Facebook has made a change to its terms of service which has upset many people. The change allows the company to remove content or restrict access to avoid legal or regulatory impact.
Human rights commentator Ananya Ramani has noted that change could be used to "justify online censorship" in a Twitter post. She is not the only user to find the change to Terms of Service by Facebook troubling as reported by Android Central.
Facebook has long struggled with how to deal with the content posted on its platform. At one stage a lack of action from the company let to an advertiser boycott of the social media platform.
This may be why Facebook is strengthening its legal position to be able to take more action. However, recently the company has been accused of not handling coronavirus misinformation harshly enough.
Change to terms of service angers Facebook users
It is a fine balancing act that Facebook has to negotiate when it comes to the censorship of content. For so long it has come under criticism for allowing too much hate speech and misinformation spread on its platform.
However, now the company is taking action they have been accused of censorship and being anti-free speech.
Users of the Facebook app have begun receiving a message notifying them about a change to the terms of service.
As the screenshot shows this notification informs of an update to section 3.2 of the terms of service. Specifically, the introduction of the phrase "We also can remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook".
This section of the terms of service deals with who and who cannot use Facebook. It also focuses on what users can use the platform for.
This notification has sparked backlash amongst users who worry that this is tantamount to censorship. Others have concerns that this allows governments to interfere in elections.
The clause in itself is quite vague but also wide-ranging in its scope. It does seem reasonable that Facebook could remove content at say-so of a government should they receive threats of legal action.
However, some users have welcomed the change. They point out that this could lead to more scope for misinformation removal from the platform.
How Facebook uses this new power they have when it comes into force on October 1 will be fascinating. In one sense it is good to see the company taking more action to remove harmful content. However, the rabbit hole this opens up is potentially troubling.