5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know are “Illegal” on Facebook

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5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know are “Illegal” on Facebook


Facebook has an ever-changing list of guidelines, restrictions, and policies that are almost impossible to keep up with. Not only are these rules scattered throughout Facebook’s site under different names, but they can be confusing and long-winded. Add to that the reality that most people don’t even know that these policies exist and you end up with a lot of people on the wrong side of the Facebook “law” when it comes to their profile or business Pages.

Business Pages on Facebook have their own set of guidelines which you can read here, yet I continually see countless Facebook Pages posting illegal images, running illegal contests, or just doing things that aren’t welcomed by Facebook.

So what happens when users break Facebook law? Pages can be shut down. It doesn’t happen all that often, as far as we know, but it is a possibility and potentially a huge hassle.

To prevent your Facebook Page from getting shut down, don’t break these 5 rules.

Illustration depicting a green chalk board with the words 'dont break the rules' written on it in white chalk.       Image from 72soul via Depositphotos

 The Rule: Do Not Use Facebook Features or Functionality as a Promotion Registration or Entry

Where it can be found: Facebook Page Guidelines – Article III – section E- clause iv

A business cannot use Facebook’s features — such as sharing to a friend’s timeline or tagging a friend in a post — as a means of automatic entry into a contest. Basically, you can’t say “Tag a friend and you are entered!” You still need to have the user submit an entry and agree to some basic terms. You can, of course, suggest that the user share something, upload a pic or leave a comment, but it can’t be a requirement.

One thing that you are allowed to do is require that users Like your Page or Check in to your Place in order to enter. The Like or Check-in is the exception to the rule, but again, it can’t automatically enter anyone into your promotion. The Like or Check-in simply allows them to continue to the entry form.

If you want to require people to Like your Page in order to participate, try creating a custom app that is fan-gated. When users see your app but haven’t Liked your Page yet, the app should encourage them to do so to proceed to the entry form. After they enter, feel free to ask them to share your contest with their friends (but don’t force them to).

The Rule: Privacy Statements

Where it can be found: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities – Article 5 – Section 7

My company, ShortStack, is a third-party application and our users ask us just about every day why our app requests access to Facebook profiles. If you’re a business and you’re using a Facebook app to collect data from your users, it’s your responsibility to tell your users what information you’re collecting and exactly how that information will be used. If you’re transparent and honest with your users about what you plan on doing with their information you’re likely to receive more engagement on your data collection app.

Facebook says you must: Obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

The Rule: Page Names Must Not Consist Solely of Generic Terms

Where it can be found: Facebook Page Terms: Article 2, Section I, Clause i.

There are many rules about your Facebook Page name, including that it can’t be misleading and must use proper grammar.

Basically, this rule means you can’t have a page name of “Pizza”. It needs to reflect your brand and not mislead your audience.

The Rule: You Cannot Use your Personal Timeline Mostly Just to Promote Your Business

Where it can be found: Terms of Service: Article 4, Section 4

Terms of service states:

  1. You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.

So, while you can use your personal page to promote your business, you cannot use it for that alone.

The Rule: You Cannot Promote MLM Businesses on Facebook Pages

Where it can be found: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities: Article 3, Section 3.

Pyramid schemes are banned on Facebook pages, but many MLM businesses use Facebook Groups as a work-around. Technically, this article says “unlawful” MLM businesses so that you might be in the clear for a legit company. However, most MLM companies seem to avoid pages altogether.

The (Unspoken) Rule: Don’t Break Local, State, National or International laws

Some states/regions have their own rules and guidelines for a business that is giving away any prize, including prizes won via Facebook contests. Check with your region’s business agencies to ensure that you’re abiding by local, state and international laws.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rules and guidelines on Facebook for Pages, but these are the rules I see businesses break most often. Although it can be time-consuming and tedious to make sure your Facebook Page and apps comply with all of Facebook’s rules and guidelines, it’s worth it to stay up to date with Facebook’s policies.

Here is a list of the policies and guidelines I recommend familiarizing yourself with:


Image Credits
Featured Image: Alexey Boldin /


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Jim Belosic


Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service custom app design tool used to create apps for Facebook Pages, ... [Read full bio]

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