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Say there is a desktop application software with the purpose of automating certain tasks on social media sites and the developer plans to operate in the US.

The desktop application essentially opens websites in a webview (just like a browser would) and runs various JS commands such as navigating, clicking and typing.

The program never collects personal information or login details from users, it simply asks the user to login normally and then it begins interacting with the website through the same window that the user is already using naturally.

The program never accesses any restricted files, only what is public on the web, and then interacts with it. The program never modifies any files on external servers.

Example:

  • it CAN naturally navigate Facebook and click the like button
  • it WONT send packets or code to change likes on Facebook servers
  • it DOES use automation to help real users interact with other people's content
  • it DOES NOT assist users in creating fake accounts or providing false information to social media sites

Thank you in advance, if there is any more information that would be helpful, let me know.

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Facebook's Terms of Service states that (my emphasis)

3 Safety

  1. You will not collect users' content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our prior permission.

You say that your App

DOES use automation to help real users interact with other people's content

So your App accesses Facebook using automation; and as a result can be reasonably defined as a "robot" that automates processes for a user by a user. (As opposed to "harvesting bots, spiders, or scrapers" that mostly, by definition, access public information primarily in order to download it.)

The program never accesses any restricted files... The program never modifies any files on external servers.

If it did, you would be immediately identified as a hacker, which would be illegal by Facebook's TOS and other laws.

(accesses)...only what is public on the web, and then interacts with it.

Again, your App accesses Facebook users' public content using automation.

...it begins interacting with the website through the same window that the user is already using naturally.

Still using automation; the fact that a "real" user opens a window and then launches the App actually works against your argument that the user is not using an App that uses automation.

...and runs various JS commands such as navigating, clicking and typing.

Automation by robot.

  • Thank you this is very helpful. I can see that this is against the TOS clearly here. But maybe you can help me understand what this means for the software. Does this make the software illegal? Or does it just simply put the users of the software in danger? – T Mack Sep 12 '17 at 17:58
  • The software itself isn't illegal; Tor and BitTorrent and Wireshark and Kali Linux, etc., aren't illegal, but they can be used for illegal things. Breaking Facebook's TOS is a civil matter, not criminal. Facebook could lock or delete someone's account if they thought they were using your App. In the light of things, Facebook has more serious things to worry about, like spam and fake news bots, fake accounts, etc. – BlueDogRanch Sep 12 '17 at 18:21
  • I can't upvote your answer but I selected it, thank you for the detailed answer! – T Mack Sep 12 '17 at 18:55
  • If you think about it, web browsers are "automated means". As well as the operating system, and internet routers along the way. – danuker Apr 12 at 11:53
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The ToS of most social media sites specifically disallow this sort of interaction. This makes using the program a breach of contract and therefore illegal.

However, most social media platforms provide APIs wither their own terms of service specifically for machine to machine interaction.

  • Thanks for providing some insight here! I see the emphasis on the word 'using' so I take it this means that 'creating' a program is not the same thing? If using the program is a breach, does this place any of the liability(?) on the developer? – T Mack Sep 12 '17 at 20:39

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