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Facebook chases research revenue with corporate polls launch

LONDON - Facebook is launching a service allowing companies to pose instant polls to its 150m members, selecting them by factors such as age and location, risking another privacy backlash from its user base.

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Facebook executives presented the system at the Davos economic forum last week in a bid to drum up interest among large corporations for the polls, which have been a little-known feature available to individual users of the site for some time and were demonstrated by UK executives last year.

If it surmounts the inevitable backlash about privacy from users, it will be able to bolster its faltering revenues from advertising with income from the new research function.

It has already sold the polling system to a global graduate recruitment company called CareerBuilder and AT&T is also trialling it.

Facebook demonstrated the system at Davos by asking 120,000 US members whether president Barack Obama's economic stimulus package would be enough to save the US economy; almost 60% said it would not.

Randi Zuckerberg, global markets director at Facebook and sister of company founder Mark Zuckerberg, told the Sunday Telegraph: "Davos is really a key place to launch an instant poll like this.

"It's beneficial for everyone to see us as a global community of 150m users.

"The vast majority are not just college students in the US talking about things in their bedrooms."

In a recent update eMarketer cut the amount it predicts US marketers will spend on advertising on Facebook in 2009 by 21% to $210m (£147m).

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