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Facebook is changing its Terms of Service, and users are not happy

Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logo
Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Facebook is changing its Terms of Service.
  • A new clause will let it remove content or restrict user access to avoid lawsuits or regulatory impacts.
  • It will come into effect on October 1, and users aren't happy.

Facebook has announced changes to its Terms of Service that will allow it to remove content or restrict access if the company thinks it is necessary to avoid legal or regulatory impact.

Users of Facebook's app have started receiving notifications regarding a change to its Terms of Service which states:

Effective October 1, 2020, section 3.2 of our Terms of Service will be updated to include: "We also can remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook."

Facebook Tos

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

This particular section of the Facebook TOS includes agreements about who can and can't use Facebook and the things that you are and aren't allowed to do on the platform.

The reaction on social media, in particular on Twitter has been mixed to say the least. One user commenting: "Facebook's terms of service update translated to plain English: "We will remove content not because it is incorrect, misleading, illegal, or spreads dangerous misinformation, but because removing it might help prevent us from getting caught allowing it." One user said the update was "absolutely terrifying."

Another commented "smells like Election interference and censorship to me!" and a human rights commenter further noted:

Disturbing new addition to #Facebook terms of service that could be used to justify online censorship, particularly with govts using restrictive national laws to order social media platforms to censor information critical of the govt or monarchy in violation of #OnlineFreedom

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The new clause in the TOS is quite wide and vague, but it seems reasonable to think that it could indeed be used to justify removing content at the behest of a government or nation if Facebook thought it was being threatened by some kind of legal action or regulatory scrutiny.

Some users were much more upbeat about the change, suggesting it could lead to more false news and misinformation being removed.

The move could be linked to recent changes in Australia, where the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is preparing a bill that would require both Facebook and Google to compensate news outlets when stories are published on their respective platforms.

As noted, the changes to Facebook's terms of service take effect from October 1, 2020.

6 Comments
  • This is a double edged sword, especially since Facebook has willing allowed false, misleading claims to be promoted on their platform. Additionally far right figures and politicians generally try to use litigation to surpress factual information that exposes them under the guise of slander.
  • TechFreak1, I had wanted to avoid getting into any political debate here, but I can't let that go. There is clearly abuse of social media platforms by people on all sides of the political landscape -- people have opinions and many will express them via exagerations, promoting rumors that align with their point of view, and through committing outright lies. To the extent any one side does more if this than another, it is simply wrong to suggest that it's anyone other than the left. This is not because the left is any worse than the right at it (all sides attempt it), but simply because Facebook and Twitter use left-leaning internal censors who ignore the misstatements of the left, either intentionally or because they are blind to them. They have flagged factually correct statements by leading political figures on the right, and left unflagged outright lies by leading political figures on the left (to be fair, they also leave a lot of lies unchecked on all sides, but virtually never flag or even review points made by political figures on the left.) Perhaps we could agree that this is the problem with any form of censorship: we all want facts, but there's a big gray area where facts and opinion bleed together and censorship incoprorates those opinions by the censors leading to biased information. Stop the censorship and let discussion among the readers and rational debate take care of labeling the false statements and poor reasoning. (At the very least the "fact checking" is radically biased and needs a substantial overhaul, or should instead of "fact checking" just be called the "opinion of the host site").
  • Very well stated, @GraniteStateColin.
  • I don't think Facebook has a lot of options here. Keep in mind this is not the government's, or the people's platform. It is Facebook's. If Facebook is going to be held responsible for what people post on their platform. which is what this administration has suggested should happen, they should have the authority to remove that content. The criteria that they would remove content that makes them open to litigation or regulation seems to be the natural thing to target.
  • Censorship is anathema.
  • This will fall into my criticism for their "factchecking" services: it isn't what Facebook will remove, it will be what they allow to remain even if it is because the poster is too small to warrant effort on. Once this policy goes into effect, users can only assume the things in their timelines have now been Facebook approved and are thus true. And given Facebook's propensity to be slow about it, the posts will have long been circulated with that assumption in place before Facebook acts on it. The fact it disappears from my timeline is no indication of the factual quality of the information. Once you become an arbiter of truth, even your lack of action speaks.