Is breaking Facebook TOS?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Take a look at this

Facebook Timeline for brands is brand new and as such, the nuances and intricacies of the new user interface are still being worked out*. However, a good place to start when dealing with a new service structure is the service supplier themselves. In this instance, that’s Facebook.

Their [new] terms of service (specifically to the cover photo) state:


All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.
Covers may not include:

  1. Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on”;
  2. Contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
  3. References to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
  4. Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”


I interpret that asOi! No special offers on your cover photo!‘ 


…but I could be wrong.

Being unsure (and in constant search of a decent debate), I asked Twitter

Ask Twitter

The crowd certainly think so – although, funnily enough, Play didn’t respond.

Covers including special offers certainly seem off limits from the Facebook’s terms of service and, in all honesty, that’s what I’ve been advising friends, colleagues and clients when it comes to embracing Facebook’s new Timeline layout…

Either way, Play are sailing pretty close to the wind. Wouldn’t you say?
Friends, readers and peers – what do you think?

Better yet, why don’t we ask Play?



*for example: knowing how many characters you should use in your ‘about’ section.


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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

10 thoughts on “Is breaking Facebook TOS?”

  1. You’d be surprised how many brands don’t follow the rules on Facebook. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen brands using a post on their wall for a giveaway/sweepstakes/promotion, asking people to click like to enter, whatever. It’s crazy.

    It’s also a good sign of a brand/agency that doesn’t know what they’re doing and aren’t planning well, IMO.

    whatleydude Reply:

    Prime pitching material you mean? 😉

  2. Nope Whatleydude, not in the strictest sense. Think about it, what does Facebook actually tell you not to do:

    Does the cover photo have price or purchase info? – NO
    Does it contain a website or other contact info? – NO
    Does it contain any references to Facebook features or actions? – NO
    Does it contain any “call to action”? – NO – saying “win a prize” is not a CTA, it’s a statement – “enter our competition to win…” that would be a CTA, that would be against TOS.

    To me this is just clever copywriting… Play still may get rapped on the knuckles by Facebook for it, but Facebook isn’t a smallish company, they can’t watch every brand page so they only really have the energy and time to monitor their big spenders (advertisers) and look for flagrant rule breakers, I see many pages totally flouting the rules and getting away with it, so I wouldn’t be too worried if I worked at Play.

    whatleydude Reply:

    I thought you might have an opinion on this one Mr Messett; you’re right – to *the letter* – they’re not. So I guess the answer is .. ‘NO’ you quite rightly point out.

    However, they’re a bit open to interpretation, non?

    PS. What about this one? 😉

    Tom Messett Reply:

    They are, but if Facebook called me out on this I would feel confident to argue my position… RangeMaster UK are totally breaking the rules, so are loads of others. Few will even know they are doing it.

    Duncan Sample Reply:

    With the RangeMasterUK page you could pretty much tick off each of the ‘do not’ items, the Play page is a grey area.

    I would think it would be easier if they gave examples of what could be done, and maybe broadened the ‘do not’ part a bit (if they really do want to restrict that area). I’d expect something like:

    – No text, unless it is part of your brandmark, wordmark or moto.
    – Photos of products are fine, but no direct advertising photos of non-core products/services (eg. if Play had a photo of the Dubai tower without the MI reference, since they’re a DVD/Game shop, Virgin Airlines/BA could however show destination photos)

    Clearly they don’t want text in the cover photo when they have specific places for that kind of thing on the rest of the profile page, so why not be clearer with the rules?

    BTW, did you do some modelling for the Range Master cover photo? :o)

  3. It should be an easy one to resolve Jimbo, but this specific case is slightly different.

    If they were advertising via the cover an app or competition on their Facebook page, I’d say immediately that this contravenes the ToS. The huge grey area is if they are promoting a competition off-site.

    Facebook has been surprisingly specific, yet brief in the things you CAN’T say, but the play example doesn’t fit ANY of the bills.

    That said, as a massive brand, it needs common sense applying to it – the “spirit” of the ToS is about not using the cover to promote stuff – which this clearly does.

    Awkward one though, agreed.

  4. It’s on the borderline. Not sure I agree with outing them so publicly about it. Was my understanding that this sort of thing was bad form. 0.02.

    whatleydude Reply:

    Fair point re outage, but I’m not really outing them per se (especially if there’s nothing here to out, which seems to be the common opinion) – I’m merely trying to start an informed discussion around brand best practice in Facebook timeline [using Play as the example].

    Turns out that the TOS are fairly grey in this area and, working in an industry where its my job to advise on this thing – it’s good to know what is and what isn’t within regulations.

    Incidentally, this popped up on Twitter earlier – definitely over the line!

  5. It amazes me that companies are so willing to risk it (Facebook DOES shut pages down, it’s not something they ignore – especially when traffic if leaving Facebook itself). Surely the community that you’ve built up is more important than getting a few more competition entries? Having people interact on the page would get those entries in, them being engaged in what you’ve got to say would increase those numbers. Risking a ticking off (or page entire closure) just doesn’t seem worth it for what they’ll get in return.

    Clever copy, perhaps, but the willingness to risk breaking the rules suggests they don’t place a huge amount of value on their social network.

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