Facebook ‘Update to Our Terms’ October 2020: Here’s what that weird message is all about

Many Facebook users this week had their user experience briefly interrupted by a pop-up message warning them of a forthcoming change to the platform’s terms of service.

“Effective October 1, 2020, section 3.2 of our Terms of Service will be updated to include: ‘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.’”

The message was unusual, to say the least, as Facebook doesn’t typically slide into your timeline to let you know about one specific change it’s making to the volumes and volumes of rules that users agree to but never read. Unless you speak legalese, the message was also a bit cryptic. What kind of “regulatory impacts” is the world’s largest social networking service expecting?

The message has sparked speculation that Facebook is ramping up efforts to remove or censor objectionable content, or otherwise curtail the free exchange of ideas in advance of the U.S. election. Such chatter is understandable given that Facebook is not especially well trusted when it comes to issues such as transparency and data privacy, so we thought we’d try to parse what’s happening. Here’s what we know:

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