FRS 101 – Facebook:
The Social Impact of Social Networks
Taught by Edward W. Felten and Steve Schultze
Facebook has become integral to the social life of hundreds of millions of people. What began as a glorified college student directory has grown into a company worth many billions of dollars and a tool for political change around the world. But with stratospheric growth comes closer scrutiny. Can a company with the motto “move fast and break things” avoid major pitfalls in the eyes of policymakers and the public? This course will explore the myriad social and public policy considerations that Facebook — and the growth of internet-based social networking — has prompted.
Facebook touches some of the most contentious issues in information technology policy. Critics have raised privacy issues and Facebook has faced privacy enforcement by the FTC. Web companies like Facebook must navigate copyright and defamation laws, and cope with the limits of these laws and their enforcement. Sociologists use online social networks to study the way that people relate to each other, learn, and organize. Economists use Facebook to illustrate the principle of “network effects” and the entrepreneurial dynamics of web start-ups — as seen in the 2010 movie “The Social Network.”
During the week of Election 2012, students will examine the role of Facebook in American politics as well as social movements abroad. The seminar will examine the role of apps and social games in the shifting landscape of the web, and look at issues like child protection and cyber-bullying on social networks via social media. Students will consider whether there is a “right to be forgotten” in an era where so many social interactions are recorded and preserved. As web tracking technologies extend the reach of Facebook and other companies into all web activities, what is the role of public policy?
The seminar will require weekly readings drawn from scholarly sources in law, sociology, economics, politics, and computer science, as well as popular media and the web. Students will be graded on classroom and online participation, will write weekly blog posts related to the topics covered in the course, and give a final presentation. The seminar will feature visitors from academia and industry.
Course communications and announcements will be made via the Facebook group “FRS 101 2012 – Facebook: The Social Impact of Social Networks”. In order to join this group you must go to this link and “join” Princeton Groups (you must have associated your @princeton.edu email account with Facebook), then separately request to join the FRS 101 group (we will approve you shortly thereafter)
Grading will be based on:
- 40% – Class Participation
- 40% – Course Blog (located here)
- 20% – Final Presentation
Readings are subject to change up to 1 week in advance due to real-world developments. All changes will be announced on the Facebook group.
Week 1 (9/18): A Survey of Policy Issues
We will explore the spectrum of issues that the class will be discussing in the weeks to come, and survey a variety of public policy topics that are implicated in the growth of social networks.
Week 2 (9/25): Privacy and the 2011 FTC Investigation
- James Grimmelmann. Saving Facebook. Iowa Law Review, Vol. 94, p. 1137, 2009. Available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1262822
- Federal Trade Commission. Complaint In the Matter of Facebook and Agreement Containing Consent Order. November 29, 2011. Available at: http://ftc.gov/opa/2011/11/privacysettlement.shtm
- Mark Zuckerberg. Our Commitment to the Facebook Community. November 29, 2011. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=10150378701937131
Week 3 (10/2): Copyright, Defamation, and the Law
- Cybertelecom.org summary of DMCA and CDA 230 Safe Harbors:
- Cheng, Jacqui, Facebook takedown followup: what happened, and what Facebook needs to fix, April 29, 2011. Available at:
- Goldman, Eric. Facebook Sued Over Private Facebook Group – Finkel v. Facebook. March 03, 2009. Available at:
- Wikipedia. Wikipedia biography controversy. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_biography_controversy.
Week 4 (10/9): The Sociology of Social Networks
- Tom Simonite. What Facebook Knows. MIT Technology Review, July/August 2012.
- Eytan Bakshy, Dean Eckles, Rong Yan, Itamar Rosenn. Social Influence in Social Advertising: Evidence from Field Experiments. In Proceedings of the 13th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC ’12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 146-161.
- John Markoff. Troves of Personal Data, Forbidden to Researchers. The New York Times, May 21, 2012.
- Zoë Corbyn. Facebook ‘likes’ the scientific method. 25 July 2012.
