When it comes to competitions, giveaways and contests, what happens if you break Facebook’s competition rules?

We’ve all heard of ‘Facebook jail’, where your page or profile is temporarily or permanently disabled or shut down for breaking the rules; but what does it mean for your competition?

In this post we’re going to delve into what Facebook’s competition rules are (briefly), what happens when you ignore the rules or break them, how to tell if you’ve broken the rules and look at whether Facebook actually enforce their contest rules or not.

Consider this your get out of Facebook jail free card.

What are Facebook’s competition rules?

We’ve covered Facebook’s rules at length in our comprehensive guide to social media rules and more in-depth in our Facebook competition rules post, but I’ll include the executive summary for you here.

Facebook clearly state their rules for running a promotion, competition or contest on a Facebook page in their Pages, Groups and Events Policies. Essentially, to run a ‘legal’ competition on Facebook that doesn’t break the rules, you need to make sure you:

  • Include the rules or terms and conditions of your competition in your competition post
  • Apply for any relevant licences or permits for your competition
  • Release Facebook from any legal liability
  • Do not ask people to share the competition to enter or get additional entries
  • Do not ask people to tag others to enter the competition

Obey these five simple rules for Facebook competitions and you won’t have to worry about accidentally breaking the rules.

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What happens when you break Facebook’s contest rules?

I went down a rabbit hole of Facebook policies, standards, guidelines and rules to get to the bottom of what will happen when you break the contest rules on Facebook – so you don’t have to.

Essentially, by using Facebook, you agree to their Terms of Service, which is pretty standard for any website or business these days.

Under section 3, point 2 is a list of ‘What you can share and do on Facebook’. In this section, Facebook explains that by using their services…

You therefore agree not to engage in the conduct described below (or to facilitate or support others in doing so)… That breaches these Terms, our Community Standards, and other Terms and Policies that apply to your use of Facebook.

The ‘other Terms and Policies’ includes the Pages, Groups and Events Policies we talked about above, which describe the rules for running a promotion or competition on Facebook.

Their Terms of Service, section 3, point 2 continues to state that:

We can remove or restrict access to content that is in violation of these provisions.

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.

NOTE: this last paragraph above mentioning ‘adverse legal’ impacts is a new addition in the October 2020 update to their rules.

Additionally, in section 4, point 2, Facebook clearly state that:

If we determine that you have clearly, seriously or repeatedly breached our Terms or Policies, including in particular our Community Standards, we may suspend or permanently disable access to your account.

SUMMARY: if you break Facebook’s competition rules, you risk having your content deleted and/or your account suspended or disabled.

In searching for what happens when you break competition rules on Facebook, I also learnt what happens when you break a pinky promise…

How do Facebook know if you’ve broken the rules?

Excellent question.

Realistically, there are only two ways Facebook will ever find out if you have broken the competition rules…

  1. Someone at Facebook sees the post
  2. Someone reports post to Facebook

The chances that someone at Facebook will see your competition is extremely low. So low I would wager that this has never happened.

In all honestly, it will be a disgruntled customer with a grudge, a competitor trying to get you in trouble or a prize pig high on competition regulations knowledge (you’d be surprised how often we come across this) that reports your post.

For the most part, our intel tells us that Facebook bots will review the reported post for rule violations and take action on the post if it finds you to be a rule-breaker. That means if your post contains the words ‘tag and share for extra entries’, it’s a clear cut violation of the rules and your post will be removed and/or your page and possibly your account will be suspended or deleted.

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Do Facebook actually enforce their contest rules?

Another great question.

This one is a little tougher to answer… whilst there’s plenty of anecdotal stories of a “friend of a friend” (imagine me air quoting whilst you read that) who had their page shut down and lost access to their 20,000 followers; in the process of researching this article, I actually found it incredibly difficult to find a real-life person who has had their page shut down due to running an ‘illegal’ Facebook competition that breaks the contest rules.

I guess the real question here should be – do you really want to find out if Facebook actually enforce their contest rules?

Yes, asking people to tag and share is a great way to get your competition – and business – in front of a lot of people, but at the risk of completely losing access to those people if your page and/or account is shut down.

Our professional recommendation would be to to follow Facebook’s five very simple and very reasonable rules to run a quality competition that attracts quality entrants with the best chance of converting into long-term, paid customers, rather than chasing after vanity metrics and the five minutes of fame going viral has to offer.

Facebook’s rules on running competitions and contests on their platform are extremely simple and easy to follow – get yourself some terms and conditions, apply for the relevant licences, release Facebook from liability and do not, under any circumstances, ask people to tag and share to enter or to gain extra entries to your competition. If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll be familiar with our stance on tag and share competitions that break the rules – not only are they spammy and give people a poor impression of your business, they actually do little to help grow your business and your bottom line anyway. So follow the rules and reap the rewards.

If you need a hand creating a set of terms and conditions (which include releasing Facebook from liability) or applying for competition licences and permits, we’re more than happy to help. Check out our T&Cs, Rules and Licences package, or get in touch with us and we’ll make sure your competition doesn’t break a single Facebook rule.

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