Facebook's updated terms and conditions allow Facebook to remove content that it believes may cause legal or regulatory trouble for the social network. The company has sent a notification to users in countries like Australia, the US, India, and other countries informing them that the new policy will take effect on October 1st.
In section 3.2 of the Facebook policy on what users are allowed to share and do, there is a new paragraph that states: “We can also remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we consider it reasonably necessary to avoid this or to mitigate adverse legal or regulatory effects on Facebook. "
– Ken Yeung (@thekenyeung) September 1, 2020
The notification was postponed after Facebook announced it would prevent users and publishers in Australia from sharing news on the platform due to a landmark new draft. The policy update was believed to have been added to allow Facebook to take action on news posts to comply with the potential new local Australian rules. However, soon after, many users from the US, India, Bangladesh, Australia and other countries reported on Twitter that they had received the notification too.
In a statement to Digital Trends, Facebook confirmed that it was a global update, saying it offered (Facebook) more flexibility to change (its) services, including in Australia, to keep working, and its users to support, "in response to possible regulations or legal action."
The updated terms also suggest that it doesn't matter whether the content itself is legal or not. It remains to be seen whether Facebook will abuse this power to remove any post that its team sees as a regulatory risk.
Although the details are fuzzy at the moment, especially on the wider implications, the move could potentially be a significant step against freedom of expression. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been an active advocate for free speech and has even refused in the past to take action on questionable content to protect free expression. "I'm proud that our values on Facebook are inspired by the American tradition of promoting free expression more than anywhere else," he said in a speech at Georgetown University last year.
Such a policy was expected when President Donald Trump's crackdown on Section 230 of making online platforms liable for their content went through. This has yet to take shape, however, and even then, it's unclear why Facebook introduced these new terms around the world.
In addition, in the event of a legal or regulatory request, Facebook is technically obliged to keep the copy of the deleted content. Therefore, it is possible that the social network will attempt to respond to bodies that may pose regulatory risks in the future before they reach the official authorities.