Facebook is meant to represent real people and real associations; it’s also meant to be safe. Many of the rules of participation on Facebook exist to uphold those two goals.
There are things you can’t do on Facebook other than what’s listed here. For example, you can’t send multiple unsolicited messages to people you’re not friends with; you can’t look at the photos of someone who has really tight privacy settings; you can’t spin straw into gold. These rules may change how you use Facebook, but probably won’t change whether you use it.
You can’t lie on Facebook
Okay, you can, but you shouldn’t, especially not about your basic information. Lying about your identity is a violation of the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and grounds for your Timeline being disabled. Although many people try, Facebook doesn’t let anyone sign up with an obviously fake name like Fakey McFakerson. Those who do make it past the name checks will likely find their account flagged and disabled.
You can’t be twelve and be on Facebook
Or younger. Seriously. Facebook takes very seriously the U.S. law that prohibits minors under the age of 13 from creating an online Timeline for themselves. This rule is in place for the safety of minors, and it’s a particular safety rule that Facebook does enforce. If you’re reported to the Facebook User Operations team and they confirm that you’re underage, your account will be disabled.
You can’t troll or spam on Facebook
On the Internet, trolling refers to posting deliberately offensive material to websites in order to get people upset. Spamming refers to sending out bulk promotional messages. If you do either of these things on Facebook, there’s a good chance your account will be shut down.
The logic for this is that Facebook is about real people and real connections. It’s one thing to message a mutual friend or the occasional stranger whose Timeline implies being open to meeting new people if the two of you have matching interests. However, between Facebook’s automatic detection systems and user-generated reports, sending too many unsolicited messages is likely to get your account flagged and disabled.
Similarly, Facebook aims to be a “trusted” environment for people to exchange ideas and information. If people deliberately disturb the peace with pornographic, hateful, or bullying content, that trust is pretty much broken.
Chances are that you have no intention of spamming or trolling, so keep in mind that if you see either of these things happening, you can report the content or person to Facebook, and its User Operations team investigates the report. If you’re getting warnings about things like spamming, chances are you just need to tweak how you’re using Facebook.
You can’t upload illegal content to Facebook
Facebook users live in virtually every country in the world, so Facebook is often obligated to respect the local laws for its users. Respecting these laws is something Facebook has to do regardless of its own position on pornography (where minors can see it), copyrighted material, hate speech, depictions of crimes, and other offensive content.
However, doing so is also in line with Facebook’s value of being a safe, happy place for people 13 and older. Don’t confuse this with censorship; Facebook is all about freedom of speech and self-expression, but the moment that compromises anyone’s safety or breaks any law, disciplinary action is taken.
10 things you should never post on Facebook
Even if you think you have your Facebook privacy settings nailed down, you never know where your posts and photos will end up. You have no control over what your friends do with them, and it only takes a few ‘Likes’ for a post to be seen by hundreds of people you’ve never heard of.
There is only one sure-fire way to stay out of trouble, and that’s not to post anything inappropriate or controversial in the first place. But what kind of posts are we talking about? What are the things that we could post online that might come back to bite us?
Well, the list is almost endless, but here’s just a few. If you regularly post on Facebook, then here is the Mobile Living Top 10 list of things that are better left unsaid:
1. How much you hate your job
If there is anything guaranteed to quickly put you among the ranks of the unemployed, it’s going on Facebook to complain about your job. Complaining about your job in this economic environment will be seen as ungrateful and disloyal, and it will not win you many friends inside or outside the office!
2. Embarrassing pictures of other people
It may seem like a good prank to post embarrassing pictures of other people on Facebook, but what might start out as a bit of fun can quickly go wrong. Everyone’s Facebook motto should be “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you wouldn’t want those pictures of you circulating on the Internet, then be a good friend and share them privately or not at all.
3. Your birth year
Or your home address, or telephone number, or mother’s maiden name – or anything else that could be used to put your personal or financial security at risk. Sophisticated criminals need very little to steal a person’s identity and many trawl Facebook because that kind of information is so readily available. Do yourself a favor and don’t post any personal information other than your name and birth date – without the year!
4. Strong political or religious opinions
Nobody’s saying you can’t have them, it’s just that very few people want to read them on Facebook. Plus, one-paragraph opinions on a social network can easily be taken out of context or misinterpreted. Why risk alienating friends or being labeled as insensitive or intolerant? Facebook activity should be kept friendly and light. Don’t post politically charged comments and don’t respond to other people who do.
5. Curse words
Again, all it takes is one slip and your reputation can be ruined. What may have seemed like a funny post during a night out with the girls can look awkward and offensive in the cold light of day. Don’t risk offending your colleagues, friends or your favorite aunt. Keep it clean!
6. Other people’s big news
If your Facebook friends have big news to announce, let them do the announcing. There is nothing worse than Dad jumping the gun and letting the whole world know that Junior got accepted into that north-eastern university, or Mom telling all her friends that she’s finally going to be a grandma. Let others control their own Timelines and make sure that they get to break their own big news.
7. Details of your vacation
Want to invite burglars to break into your house? Announce to everyone on Facebook that you’re going on a two-week cruise. The police and FBI can tell you that Facebook is increasingly used by criminals to identify potential victims, and not just for identity theft or cyber scams. You may be proud of your 500+ friend list, but with that many, there are bound to be a few bad apples. Letting everyone know that your house is going to be empty is an invitation to be robbed!
8. Posts intended to make others envious
We know you’re proud of your brand new Porsche or that diamond necklace you got for your birthday, but some things are better kept to yourself. While there is nothing to be ashamed of in achieving goals and enjoying some good fortune, others might not be so lucky. (Plus, you might not want to tell everyone about the recently acquired 70-inch HDTV or fine artwork for other reasons – see 7 above.)
9. Drinking photos
Whether you are single and in college or happily married with three kids, you might want to tone it down on the drinking photos. While the odd picture of you and your golfing buddies enjoying a beer might be OK, a constant stream of photos showing you with a drink in your hand might lead people to think that, well, you constantly have a drink in your hand! And be especially careful if you are in college. Everyone knows about the weekend keggers but dozens of pictures of you with your boozy pals sends a poor message to everyone, including Mom and Dad!
10. TMI (Too much information)
Whatever you post, keep it appropriate and don’t include details that you don’t want the whole world to know. If you would only tell a handful of close friends about the details of your annual check-up or what you found in your 15-year-old son’s room the other day, then it has no business on Facebook. When it comes to posting online, the less information the better!
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