Amplify the tiny print!

Terms & Conditions

Amplify the tiny print!
January 14, 2015

I’m going to admit that I do not read the Terms & Conditions for most things. I am also going to assume that most of my friends do not either. Why?! Terms & Conditions seem to be the last little step that you have to get through in order to participate on a social networking site or the last thing in an office that is holding you up from completing your purchase. It’s torture. It’s like dangling a treat in front of a dog and fully expecting the dog to sit there patiently until you give it to them. Maybe some dogs can do that, but smart dogs know that they can have that treat if they just jump up and take it.

Case in point, having patience is a virtue that many of us do not practice enough when it comes to reading over what we are agreeing to. But, is what we are agreeing to always ethical? That’s a hard question to answer–depending on which side you are standing on. Jumping up and grabbing that treat probably is not always the smartest thing.

I’m going to use Vine as an example. Below I will list different pieces of information taken straight from Vine’s Terms & Conditions page and then attempt to translate them or explain my thoughts on them.

Highlights:
* You are responsible for any consequences that arise due to something you have posted.
This seems standard. You are responsible for what you post, so you are being held accountable.

* “The Services that Vine provides are always evolving and the form and nature of the Services that Vine provides may change from time to time without prior notice to you.
Essentially, you are agreeing to terms that you have to abide by even when you do not know what they are…. yet. If Vine decides they want to sell your content, they can do so without giving you prior notice. Does that seem fair? Not really. How can you really agree to terms that may change without any notification?!

* “Any information that you provide to Vine is subject to our Privacy Policy.
The Privacy Policy is straight forward. Vine may contact you, they can share when you have made your latest post, and they are able to provide your personal information to law enforcement if there is some type of issue. Personally, I feel like that is ethical because it does not say that they are able to sell your information or use it for anything “bad.”

* Vine cannot be held liable if someone hacks your account because you have a weak password.
This seems fair. Vine suggests that you should use a mixture of lowercase and capitol letters along with numbers to make a strong password combination. They are giving you the “how to,” tools so it is up to the user to fulfill the obligation.

* “We may, but are not required to monitor or control the Content posted via the Services and we cannot take responsibility for such Content.
As they stated above, Vine is not responsible for what users post. BUT, here is says they may or may not monitor the content that is posted. This means that sensitive material can be uploaded by users and Vine is not obligated to monitor or control it. So if something that is very hateful toward a person or group is posted, Vine may not do anything to prevent it from spreading? To me, this seems wrong because unethical and dangerous content may need to be flagged and removed in a very timely manner.

* “You understand that by using the Services, you may be exposed to Content that might be offensive, harmful, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate, or in some cases, postings that have been mislabeled or are otherwise deceptive. Under no circumstances will Vine be liable in any way for any Content, including, but not limited to, any errors or omissions in any Content, or any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of any Content posted, emailed, transmitted or otherwise made available via the Services or broadcast elsewhere.
Okay, Vine, we get it. You do not want to be responsible for any content users post. However, as a platform is it ethical to allow users to post content that is dangerous or offensive?

* Each user owns the rights to the content that they post.
Fair.

* “ In order to make the Services available to you and other users, Vine needs a license from you. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
By posting, you are forgetting all royalties that could be collected and giving Vine the ability to use your content (with the ability to edit it) anywhere they please.

* Vine has the ability to alter your content when they use it or distribute it to third parties and in different mediums. You are responsible for any issues that arise out of Vine’s distribution of your content (edited or unedited).
That seems very unethical to me. Vine can alter something that you create and disseminate it in additional ways, yet you are still responsible for their edits.

* “We reserve the right at all times (but will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, to suspend or terminate users, and to reclaim usernames and profile URLs without liability to you.
Above, we saw how Vine did not want the responsibility of monitoring content, but now they are stating they have the right to remove content. I would like to see how they identify the content they would like removed if they do not feel the obligation to always monitor what is posted.

* Vine is allowed to remove content that appears to be copyrighted.
That seems fair. They have stated that all content must be original and be your own.

* If you happen to check the Terms & Conditions for Vine and notice they have been updated–and you do not agree to something from the newly updated T&C, you are able to close your account.
That is fair, BUT it is not fair to not be alerted that the T&C have changed.

Your expected burden for reading each platform’s T&C really will differ. Vine, for example, took me about thirty minutes to read through carefully while I clicked on other pages such as Privacy Policy to make sure I had a complete understanding.

We have been taught that social media is driven by the visual aspect, so why can’t these social networking platforms amplify the tiny print into something like a video or info graphic that is more user friendly? Me, personally, I would be more likely to watch a quick video than I would be to read over something tedious.

Some of our internet comrades are quick to admit that they do not read the T&Cs.
(I did not create any of these images. They were found with Google search.)

tac1

tac2

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions

It appears many of us feel the same way.

