Small print, perplexing content and lengthy wording—do you agree to the Terms and Conditions?
A 2011 survey concluded that only 7% of people read the full terms when using a service online. The reason why? Because it’s absurd! We are provided with this overly detailed information that we must read and accept in order to attain a product or service. Well if we are going to use the service regardless, why even bother to read it? The content of terms and conditions are hard for even the most educated people to “entirely” comprehend. I think we’ve come to the point where we say, “the hell with it,” and just agree to the terms without completely reading them.
Personally, I rarely read any terms and conditions—that is—unless they are brief and comprehensible. In our digital world, we are accepting these terms and conditions on a daily basis because we have very little interest in reading borderline incomprehensible information. I’ve always wanted these “contracts” to be written in layman’s terms, so I can actually understand what the hell I’m reading.
In reading Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” I’m bombarded with the opening statement of each sentence being, “You Will Not…” I think this is taking the “blame” off Facebook for anything because they are not using the wording as “we,” but solely placing any liability on the user. While this might seem reasonable to outright protect Facebook from almost any kind of backlash, the users becomes confused because it seems like they aren’t safe posting anything even slightly controversial.
In order to make Terms and Conditions more user friendly, I feel we have to “dumb down” the language to a reasonable level. We hire lawyers because the majority of people don’t understand the complexities of lawful language, but we don’t have Internet jargon heroes that we hire to “translate” what websites are actually trying to communicate to the user.
If the language, word choices and length were changed, people might be more responsive. For instance, here is an excerpt from Twitter’s Terms of Service:
We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to (i) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, (ii) enforce the Terms, including investigation of potential violations hereof…and so on.
I have to actually read this a few times to understand what they are saying. My recommendation would be to dim it down a notch or two, something like:
We have the right to use information we feel necessary to enforce legalities. In doing so, we are protecting the rights, property and safety of Twitter, its users and the public.
Social media is still relatively new. In the future, I see these problematic issues being solved, while social platforms move forward and advance, not take steps in the wrong direction. As long as these platforms continue to keep users as the forefront in making decisions, we’re in good hands!