Please stop reposting fake Facebook messages

Not all social media scams are harmful, and they certainly don’t all infect you with malware or collect Likes for scammers to sell to the highest bidder.

Please stop reposting fake Facebook messages

Some are merely irritating – but once they’re running, they may be difficult to stop. My plea this month is this: please be aware of Facebook fakes and stop reposting them.

The latest one doing the rounds of my Facebook friends (the vast majority of whom aren’t techies) concerns the exertion of copyright. The post states:

“I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook [that] it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308-1 1-308-103 and the Rome Statute). Note: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, it will be tactically [sic] allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE, you must copy and paste.”

My plea this month is this: please be aware of Facebook fakes and stop reposting them

It sounds pretty convincing, which is why so many people have been fooled into posting it. However, if you take time to digest what it’s saying, then do a little research, it soon becomes clear how pointless it is.

Start at the beginning, with “I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information or posts, both past and future”.

Erm, sorry, but you gave this permission when you joined Facebook and agreed to abide by its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Right up front, this states: “By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement, as updated from time to time”.

Ownership issue

Item two covers the sharing of content and information, and confirms that while you retain ownership of your content and can control how it’s shared – through the use of the privacy-configuration options – “you grant [Facebook] a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license [sic] to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook”.

Simply posting a message saying that Facebook can’t use anything you post has no legal standing whatsoever, since by using the service in the first place you agree to its terms. Your only option if you really don’t want Facebook to “use” anything is not to post anything on Facebook.

Next, let’s look at the line that claims “the content of this profile is private and confidential information”.

This is equally daft: if something is truly private and confidential, don’t post it on the internet – and certainly not on a social network (the clue’s in the name, folks) – if you don’t want people to see it. Facebook’s privacy options determine how your posts are shared, and as I’ve said so many times before, you must revisit these occasionally to make sure you’re happy with what’s what.

However, be under no illusion: your privacy settings don’t prevent Facebook from being able to see what you’ve posted. Think about it: if someone complains that a post you’ve made is illegal, offensive or harassing, Facebook has to read the message to determine the facts and act accordingly. Once again, merely proclaiming that Facebook can’t do so means diddly-squat.

Pseudo-legalese icing

Finally, we come to the pseudo-legalese icing on these cakes – the laws whose imposing numbers are quoted towards the end. These gravely warn Facebook that any violation is punishable by laws UCC 1-308-1, UCC 1-308-103 and the Rome Statute.

The last of these – the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – establishes the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression and has nothing to do with copyright, privacy or intellectual property. On the other hand, UCC – Uniform Commercial Code – subsection 308 refers to US commerce, and specifically to the acceptance of contract terms. This may sound applicable, since it covers the concession of rights unknowingly by agreeing to specific contract terms, but it doesn’t prevent legally binding contracts from applying; Facebook’s “contract” is clear and legal in all respects.

If you really want to know what Facebook can and can’t do – and what you’ve already agreed to – visit the policies page, where everything is explained in reasonably understandable language.

Also, the next time you get the urge to re-post one of these disclaimers to your network of friends, please think twice and take the time to research what you’re posting.

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