It is probably worthwhile for different social networks to listen to their users and create documents that are easier to read. Since the idea is to be social, wouldn’t it be fun to have some user-generated content to use as highlights in the different sections of Terms & Conditions? If it will entertain me, I will watch it.

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Tags: conditions, ethics, small print, terms, vine

4 thoughts on “Amplify the tiny print!”

  1. Wait, Vine can edit your videos? Why?! Eight seconds is just too long sometimes? That’s really surprising to me, and I agree that leaving you liable for any elisions that a third party made seems downright irresponsible. I’m less shocked by the caveat that objectionable comment might not be taken down immediately. Like the lecture brought up in terms of Twitter, there’s a lot of stuff floating around out there. Now, is Vine equipped to move quickly if any complaints come rolling in? I hope so. But the constant vigilance might not be feasible with many of these platforms.

    I’ve mentioned other variations on this idea elsewhere this week, but I’m not convinced that the long, dense, lawyerly terms and conditions are an accident in many cases. These companies, to riff off your awesome YouTube clip, know that we’re a bunch of poorly trained golden retrievers. They WANT us to drift over to the chew toys and kibble as opposed to pay attention to all the rights and protections we’re willingly handing over.

    1. Hey Eric,

      I too wonder about how big of a team Vine has for monitoring everything. To me, it seems they didn’t want the responsibility of saying they were going to carefully comb through content–unlike how YouTube flags everything quickly.

      I think you have made a great point about the legal-sounding terms and conditions… they profit off of some individual’s inability to understand the truth between the black and white. I’m not sure when it became okay to allow people to agree to terms they were unclear about (or didn’t read), but after reading the information provided to us this week on Facebook, Twitter, Ello, and now my personal reading through Vine, I can assure you that I will be making sure I go over the tiny print.

  2. Thank you for bringing some giggles to my morning :). My daughter and I had a good laugh at the canine display of our very primal human instinct to avoid delayed gratification at all costs!

    I’m glad that you chose Vine, because I’d considered this one myself but selected Medium instead. Since Twitter owns Vine, I was curious to know if their terms would be similar. I figure the same will hold true with Facebook and Instagram?

    I noticed the same thing with Twitter that you did for Vine- We are agreeing to future terms or manners in which our content may be shared without knowing what they are? How is that ethical? (or Iegail?) I might concede to using my content to show others that know me what I’m up to. I would NOT be okay with taking something of mine and using it in a TV or print ad without my permission or some kind of compensation! This statement in the Terms of Service leaves everything wide open….

    I also agree with you on the point that all of these platforms don’t want to be held liable for any offensive material that may be posted on their sites. I understand that from a legal standpoint, sure. However, I sincerely hope that this is more of a legal blanket statement and that, behind the scenes, the companies really are doing their best to patrol for harassing, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate content. I think that Facebook must because I don’t see that kind of stuff in my newsfeed. Then again, that could simply be because I’m not connected to people who are likely to share that sort of content. On Vine, however, the content is nowhere near PG-13. I haven’t run across pornography yet, but language is horrible. (I don’t suppose we can step on the right to free speech, though, can we?) The bad thing about this on Vine is that it’s video and audio. Whenever I scroll on my phone, the clip plays immediately. There have been plenty of times when inappropriate words have blasted from my iPhone speaker in the presence of my toddler. (Needless to say, I don’t use Vine when he’s around anymore.)

    “* If you happen to check the Terms & Conditions for Vine and notice they have been updated–…” WOW, at least you are honest, Vine. This is the first time I’ve read something that says the platform has no intention of attempting to notify of updates any any way! “If you happen to check…” Sorry to restate that, but I find it pretty gutsy. I wonder if this could open up legal issues in the future?

    Thanks for such a thorough and informative post, Megan!

    1. Hey Angela,

      Thank you!

      I wanted to clarify the “*If you happen to check the Terms & Conditions for Vine…” because it is not worded exactly like that. I tried to identify the exact quotes taken from Vine’s Terms & Conditions with using quotation marks as well as putting it in italics. The font that is not in quotations and italics is just my own summary. However, it was not outlined anywhere that I saw how the platform would go about notifying users when a change takes place. So, how will people know? That’s alarming to me.

      One feature that I enjoy about Vine–and I’m not sure exactly when they had updated this–but when a video is posted to Twitter, the volume does not automatically play for me. This also may be a setting that was auto-set in the settings, but I have appreciated that. Like you, sometimes I watch videos or I’m scrolling through and it is not the appropriate place to have offensive language radiating from my cellphone.

      On a personal note, I have noticed that my friends have started to slow up on posting videos on Vine since Instagram has introduced the video feature…. it seems more people are gravitating toward Instragram since you can also post stills. That could, of course, just be the group of users that I have in my circle too.

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