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Posted on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 5:56 a.m.

Top 3 takeaways from Facebook Global Policy manager's talk at Washtenaw Economic Club

By Kyle Mattson

The Washtenaw Economic Club welcomed Facebook's Global Policy manager and Michigan native Judson Hoffman to speak at its monthly luncheon Monday. Here are the top three takeaways from the event.


One of many quotes found around Facebook's headquarters printed on a notebook WCC employee Matt Smiarowski received at the luncheon.

No. 1 Move Fast.

As any decorated entrepreneur will testify, a successful business is not built overnight and takes plenty of risk. Or as Hoffman put it "If you wait for it to be perfect, someone will beat you to it." In developing Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg did just that, and continues to do so, by creating a culture where employees are encouraged to find ways to set global trends rather than follow them. This is emphasized in Facebook's 5 core values:

  • Focus on Impact
  • Move Fast
  • Be Bold
  • Be open
  • Build Social Value

No. 2 Is Facebook still Facebook?

Hoffman repeated Facebook's mission statement "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected" a number of times. He also reinforced the point that Facebook's goal as an organization is to make profits to further this mission, not financial gain. Although this may coincide with the social ambitions claimed by many organizations, it appears Facebook is indeed struggling with its identity and how it attempts to change the future of communication. Before its IPO in May of 2012, Facebook may have been able to stand on this higher ground, but they now answer to the thousands of stockholders, not the next user posting a picture of their dinner. Will this economic pressure forever change Zuckerberg's mission from reinventing communication to increasing the bottom, alienating users?

No. 3 You will be offended.

We're no strangers to the world of managing the exchange of content and providing a community for individuals to share and discuss their viewpoints on topics they care about. Our moderation team reviews just about every comment posted here on and makes every effort to foster constructive conversations; however, it pales in comparison to what Facebook must manage on a global basis. With millions of legal and cultural variations held by every individual logging into the network, it is impossible for Facebook to establish a set of guidelines which will make Facebook a land where users will always be happy. If they did the site would essentially become, as Hoffman's put it, a site full of nothing but cat videos. Then again ... there are those of us who have a natural aversion to felines.

As a result, Hoffman and his team of nine others are charged with finding a happy medium so that when your engagement announcement post is flagged as spam by your bitter ex it won't be removed but when a page bullying a high school student is created it is removed as soon as possible. This may seem easy, but consider this example Hoffman used to demonstrate the complexity of establishing black and white rules for content (find the answer at the bottom of the article):

Only one of these two iconic images are permitted to be posted on Facebook; can you guess which one? (Warning both contain nudity)

A- The Birth of Venus painting by Sandro Botticelli

B- This photograph of a 9-year-old girl fleeing a South Vietnamese napalm attack

The approach Facebook has decided on is to remove content that causes "harm," but allow that which may "offend." This allows users to post their honest thoughts, but at the same time protects others from situations where they could be physically or emotionally attacked. As we've seen in recent tragic examples, we still have a long way to go until we, as a society, learn to use the power of social networks appropriately. But, it appears Facebook is making strides is making the best effort it can. What do you think, have social media sites improved or degraded our society? Comment below with your thoughts.

For reference, I would also recommend that Facebook users check out the often overlooked Community Standards page on Facebook.

The answer to the question above is: A, the painting by Sandro Botticelli as it is artwork painted on canvas whereas the image by Trang Bang violates their zero-tolerance policy of photographed nudity.


Kyle Mattson

Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Also of related interest from Mlive-Flint: Facebook is being sued by a Michigan company that claims the social networking giant ripped off one of its ideas.