That legal disclaimer you just copied and pasted to your Facebook profile means absolutely nothing.
A viral hoax is popping up on social media this week, and it’s been a terribly familiar one for years. Under its logic, Facebook is soon going to make all your private content publicly accessible (not true), and the only way to protect yourself from this is to post some harsh legalese as a status update (also not true).
You’ve probably seen some friends already do it. The block of text in question alternately makes references to the Rome Statute, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and denying Facebook permission to make your content public. It all sounds very official and legit, but this text has uselessly circulated like a chain letter around Facebook for years. It’s just back again now, and you only look inept by posting it. For example, here’s a debunk of this “news item” from 2015.
Lawyers with the right specialized knowledge see through it right away. The UCC addresses commercial contracts and transactions. The Rome Statute is a law pertaining to war crimes like genocide — it established the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands. Neither law has anything to do with Facebook in this context, but users posting the text likely think it makes them seem intelligent, concerned with privacy, and more in-the-know than others. It actually makes them look foolish.
“Needless to say, the [International Criminal Court] is not concerned with Facebook appropriating your baby photos or your updates about what you are eating right now,” says Josh Druck, associate attorney at New Jersey law firm Graham Curtain. Even if Facebook were to go all Dr. Evil and make your private content public, no status update would ever hold enough legal precedent to constitute fighting back. The social networking giant effectively rules over its platform as dictator — whatever it says, goes. Users consent to this dictatorship by virtue of using the service. Personifying Facebook, Texas-based attorney Adam Reposa says, “If you want to be on social media and you want us to tell everyone about your favorite pizza and what you think about Donald Trump, you have to play by our rules.”
Your status updates are not legally binding documents, but they can set the stage for legally binding documents to appear. You know the classics, including restraining orders, divorce papers, bankruptcy filings. So here's a friendly reminder: Before you copy and paste someone else’s hoax text and congratulate yourself for taking your privacy so seriously, it's "better to be safe than sorry" and move on and log out of your account.