Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Attorney General announces accord with Facebook, clearing legal hurdles for public entities to use the social media site

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that his office in conjunction with the National Association of Attorneys General and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers has worked with Facebook to modify its stated terms and conditions for state agencies. The arrangement will allow the Office of the Attorney General as well as other state agencies in Colorado to engage with the public through Facebook in accordance with the site’s terms of service agreement.

“We are pleased that Facebook has responded to Colorado and the other states’ concerns about the provisions of its terms of service agreement,” Suthers said. “We look forward to continuing to work with Facebook and starting a new dialogue with the people of Colorado through the company’s Web site. Social media is a great way to keep the public apprised of the important work we and other public entities do on behalf of the people of Colorado.”

Colorado led the multistate discussions between Facebook, the National Association of Attorneys General and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. The Washington Attorney General’s Office co-chaired the negotiations. The thirteen other states participating in the negotiations were Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah.

Facebook has modified portions of its terms of service agreement that all users must agree to in order to use the site. The Office of the Attorney General began discussions with Facebook roughly a year ago after it discovered conflicts between the company’s terms of service agreement and provisions of the Colorado Constitution. The new terms mirror, in many ways, a similar agreement the social media company reached with the federal government more than a year ago, which allowed 33 federal government agencies to connect with their constituents through Facebook.

Facebook has specifically agreed to modify the provisions of its terms and conditions to:

* Strike the indemnity clause except to the extent indemnity is allowed by a state’s constitution or law;
* Strike language requiring that legal disputes be venued in California courts and adjudicated under California law;
* Require that a public agency include language directing consumers to its official Web site prominently on any Facebook page; and,
* Encourage amicable resolution between public entities and Facebook over any disputes.

The modifications will immediately apply to state and local government agencies already on Facebook.

The Office of the Attorney General will soon launch its own Facebook page.

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