Policy Watch: Updated Facebook Platform Rules Going Into Effect Within the Hour

A few weeks ago, when Facebook shared its “Platform Roadmap” with developers (see the current status of all 19 changes), it also announced that it was abolishing the verification program, saying it would apply “verified app principles” to all applications. In general, this the next step in Facebook’s increasingly “philosophical” approach to platform governance – instead of trying to spell out all the rules in detail, it’s laying out more general principles and reserving the right to make policy enforcements when its policy team deems doing so to be necessary.

Facebook says it will be “universally enforcing” these updated policies and principles starting at noon US Pacific Time today. Aside from the policy change preventing pop-up feed forms that will go into effect on December 20th, here’s the additional list of updates to the official developer policies going live in a few minutes:

Highlights of Changes and Clarifications in the new Developer Policies

  • Provide a link to your privacy policy in the Info section of your Application Profile page and on every page of your application. (DPP I.1)
  • You can evolve and develop your application, but don’t repurpose it. (DPP II.6)
  • Be sure users can easily report inappropriate content, and be responsive to their reports. (DPP IV.B.2)
  • Don’t undermine the integrity of the social graph by encouraging the creation of fake accounts or inauthentic friend connections. For example, don’t gate content or provide rewards based on the number of a user’s friends who also use your application. (DPP V.2)
  • Don’t prompt users to send invitations, requests, generate notifications, or use other Facebook communication channels immediately after a user allows access or returns to your application. (DPP V.4)
  • Your “skip” button must be adjacent to and the same height and design as your “send” button. (DPP V.5.)
  • Don’t send multiple communications in response to a user’s single action. (DPP V.7)
  • Certain data fields you can submit to us through the API (e.g., the user_message parameter) must be reserved for content generated solely by the user. (DPP V.8)
  • Don’t prompt users to bookmark your application (e.g., by using a modal window or pop-up dialog), and instead provide users with a button for users to explicitly invoke any bookmark option you provide. (DPP V.10)

In other words, apps that don’t conform to any of these previously non-existent or less-clear policies will be subject to app enforcement by Facebook’s expanding policy team. We expect most developers to get slapped for being too aggressive on the first-time-experience, sending multiple notifications in response to user actions, or prompting users to bookmark the app (relevant policies highlighted above).

Some of the larger developers have been updating their apps in recent weeks to be less aggressive, but many still provide some benefits for having more friends in the game – an area that has confused many other developers. We’ll see if the new policies lead to any material changes in the ways developers are allowed to provide benefits for having more friends using the app.

Facebook said at the Developer Garage a few weeks ago that it would be building out its policy enforcement team, and that the issues it will be pursuing will be ones that many developers may not have received enforcement actions for in the past. We’ll be watching to see how developers large and small respond to the latest round of policy updates.