Facebook and John Suthers, Colorado attorney general, make nice, clearing way for state pages
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is embracing Facebook nearly a year after the state essentially unfriended the massive social network. The agreement between the AG's office and Mark Zuckerberg's operation means that state agencies, including Suthers's, can belatedly join the 21st century by launching Facebook pages of their own.
Here's why Suthers now likes Facebook.
Last April 13, History Colorado's Rebecca Laurie told Westword's Jonathan Shikes that Suthers's office had ordered all state agencies and institutions of higher education to take down their Facebook pages "due to indemnity issues." In an April 14 follow-up post, AG's office spokesman Mike Saccone said the rub involved Facebook's indemnity clause, which maintains that the site isn't responsible if one user initiates legal action against another.
"Indemnity clauses are very common," Saccone said at the time. "We are seeking a resolution similar to what the federal government has with Facebook, in which the indemnity clause has been removed. It's not unprecedented, and the issue is not new by any means."
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But it was complicated. The AG's office had already been negotiating with Facebook for six months when Suthers issued his April order, and nearly another nine months have passed since then. During that span, Colorado was joined by more than a dozen other states in the discussions, which eventually led to the elimination of the indemnity-clause elements that Suthers felt contradicted the state's constitution, among other tweaks. Get all the details from the following AG office release, which concludes with a promise of future Facebooking from Colorado's top lawyer:
Colorado Attorney General's Office release:
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.