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Students protest Facebook changes

While users were busy checking friends' profiles and pictures, Facebook.com silently prepped and readied itself for a facelift. And when the results were unexpectedly unveiled Sept. 5, the volume of response was overwhelming.

Many students across the country and on Duke's campus expressed shock and anger when the changes were made. Although individual opinions varied, the general sentiment was quite clear--an "I Hate the New Facebook" group search turns up more than 500 global results. Two new features introduced Sept. 5--News Feed and Mini-Feed--caused the commotion.

"News Feed is a news aggregator of a user's social network... [and] highlights relevant information about people and activities they have been involved in," the Facebook team said in a statement released Sept. 8. Mini-Feed is like News Feed, but tailored to the activities of only one person accessible through individual user profiles.

Facebook staff said they expected News Feed and Mini-Feed to be "hugely popular with Facebook users," but they were greeted instead with vociferous calls for a return to normalcy.

Natalia Antonova, Trinity '06, said the News Feed design was crowded and confusing. She said she was concerned about privacy. "I don't like to advertise my Facebook activities," Antonova said. "It's kind of weird and voyeuristic."

Senior Ashley Gray likened News Feed to US Weekly.

"Everyone's activities are in a synthesized list for everyone else to read," she said, adding that she has stopped using Facebook as often as she used to because it became overwhelming. Other students said they would have liked to be asked for input before the changes were implemented.

Hints about the advent of News Feed and Mini-Feed were sprinkled throughout the site before their debut. A few days before the facelift, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post on the site, "Change can be disorienting, but we do it because we're sure it makes the site better."

Some students, however, said they preferred to look on the brighter side. "I like the new look of the profile itself," freshman Lizzy Do said.

Despite the large number of new groups against Facebook, several others--such as "Facebook Gets More Awesome Every Day" and "Facebook Doesn't Stalk People, People Stalk People"--are embracing the changes. These students, however, are in the minority.

Nearly 745,000 users are currently members of the official "Students Against Facebook News Feed" group. Zuckerberg addressed this issue in his open letter.

"We really messed this one up," Zuckerberg wrote. "When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed. we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them.. We didn't build in the proper privacy controls right away."

As of Sept. 8, News Feed and Mini-Feed can be controlled by a new set of privacy control settings, which allow users to withhold information including those walls they post on, how many pictures they have added and those whom they are no longer dating.

Still, the Facebook staff remains optimistic.

"Users rely on Facebook to understand the world around them," the site said in a statement. "News Feed and Mini-Feed will provide them with recent and relevant information about the people they care about in an efficient and effective way."

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