While this phenomenon has been called a hoax, a scam, and a new iteration of the chain letter, it’s also something like a superstition. People are legitimately concerned about the power of giant companies like Facebook, and it’s kind of believable that it’d be able to make these kinds of rules and you, the user, would be stuck with them. Thinking there must be some legal way out of this unequal relationship—that the law wouldn’t let one company act with impunity in this way—isn’t so irrational. And so these words keep popping up and, since there was no change in the first place, they seem to “work” and do no harm—like knocking on wood—so everyone forgets for a couple of years.

Katharine Trendacosta on digital supertitions.

This is about those panics that periodically go around social media where people believe making a post with a certain set of words in it will exempt them somehow from ToS enforcement or other unwanted behavior; the AO3’s version of this is the “don’t post to another site” tag, for example. The linking of this with superstitious practices like knocking on wood is pretty interesting—what are these posts, after all, but the digital equivalent of saying “bless you” to keep someone’s soul in when they sneeze—and now I’m imagining, like. All the weird little rituals and phrases people might be saying in ten or fifty or a hundred or a thousand years…