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Facebook Privacy and Christian Gullibility

Two weeks ago, a wave of panic swept through my Facebook feed as several well-intentioned though misinformed individuals posted the following:

Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information, I state: at this date of November 27, 2014, in response to the new guidelines of Facebook, pursuant to articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data drawings, paintings, photos, video, texts etc…. published on my profile and my page. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times.

Those who read this text can do a copy/paste on their Facebook wall. This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright. By this statement, I tell Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, broadcast, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and or its content. The actions mentioned above also apply to employees, students, agents and or other personnel under the direction of Facebook.

The content of my profile contains private information. The violation of my privacy is punishable by law (UCC 1-308 1-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are invited to publish a notice of this kind, or if they prefer, you can copy and paste this version.

If you have not published this statement at least once, you tacitly allow the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in the profile update.

I’ve got two main angles on this that I’d like to examine, if you’ll kindly follow along.

The People’s Republic of Facebook

First of all, this entire scenario isn’t unbelievable. Facebook changes their privacy options/policies often—too often, maybe—and rarely do they make them simpler. And for that fact, Facebook is changing their settings again soon; attempting to make things simpler, though I doubt they’ll succeed. So, I can’t fault these people for believing that another change is coming.

However, the absurdity kicks in when you think about the idea that a simple status update can stop mean ol’ Facebook from taking ownership of your intellectual property. For starters, they already do own it. They have the right to use anything you post until you delete it. There are some nuances, exceptions, and caveats with that statement, but it’s essentially true. Furthermore, how does it make any sense that you can simply stop this process by posting a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo? Guess what? You’re posting this ‘hands off’ message on Facebook, using Facebook’s app, website, or a third-party service that is using one of Facebook’s API’s which is what allows them to post to Facebook for you. Facebook is owned, controlled, and governed by Facebook. You only have the rights granted to you by Facebook.

Of course, Facebook can’t deny you rights granted to you as a citizen, but there is some gray area here. How? Because Facebook is international, private, and proprietary. Facebook may be headquartered in the US, but the world of Facebook is its own. Your freedom of speech, right to privacy, due process and such are subject to Facebook’s whims and interpretations. You aren’t a US citizen on Facebook; you’re a Facebook user. Also, while this might seem counterintuitive, Facebook is private, not public. Interaction is limited to Facebook users, making it a private community. Sure, you’re profile can be seen via a Google search, but only the sections you allow to be seen by the general public. Facebook itself is private, like a country club or gym. They set the rules, establishing who can and can’t be members along with what behaviors are acceptable amongst the members. Facebook has the faint say-so regarding all-things Facebook. They control this whole thing, even to the point of tweaking your feed without your knowledge or permission.

Finally, Facebook is self-proprietary, meaning that it is a service and platform owned by itself. You have no right to tell Facebook “no” to any of their policy changes. Your only recourse is to sue them—you’ll lose—or delete your account. Posting a status update that you think will force Facebook to leave you alone is like holding up a poster board sign in a friend’s house that you believe will force your friend to give you food. It’s ludicrous. Your status updates have no power and hold no sway over Facebook. Posting updates like these makes you look like this:

Gullible God-Followers

Sigh. I don’t really want to go here, but…sigh.

Do you want to guess what was the common detonator between the friends in my feed who fell for this rumor? Belief in Jesus.

What is it about Christians, specifically Evangelical and/or Pentecostal Christians, that make us so gullible? I think there are few reasons.

1) Christians trust each other. If one Christian posts, you can bet that some of their brothers and sisters will do likewise, without giving it much thought. While a sense of brotherhood and community is great, we need to be a bit more discerning. And yet, most of us would treat financial advice from other Christians with a bit of scrutiny, so why not suburban legends like this? Why do these get a pass?

2) We assume the worst of the world and give very little thought to what we accept as true. the world is a dark and disturbing place where terrible things happen, so it’s not totally ridiculous to assume the worst. However, the point is that we’re still just assuming. We have little to no authoritative information about what we’re passing on to our friends, but we do so based upon the assumption that the world is terrible, “So, of course, stuff like this is going on.” Right along with that is this predisposition to accept whatever feels right with our spirit. We think we’re being spiritual, but in reality, we’re just accepting statements as true when they align with our preconceived notions. Sure, God may reveal some stuff to us in our spirit, but I feel like too many Christians use this as a cop-out. God gave us minds—beautiful, insightful, complex brains—so that we would use them to search for truth and then pass it out. When we accept unverified truth and pass it out, we’re being lazy thinkers and poor stewards, and we may very well be misleading others.

3) We’re afraid to correct others. It’s hard to correct people without coming off as mean, arrogant, or—in the eyes of the fringe cuckoos—’deceived by the world.’ However, so much of the poor theology and lack of orthodoxy in the Church today could have been corrected years ago in love and respect, which would have done a great deal to prevent fringe elements from forming and calcifying in the Evangelical movement. It’s never easy to tell someone that he or she is misinformed, have misunderstood, or are flat out wrong, but it’s so important. If a member of my family held a firm belief in the regenerative powers of a monthly butter-binge, wherein only butter is consumed for a twenty-four hour period, I would work diligently and patiently to correct them. Why do we allow our brothers and sisters in Christ to hold to damaging theological views?

Christians, let’s please be a bit more careful about falling for things we read online. (Another pet peeve of mine is the sharing of news stories from obviously fake news sites.) Let’s put more thought into what we post, share, and like. It’s not all true.

For more information on this Facebook privacy rumor/urban legend, check out Snopes.

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6 replies on “Facebook Privacy and Christian Gullibility”

Thanks, Chris! It has been around forever, hasn’t it? Gullibility and paranoia aren’t new by any stretch, and I kept trying to ignore it all…and then I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Thanks for comment!

In short, yes. 🙂

Essentially, it’s a cute way of pointing out that most of these stories seem to be propagated most highly among suburbanites. Of course, I can back that up with any substantial data. It’s just an informal observation.

Someone in my feed tried to say stop posting these on Facebook and had some documentation about why the statements were worthless. First comment, “well it can’t hurt”.

So I said yes it actually can. Passing on info that you know is bogus should matter as a Christian. Second when people think they can control how their info is being used in ways that give them a false sense of security them they may start sharing in ways they would not it they knew how little control you have over your Facebook data.

I just don’t get Christian, and it is Christian in my world, paranoia and falling for urban myths. And I really don’t get the distrust of sites like snopes that try to get to the bottom of these. The second comment on that post was “can’t ever trust snopes”.

Wow, Adam. That’s crazy. It’s like people want to find fringe theories and cling to them?

I love that you pointed out how Christians should be concerned about spreading falsehood. Fantastic. Thanks for the comment!

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