direct link)

I am very glad that President Stevens decided to post this update on the open web, but I still feel that an ALA Resolution would be useful--and that having a conversation about our professional communication would be worthwhile.


More Updates

Looks like ALA will have a new website for electronic issues--which is a welcome alternative to gated systems. More info here: http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?p=5749

Facebook <=> USA

As a non-US person who frequently has to deal with the regional aspects of copyright and DRM, I would like to say I often feel as if the USA is a similar walled garden - only with glass windows.

OTOH I myself has "sanitised" my facebook account rather than delete it whereas I wouldn't enter the USA.

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