The Facebook Do's and Don'ts say that I'm not allowed to modify the logo.
I don't want to modify the logo, I just want to use the white 'f' without the blue backdrop. Does anyone know if this is permitted? I can't speak legal-ese!
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What you'd like to do falls under "don't".
From page 68 of the Facebook Product Assets and Identity Guide:
Modify the “f” logo in any way, such as changing design or color. If you are unable to use the correct color due to technical limitations, you may revert to black and white.
Cutting the 'f' away from the backdrop is definitely an alteration.
Of course you'd be modifying the logo: you're taking away a fundamental piece of the design. Facebook would be overjoyed if the internet promoted their brand exactly as they've spec'd it. They paid a lot of money for that style guide!
With the internet as your defense attorney, you can establish precedent for all manner of social media icon usage. The stuff you quote is a style guide, not a contract. If you think you can use a lonely 'f' without confusing your users, no one is going to stop you.
Just ask the fine folks at IconFinder. I'm sure they get plenty of downloads on these blatant mutilations of Facebook's guidelines. Probably not a good idea, but that's what keeps the interwebs eclectic.
You mention needing help with the "legalese". That implies that you're afraid of getting sued. Welcome the modern world. As corporations like Facebook have shown before, you can be sued for anything. They may or may not have a case, but they have enough money to send an army of unscrupulous lawyers your way. But that's not really the point, is it?