Week 5 (10/16): Entrepreneurship and Network Effects
- Fred Vogelstein. Network Effects and Global Domination: The Facebook Strategy. Wired. May 17, 2012.
- Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian. Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. (Chapter 7: Networks and Positive Feedback). Harvard Business School Press, 1999. Available under “E-Reserves” on Blackboard site for FRS 101
- Gina Neff. Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries. (Chapter 1: The Social Risks of the Dot-Com Era). MIT Press, 2012.
Week 6 (10/23): Film Viewing and Discussion: The Social Network
- (Midterms week – there is no midterm)
Week 7 (11/6): Social Networks and Political Movements
- Joe Rospars. Making Change Happen: Lessons from the Obama Campaign. CITP Lecture Series. April 16, 2009. Video available at: https://citp.princeton.edu/event/rospars/
- Zeynep Tufekci. Delusions Aside, the Net’s Potential Is Real. The Atlantic Monthly. January 12, 2011. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/01/delusions-aside-the-nets-potential-is-real/69370/
- Robert M. Bond, et al. A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization. Nature, September 13, 2013.
- News article describing it: http://www.nature.com/news/facebook-experiment-boosts-us-voter-turnout-1.11401
- The actual study: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v489/n7415/full/nature11421.html
- (further readings may be assigned based on the events of Election 2012)
Week 8 (11/13): Apps and Games
- Jonathan Zittrain. Protecting the Internet Without Wrecking It. Boston Review. March/April 2008. Available at: http://bostonreview.net/BR33.2/zittrain.php
- James Grimmelmann. Applications and Appliances: A Conversation with Jonathan Zittrain. January 9, 2012. Available at: https://freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/jgrimmelmann/applications-and-appliances-conversation-jonathan-zittrain
- Jason Tanz. The Curse of Cow Clicker: How a Cheeky Satire Became a Videogame Hit. Wired Magazine. January 2012.
Week 9 (11/20): Child (and Teen) Safety
- Natasha Singer. Proposal to Bolster Online Privacy Rules for Children Draws Opposition. New York Times, November 5, 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/technology/silicon-valley-objects-to-online-privacy-rule-proposals-for-children.html
- FTC Proposed Amendments to COPPA. Available at: http://ftc.gov/opa/2011/09/coppa.shtm
- danah boyd, Eszter Hargittai, Jason Schultz, and John Palfrey. (2011). “Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook: Unintended Consequences of the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’.” First Monday 16(11), November. Available at: http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3850/3075
- Naomi Goodno, How Public Schools Can Constitutionally Halt Cyberbullying: A Model Cyberbullying Policy that Survives First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and Due Process Challenges. Wake Forest Law Review, 2011. Available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1825179
Week 10 (11/27): Anonymity and Forgetting
- Stuart Jeffries, Why We Must Remember to Delete — and Forget — In the Digital Age. The Guardian, June 30, 2011. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/30/remember-delete-forget-digital-age
- “L.M.”, Relearning to Forget, Babbage blog, The Economist, Jan. 27, 2012. Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/01/online-privacy
- United States v. Jones, No. 10–1259, Slip Op., (S.Ct. January 23, 2012). (Focus on the Sotomayor concurrence that follows the opinion of the court.) Available at: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1259.pdf
Week 11 (12/4): Facebook is Following You: Like?
- Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries. FTC Backs Do-Not-Track System For Web. The Wall Street Journal. December 2, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704594804575648670826747094.html
- Julia Angwin. The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets. The Wall Street Journal. July 30, 2010. Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703940904575395073512989404.html
- Third-Party Web Tracking: Policy and Technology” by Jonathan R. Mayer and John C. Mitchell
Available at: https://www.stanford.edu/~jmayer/papers/trackingsurvey12.pdf
- ShareMeNot Frequently Asked Questions. Available at: http://sharemenot.cs.washington.edu/
Week 12 (12/11): Student Presentations
- Each student will present a 5-minute Ignite-style presentation on a topic related to the course.