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Facebook, Google, Twitter Oppose Social Networking Bill

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of the targets of a Pakistani criminal investigation under a law that makes criticizing the Prophet Muhammad punishable by death.

    We reported on Monday that a new bill created by California State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-Hayward) would require social networks to set default privacy settings to private and allow parents to edit their kid's accounts. Now several of Silicon Valley's big names have written a rebuttal to the bill.

    The letter, addressed to Corbett, stated that the new bill would decrease consumer privacy, that the bill is unnecessary, would damage the tech industry and violate the U.S. Constitution. The undersigned, which included eHarmony, Facebook, Google, Match.com, Twitter, Skype, Yahoo and the California Chamber of Commerce, seemed like a Who's Who of tech and Internet commerce. From the letter:

    There is no indication that Californians want to have personal information removed from social networking sites but are unable to. Pew╩╝s study found that only 8%of social networking site users had ever asked that information about posted about them be removed, and reported no indication that such requests were being denied in droves. The major social networking sites already remove personal information when the requester specifies the information to be removed and the information is not already widely available.

    The rebuttal also says the bill would "damage" the tech industry in Silicon Valley and the state, and limiting free speech for users is "unconstitutional." My favorite is the statement, "Once SB 242 was declared unconstitutional, the plaintiffs would qualify for an award of attorneys' fees against California . . . (this) would result in . . . wasting taxpayer dollars at a time when California can least afford it."

    Isn't that nice, that all those companies are just thinking of us?

    The companies have a lot to lose if this bill goes to a vote -- it could pass and each company could be on the hook for $10,000 for each violation. As I said earlier, I do think this legislation is unnecessary, but perhaps this will make social networks like Facebook more responsive to users' needs. If they aren't, they may be legally required to be.