Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
fraud, sarah palin, terms of service

Companies:
facebook



If Sarah Palin Has Someone Else Doing Her Facebooking, Is She A Criminal?

from the according-to-facebook dept

The EFF has been working to make people aware of the ridiculous consequences of the really ridiculous stretching of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to make such things as violating the terms of service on a website a criminal offense. As part of this, they're now pointing out that rumors that Sarah Palin doesn't write her own Facebook messages and Tweets could mean that Palin is violating the law and criminally liable, since it goes against Facebook's terms of service:
The problem is that Facebook's terms of use prohibit several things that Palin and her ghostwriter may have done. Specifically, it forbids users from:
  • accessing someone else's account
  • sharing their passwords to let someone else access their accounts
  • transferring their accounts to someone else (without Facebook's written permission)
  • providing false personal information
  • "facilitating" or "encouraging" someone else to violate the terms of use

If Palin and her ghostwriter are in fact violating Facebook's terms of use, that probably doesn't seem like a big deal to most people. Just by surfing around the internet, we "agree" to dozens of website terms of use every day, usually before we even read them. These terms can say anything a website operator wants, and often specifically note that they can be changed at any time without notice (or with minimal notice).

But violating a website's terms of use is a big deal, according to Facebook. In fact, Facebook says it's a federal crime.

The point, of course, is not to accuse Sarah Palin of criminal behavior, but to point out the ridiculousness of saying that terms of service violations are a criminal offense, as many have been doing (including Facebook) in various lawsuits.

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  1. icon
    mickmel (profile), 10 Sep 2010 @ 4:09pm

    Incorrect - Their actions (likely) comply with the Facebook TOS

    While I agree with the sentiment of the article, the facts aren't quite right.

    Sarah Palin's public face on Facebook is a "Page", which by definition can be handled by multiple users. As long as they're not logging into her personal account, which they'd have no need to do, I don't see how this would break the TOS. They can log into Facebook as "Bob" and "Judy", and as long as they have admin rights on her Page then it's not a problem.

    If you want to find violators, just look for any small business or church that's on there as a user profile (rather than a Group or Page), which is a clear TOS violation.

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