The potential in Facebook's new change

|| September 16, 2020

By Jordan McDonald

55 comms Social Media Coordinator 

You may have seen a recurring notification on Facebook these last few weeks stating ‘There’s an update to the Terms of Service coming into effect on October 1, 2020’.

Click on the notification and you’re taken to a very basic page which explains that Facebook is changing section 3.2 so that it can “remove or restrict access to your content, services or information” if it’s deemed that doing so is “reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts on Facebook”.

Should we pay much attention to this change?

This particular section within the Facebook Terms of Service includes agreements about who can and cannot use Facebook and the things that can and can’t be done on the platform.

The social commentary on this topic is worth looking at. There are suggestions people should “read between the lines” as it’s really just a measure to prevent Facebook from getting caught allowing content on the platform that shouldn’t be there.

If it aids in a noticeable decrease in incorrect, misleading, illegal, or spreads dangerous misinformation, then I think that’s worthwhile.

But others, particularly in America, think this smells like political interference and censorship amidst the election. One comment read “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”.

At the other end of the argument people seem far more upbeat and, like me, think that if it leads to more false news and misinformation being removed that it’s going to be a fairly unnoticeable change.

However, for Australia, the possible connection to the ongoing battle between news publications and Google and Facebook is raising some eyebrows.

This may be something Facebook is putting in place in order to enforce their already strong position against funding news publishers for hosting their content on their platforms.

This will be interesting to watch because at the same time these changes draw closer, Facebook is also testing a new feature that will link users' accounts with the news subscription they have paid for so that they can read pay-walled articles without hitting the paywall or required to log in again.

This is being tested with some papers in the US but the rest of the world won’t see this feature for at least another six months, after which it will be rolled out in India, UK, Germany, France and Brazil first.

I wonder if a business model could exist between Facebook and Australian news publishers that both benefit from this feature? There’s a lot to play out in this space.
For businesses, I don’t see this change having too big an effect.

My recommendation would be to double and triple-check what can and cannot be shared on the platform so that you don’t later find content being removed.

I don’t expect this will impact social media advertising too significantly, however, the review process may take a bit longer as they perhaps take a closer look at what you’re hoping to push across their network.