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Op-Ed: Facebook terms update 1 October — Much needed and useful

The actual update starts with this:
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.”
The Preview spells out a lot of things in some depth. It’s well worth a look, particularly if you work in social media. This is the mindset, as well as the principles, all in one place.
It’s the synopsis which is so important in legal terms. This is very well done, and very clear across a gigantic bandwidth of possible issues. It means “everything” in fact.
• “Restrict access”: They’ve been doing that, but on a more ad hoc basis. This is a more formal approach, necessary for legal reasons.
• Content: An unavoidable catchall term, but useful in pinning down anything from trolls to some pretty nasty stuff.
• Services: A blanket term, and necessary for an anything/everything site. Good blueprint for other sites, too.
• Information: Could be code, could be whatever. Digital information can be anything, in any form.
The Preview
The Preview is a long document, but not tool long. It’s very well laid out, and includes:
• Permissions: What you permit Facebook to do with your information.
• Intellectual property: A superheated legal potato with big dollars looking at it.
• Account suspension or termination: One of Facebook’s own legal problems, spelled out in unequivocal terms.
• This supersedes the previous Terms. That’s not too unexpected, but that statement in the Preview does have legal teeth. It’s effectively a cutoff point. (Statutory limits may apply to pre-existing disputes, but you can see why this is so important.)
What it means for social media
Everyone’s online all the time. Social media is the blender into which law and basic behaviours are thrown every second. Forget the urban myths. This is a war zone of laws and people’s interests. Clarifying who does what and why, and on what legal basis has been seriously lacking.
To its credit, Facebook couldn’t be clearer with its terms. While it may not be the same as other social media, it is a benchmark site and covers just about all the issues which social media endures.
Some social media are reluctant to endure much more, with good reason. Hate groups, trolls, QAnon nuts and patriotic Russians for Trump, you name it; they’re all getting overdosed with the horror stories.
A good working legal basis for telling the nuts where to go IS necessary. The legal ins and outs are tricky. If you boot someone from a site, can they sue you? Sometimes they can, particularly if the basis of service provision is vague.
Users
Self-defence, however, isn’t the only issue. Users on social media are exposed to absolute garbage on a daily basis. (Know anyone who hasn’t been?) Some materials posted online are pretty repulsive, to put it politely. Some are also dangerous.
You can say “don’t post malware”, but who listens? How much can you as a site actually do about it? If you say, “content”, you cover it all. Terms and conditions is the best possible way to keep yourself legally able to do what needs doing.
Upgrading social media into a place worth having
Facebook has created a pretty good legal template here. If people are tired of the endless crap on social media, this is very good news. Morons who have nothing better to do than pollute social media won’t like it at all.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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