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Facebook agrees to modify terms for states

- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DENVER (AP) - Facebook has agreed to modify its terms and conditions for agencies within states across the country, removing obstacles in resolving legal issues that arise from using the social networking site.

Changes announced Wednesday by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers include striking an indemnity clause that requires users to pay legal fees to Facebook for harm or loss, unless a state's constitution allows it.

Other changes include removing a provision that requires resolving legal disputes with Facebook in California courts, calling for the prominent display of a state agency's website on their Facebook page and encourage amicable resolution to disputes.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Facebook and starting a new dialogue with the people of Colorado through the company's website," Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said in a statement.

Suthers said his agency will establish a Facebook page after nearly a year studying the issue and negotiating.

The changes are similar to those reached last year with federal agencies and do not affect individual accounts.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the federal agreement resulted in 50 federal agencies creating hundreds of Facebook pages that now have millions of fans.

Federal agencies with Facebook accounts include the White House, the U.S. Navy and Federal Emergency Management Agency, which posted live updates of relief efforts during its response to the Haiti earthquake last January. Many local agencies already use Facebook including San Francisco, which has 260,000 fans, the Ohio Secretary of State, and emergency management agencies in Mississippi and Colorado.

"Facebook is becoming an essential tool for democracy, enabling interactive discussions between governments and citizens. We are pleased to have been able to work with representatives from state and local governments in the United States to ensure that they can have a presence on Facebook," Noyes said in a statement.

Suthers spokesman Mike Saccone said he consulted an attorney within the AG's office after working to establish an account with Facebook and noticing the terms and conditions, including the indemnity clause that he says violated Colorado's constitution. Saccone said he discovered similar concerns when he consulted with his colleagues in other states.

In addition to Colorado, other states participating in negotiations with the social networking site were Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. Suthers office lead the negotiations on behalf of the states and two organizations representing attorneys general and state information officers.

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