Control Your Content on Social Media

It’s that time of year again: the copy/paste posts are making their way around Facebook and Instagram declaring ownership of photos and information and forbidding the social media and tech giants from using and abusing your content. Here’s an example of a post you may have seen being shared:

Deadline tomorrow !!! Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. It costs nothing for a simple copy and paste, better safe than sorry. Channel 13 News talked about the change in Facebook’s privacy policy. I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook 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 If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. Copy and paste.

It’s easy to think that it’s better to be safe than sorry and that sharing this sort of post has few (if any) negative ramifications. The problem is, these posts give a false sense of security to those who read or share them. They have no effect on what those companies can do with your content.

Still, how do we know this is a hoax? Firstly, U.C.C. 1-308-11 does not exist. U.C.C. § 1-308 does have subsections (a) and (b), which outline what happens when a person reserves rights as a party to a contract—it does not, however, outline that disclosure of information is “punishable by law.” Second, the “Rome Statute” is an international treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). According to Part 2, Article 5 of the Rome Statute, the ICC only hears cases about genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Although each of these crimes has a laundry list of behaviors that fall within its definitions, none of them pertain to social media companies sharing content—no matter how embarrassing that picture from last summer’s pie-eating contest might be.

So what sort of relationship do these companies have with your content—what can they do? Under Facebook’s terms and conditions, to which all members or users must agree in order to use the platform, you have granted these companies a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and applications settings).” Generally, a license is when a person grants another person permission to do something with or to use the first person’s property in a particular way. Here, Facebook users grant Facebook a license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works of their content. For users to even have a Facebook account, Facebook requires the users to agree to this license. Although users can limit who sees certain content by adjusting their privacy settings, the privacy settings cannot completely prevent Facebook from using the aforementioned license.

The best way to ensure that these companies do not use or abuse your content is to not be on the platform at all. However, we all know how ubiquitous these websites and applications are, so the next best thing is to be more selective about the types of content you upload—if you really don’t want these companies to share your picture, consider simply not uploading the picture. On its face, this suggestion may seem simple, but there are many people who rely on websites like Facebook to store all of their pictures and videos so their computer doesn’t run low on memory. If you have digital storage concerns, consider investing in an external hard-drive to store some of your media files.

Finally, review the privacy settings in all of your social media and email accounts to ensure they reflect your security priorities. Whatever you choose to do, know that posts like the one above cannot and will not protect your content—that responsibility is up to you.