Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board
By Katherine A. Kaplan, Staff Writer
The Harvard Crimson
November 19, 2003The creator of the short-lived but popular Harvard version of the Am I Hot or Not? website said he will not have to leave school after being called before the Administrative Board yesterday afternoon.
Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 said he was accused of breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy by creating the website, www.facemash.com, about two weeks ago.
The charges were based on a complaint from the computer services department over his unauthorized use of on-line facebook photographs, he said.
Zuckerberg said he will not be forced to withdraw or leave school for any amount of time, but declined to elaborate on whether the board took some lesser action.
He said he was notified on Nov. 3 that his case would appear before the Ad Board, the day after he decided to take the site down, partly due to sharp criticism of the site’s use of ID photos and ranking students according to attractiveness.
Comments on the e-mail lists of both Fuerza Latina and the Association of Harvard Black Women blasted the site.
“I heard from a friend and I was kind of outraged. I thought people should be aware,” said Fuerza Latina President Leyla R. Bravo ’05, who forwarded the link over her group’s list-serve.
Zuckerberg said that he was aware of the shortcomings of his site, and that he had not intended it to be seen by such a large number of students.
“I understood that some parts were still a little sketchy and I wanted some more time to think about whether or not this was really appropriate to release to the Harvard community,” Zuckerberg wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson earlier this month.
After taking it down, Zuckerberg decided that criticism of the site was too strong to re-post it.
“Issues about violating people’s privacy don’t seem to be surmountable,” he wrote at that point. “I’m not willing to risk insulting anyone.”
The site was created entirely by Zuckerberg over the last week in October, after a friend gave him the idea. The website used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the “hotter” person.
Students were ranked within the general Harvard community and individual Houses according to attractiveness.
Zuckerberg hacked into House websites to gather the photos, and then wrote the codes to compute rankings after every vote.
The programming and algorithms that made the site function were Zuckerberg’s primary interest in creating it, he said.
After creating the website, Zuckerberg forwarded the link to a few friends for advice.
But the link then was sent out on several campus group list-serves, and traffic skyrocketed.
In the course of one day, the number of visitors quadrupled—by 10 p.m., the site had been visited by 450 people, who voted at least 22,000 times.
—Staff Writer Katharine A. Kaplan can be reached at email@example.com