Why Facebook’s Updated Promotions Guidelines Don’t Make It Easier To Run Contests/Sweepstakes

On August 27, 2013, Facebook updated its Promotions guidelines, announcing that it had made it “easier to administer promotions on Facebook.

But it hasn’t, really.

Social Media Promotions

Social media promotions (contests or sweepstakes) must comply with both the law and social media site terms. A promotion’s Official Rules contain both:

  • Law:    State contest or sweepstakes laws (eligibility and residency requirements, limitations of liability, etc.), other laws such as intellectual property (use or trademarks or copyrighted material in a promotion), the right of publicity, advertising, etc.
  •  Site Terms:     In the case of Facebook, the requirement of a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant; acknowledgement that the promotion is no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with Facebook; etc.

Facebook Promotions Prior to August 27

Prior to August 27th, Facebook Promotions guidelines required, among other things:

  • Official Rules;
  • A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant;
  • Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Facebook; and
  • A third-party application to administer the promotion.

In the past, to comply with Facebook Promotions guidelines, administrators used a third-party application, such as Woobox or Wildfire, to run a contest or sweepstakes on Facebook. The third-party application also contained the Official Rules, provided by the promotion administrator’s advertising attorney, which contained legal requirements and Facebook Promotions guidelines. Participants and entrants would then agree to these Official Rules within the third-party application, via a legally enforceable clickwrap or clickthrough agreement, just prior to entering the contest or sweepstakes.

If a contest or sweepstakes happened to violate the law, an organization faced potential legal liability. If a contest or sweepstakes violated Facebook Promotions guidelines, Facebook could either suspend or delete the page.

Consider Velvet Burger.

In 2013, the company Velvet Burger bought a lottery ticket and posted on its Facebook page that it would divide its winnings with anyone who shared the post. Shortly after the post, Facebook deleted Velvet Burger’s page because the promotion violated Facebook Promotions guidelines, leaving Velvet Burger’s Facebook community of almost 10,000 users in the dark.

Facebook Promotions On and After August 27

Under the updated Promotions guidelines, Facebook no longer requires a third-party application to administer a promotion, but importantly, the Promotions guidelines still require:

  • Official Rules;
  • A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant; and
  • Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Without a third-party application, the options now for including Official Rules containing legal provisions and the above Facebook site terms are: 1) Include the entire Official Rules, a lengthy legal document, in the Facebook post announcing the contest or sweepstakes; or 2) Link the Official Rules to an external site, which requires an organization to confirm manually whether every entrant has agreed to the Official Rules, and given the extra steps for participants, may prevent Facebook users from entering the promotion.

Both lack what third-party applications provide: an easy way to include Official Rules; legally enforceable clickthrough agreements, randomness required by sweepstakes, the ability to brand a promotion, and other critical legal and design components of contests and sweepstakes.

Further, the Promotions guidelines still prohibit other promotions such as requiring a Facebook user to share or like a post on their or a friend’s personal page.

Consider Velvet Burger once again – the company that bought a lottery ticket, posted on its Facebook page that it would divide its winnings with anyone who shared the post, and Facebook deleted its page as a result. This and numerous other promotions I vet legally remain completely unchanged under the new guidelines.

So, how has Facebook’s updated Promotions guidelines made it “easier to administer promotions?” I suspect Velvet Burger and many others ultimately will find that, besides added confusion and a potential for increased legal liability, not much.

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