Do you read the terms and conditions? Here’s what I would change

I started working on this week’s Social Media Ethics assignment a little too close to bedtime, and I’ve discovered a new alternative to Benadryl or Advil PM: Facebook’s Terms and Conditions. And if you make it to the bottom of that page and you’re still awake, don’t worry: You’ve still got 10 more options.

Better than counting sheep!
Better than counting sheep!

Twitter is slightly better, and at least they provide the “tips” you see below that convert legalese to English and point out the most important stuff.

The terms are still long, but at least you're helpful, Twitter.
The terms are still long, but at least you’re somewhat helpful, Twitter.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m sure there’s some legal reason for all these sites to have terms and conditions for days. I’ve never read the full terms for any of the social media platforms I use, but I have read posts on blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch that have outlined major changes in certain networks’ terms over the years, so I do at least have a general idea of what they say. But I would be willing to bet that the majority of users don’t even do that.

In the future of terms, I would like to see more of what Twitter has attempted to do. Publish your mile-long terms if you must, but also offer a concise version in words that make sense to people without a law degree. Maybe even offer some interaction, like a “Do you know your rights on [insert social network]?” quiz, which people can take and share their score. Every wrong answer could offer a sentence or two on that particular topic. If people take the time to figure out what kind of cookie they are, surely they’d spend a few minutes on a quiz to see how well they understand a social network they spend hours using.  They could even get the folks at Buzzfeed to design the quiz to make it more irresistible.

I think people are most concerned about their rights and about their privacy. Who can see my content? Who can legally use it and for what purpose? I’d like to see those concise terms I was talking about written in an inverted pyramid style, where the most important items are at the top, and the rest are written in order of decreasing importance. You can’t count on people to read all the way through anything, but you can at least increase the likelihood that they’ll read the most significant parts.

Do you read the small print when you sign up for a new account somewhere online? What do you think would make terms and conditions less boring and more digestible?


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