IP, Technology & Data

If you use Facebook, you probably find that your timeline is regularly clogged up by posts from people “liking” and “sharing” a photo to enter a competition.

It’s bad enough when the competitions are clearly scams (“We have 1,000 iPads to give away. Like and share this post to have a chance of winning”)*, which are largely aimed at hoovering up personal information, but now even reputable businesses seem to be doing this.

Why is this an issue? Well, quite simply, it is in breach of Facebook’s terms of use.

Rules on running a Facebook competition

Facebook profiles for businesses and other organisations should be created as a Page, rather than a normal user profile. Pages work differently to ordinary profiles (in particular, allowing other users to “like” the Page, as opposed to becoming a friend) and are subject to different rules. Section E of the Facebook Pages Terms sets out the rules that apply when an organisation wants to run a promotion using its Facebook Page.

These rules say that:

iii. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app. For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

iv. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

v. You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

The reason behind these rules is presumably try and avoid users getting frustrated by having their timeline clogged up by “liked” photos or wall posts, which might increase user-dissatisfaction with the platform. It is also presumably designed to encourage organisations to use paid-for advertising to promote their goods or services to users.

So far, Facebook seems to be taking little action against organisations that breach the rules on the use of Pages. Instead, most effort seems to be devoted towards ensuring that businesses and brands use the Pages function rather than creating a normal user account.

However, if the number of “like and share” competitions continues to increase, and the user experience is hampered then we may see Facebook start to enforce these rules more rigorously.


*If the prospect of someone spontaneously giving away 1,000 iPads or Kindles, or flights to the US doesn’t ring alarm bells, then have a closer look at the profile/page in question. Usually, you’ll find the account has only been operational for a few days. That’s a fairly good indicator that the promotion is a scam – particularly if it purports to be run by someone like Amazon, Tesco or United Airlines.

**In the meantime, if these competitions are annoying you you can report the Page for a breach of Facebook’s rules using Facebook’s reporting tool.

Follow me

Martin Sloan

Partner at Brodies LLP
Martin is a partner in Brodies Technology, Information and Outsourcing group and has wide experience of advising clients on technology procurement and IT and business process outsourcing projects. Martin also advises on data protection (including the GDPR), and general technology and intellectual property law, and has a particular interest in the laws applying to social media and new technology such as mobile apps, contactless/mobile payments, and smart metering.
Follow me