We all saw it. That Facebook post. The one where people cite to things that look legal-ish and where it says to copy and paste – don’t forward! – in order to protect yourself. It shows up just about every time Facebook updates its terms and conditions or privacy policies or what-have-you.
I would bet good money that shit was started by a lawyer or a law student and is perpetuated by more lawyers or law students when a new change happens. This time, my favorite legal-blog-to-ignore-most-of-the-time decided to revive its holier-than-thou 2012 post, which I will summarize for you:
How do you not magically understand the law, you stupid non-lawyer?
Because what’s really important, what we should all be using these hard-earned, over-priced law degrees for is shaming people that don’t know the law.*
Look, I get it. I see those posts, and I roll my eyes. I have a (non-public) chuckle with my friends in the know. I get frustrated when I see it over and over again. We’re human. These reactions are normal.
Shaming people, though, is taking a normal reaction and deciding to inflict harm on people just so you can feel superior. Well, congratu-fucking-lations on your law degree. You must feel so special, just like the hundreds of thousands of other lawyers in the United States.
I’m going to do what you could have done, should have done, with your law degree. So, for the non-lawyers still reading this, I’d like to explain to you what the UCC and Rome Statue are. That way, when you see it mentioned in one of those posts, you will understand that it’s not real.
The UCC stands for the Uniform Commercial Code. The UCC seeks to create common rules for contracts for the sale of goods, but not for contracts for the sale of services. A contract for the sale of services would be under different laws or, if none have been enacted, under common law principles developed over centuries. It is not a law, but a model law for states to consider when enacting their laws. Most states have enacted some version of it, but a citation just to the UCC alone would not point to a valid law Facebook would be held accountable under.
The Rome Statute is an international treaty which created the International Criminal Court (aka the ICC – we love our acronyms!). The ICC has jurisdiction to try people for specific crimes defined in the treaty if the country has joined the treaty. These crimes include genocide, crimes against humanity (e.g. torture, slavery, and forced disappearances), and war crimes. The United States is not a member of the treaty. Facebook would not come within its jurisdiction.
With both of the above, there is a lot I am not telling you. The law (and its practice) is complex and nuanced. The law is also limited in what it can do. If you are concerned about Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, we, the Facebook users of America, need to organize to get Facebook to the negotiating table in order to change those terms. It’s a difficult process. One we cannot (unfortunately) shortcut with a simple post to Facebook.
*PS – If you’re going to shame people about their lack of legal knowledge, you might want to read the treaty you’re describing so that you don’t miss a full two thirds of what it covers. Legally speaking, crimes against humanity are definitionally different than genocide and war crimes under the Rome Statute.