Page last updated at 18:41 GMT, Monday, 6 February 2012

Facebook boss responds to criticism

Facebook boss quizzed by School Reporters

Article by Teri, interview by Oliver and Uma
From Harris City Academy, Crystal Palace, London

On 27 January, a group of Year 9 students went on a trip to Facebook's offices in London. Facebook is the world's biggest social networking site, with more than 800 million users worldwide, 223 million of those in Europe.

Recent controversy has been sparked by Facebook's decision to install a new layout - called Timeline - on all user profiles.

Some users have responded with dissatisfaction, insisting that the old Facebook layout should return and that Timeline now makes settings more complicated. Others are unhappy about the look of the new layout.

When a group discussion took place with the Year 9 students about Facebook, Timeline seemed to be the main focus.

We interviewed Richard Allan, who is Facebook's director of policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.


Q: Why does Facebook constantly change its layout and settings?

Richard Allan: "Keeping Facebook current is a constant challenge. That's why we're always changing - to keep it up to date."

Q: Since the introduction of Timeline, people have complained about complicated settings, and they're unhappy with the fact that you can't change back to old layouts.

A: "We have to take everyone to the same service of Timeline for the system to work properly, because the system can't work with some users being on different services.

Timeline now enables all content on walls to be seen and it gives the user more control over what they want on their profile or not."

Oliver and Uma interview Richard Allan
Oliver and Uma interview Richard Allan

Q: What about the people who have no time to change any privacy settings?

A: "Timeline doesn't change any privacy settings, it just changes the layout. And it also makes it easier for settings to be changed. We always encourage and listen to feedback in order to make Facebook simpler."


Another topic that was heavily discussed was about the effectiveness of the age restrictions on Facebook, with some students saying that they have come across many users under the age of 13 online.

According to Ofcom, around 30% of children aged 8-11 have a Facebook account in the UK.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg believes the website should be available to children under the current age limit because the site has "educational benefits".

We asked Allan what the consequences are if you find out a person has a Facebook account and is under the age of 13.

He replied: "Their account will be closed. There is a place online for people - if they see someone who has a Facebook account and is under the age of 13 - to report this."

The Year 9 students came up with the idea of a 'junior Facebook' to enable children who are under the age of 13 to have their own Facebook account, and proposed the idea to Allan.

"A junior Facebook has never been a main focus" Allan said.

"It would make it difficult to keep available. We keep our focus on building up the current service."



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