Facebook Hoax

In what can feel like the classic Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, the Facebook hoax involving content ownership and privacy issues seems to be making its way around the Internet again. News Feeds are filling up with seemingly important disclaimers and instructions aimed at the social media behemoth Facebook to cease publicizing and using an individual’s photos and content for corporate gain.

The most recent version of this hoax, which dates back until at least 2009, states that Facebook will either start charging money for its service or will assume ownership of all content published on the site; the hoax continues to claim that a disclaimer made by an individual can thwart these. However, defying both logic and common sense, such an invasion of pocketbook and privacy cannot be magically averted by copying and pasting such a disclaimer into your status, like this one:

“As of September 26, 2015 at 12:13 PM Eastern Standard Time, 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 it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take an 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 If you do not publish a statement at least once it will tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.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. Now it’s official as reported by Channel 13, Facebook has just released the entry price: $5.99 to keep the subscription of your status to be set to “private.” If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free (remember paste not share) if not tomorrow all your posts become public. Even the messages or photos that have been deleted.”

In contrived disclaimers these claims could not be further from the truth. Your Facebook status does not affect the ownership of the content you publish, nor does it prevent others from accessing it. For the record, Facebook has announced on multiple occasions coinciding with outbreaks of these hoaxes that: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”

Furthermore, one need only read and consider the words carefully of the hoax to realize that the statements are not authentic. First of all, since undoubtedly several of these disclaimers are monopolizing your News Feed, you can see that the effective dates and times are inconsistent and random. Who would make something effective at 12:13 PM anyway? Another giveaway is the fact that apparently only the investigative reporters at “Channel 13” have been able to uncover this conspiracy and somehow the major news networks have neglected to cover this particular story.

But what about those laws that were listed? Surely, since statutes are quoted this must be a legal document, and no American would want to violate the “Rome Statute” after all. Of course, since the Rome Statute deals with international jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and genocide in the international criminal court, it is unlikely that your status update merit such consideration. And as for the UCC, that collection of laws deals with the sale of goods, not privacy issues.

Privacy on the Internet and especially on social media outlets such as Facebook is a topic of great interest to millions of Americans. That is the reason why this sort of hoax has become so common as to repeat itself every few months. Social Media has become a forum for Americans to share and connect with others like never before. Opposing that sense of community and collectiveness is the desire for privacy.   Navigating a balance between one’s desire to share content with others and yet still retain privacy online is no easy task.

Life would be much easier if a simple status update would grant a person the best of both worlds, in that their photos and posts would be shared with those we wish to see them, while remaining private from others. Unfortunately, that is not the case unless you have gone in and manually set your privacy settings strictly. One must take advantage of the privacy setting allowed by Facebook and understand the terms and policies regarding their account and posts and, specifically, who can see them. However, the simplest rule of thumb regarding Facebook, social media and the Internet as a whole, is this: if you can think of a single person who would not want to see a particular post or photo, it is best not to post it at all.

 

“Facebook Hoax” was written by Michael B. Schulman, Managing Attorney.