Facebook has announced a policy change that is likely to alter the manner in which many companies conduct contests and promotions using the social networking website.  Under existing Facebook policy, contests and other promotions frequently required entrants or those seeking to take advantage of a promotion to “like” a Facebook page before seeing certain content or becoming eligible to enter or participate.  This practice is commonly referred to as “like-gating,” which Facebook explains occurs “when you force a Facebook user who has not already liked your Page to like your Page before they can see content.”

Under the new policy, which goes into effect on November 5, 2014, Facebook will prohibit Page-owners from incentivizing users to “like” a Page in order to access content.  This ban applies not only to entry into contests or sweepstakes, but also other content – such as songs or written material – and coupons, discounts, and other rewards.  The bottom line is that businesses will now need to gain “likes” based on whether visitors to their Pages want to connect with and hear from them, rather than the promotions they offer.  Failure to comply can result in Facebook taking remedial action, up to and including disabling Pages.

This change represents just another in the constantly evolving list of terms and conditions that apply to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  Businesses running contests, sweepstakes, and other promotions therefore now need to ensure that their activities comport with not only a complex web of state and federal laws, but also the ever-changing requirements of these social media websites.

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