Pushing Back on Terms of Service and Making a Difference

When doing work or socializing on-line, there is a risk of being misunderstood. We follow Netiquette and Terms of Service. Or not.

If I have problems with people in real life, I choose one of two outcomes. I have an opportunity to resolve things (and strengthen the relationship) or not (weakening or ending the relationship).

But the Internet is different, isn’t it?

Moving this sort of interaction to the Internet, where I have more but not complete anonymity, I believe matters change. We make decisions daily that can be catastrophic for both parties. Hurt feelings, loss of time, money, even reputation are possible results of on-line interactions.

I own several web sites’ content (like this one), but I also frequently use a CMS (like WordPress) to put the content together. Further, I use a theme compatible with WordPress to present this information in a pleasing way. Finally, I use a web host to give me a plot of land on which to do these things. Who really owns this content with so many dependencies?

When it comes to on-line accounts, I have a myriad of them. Facebook, Twitter, GoDaddy, Tumblr, Yahoo, Microsoft, just to name a few. Suggesting I own these accounts insofar as having login abilities seems strange. It seems more that I am renting these accounts from service providers who really are the owners. I mean, just because I have the keys to a door doesn’t mean I’m responsible for the ownership of what is behind it, does it?

Terms of Service Made Simple

According to Wikipedia’s definition, Terms of Service are “rules that one must agree to abide by in order to use a service. Terms of service can also be merely a disclaimer, especially regarding the use of websites.”.

Folks rarely ever read Terms of Service when creating an account somewhere on the Internet. Even fewer read any updates to it after it is inevitably changed. Let’s agree that we use common sense when on-line.

Common Sense Isn’t Really Common Anymore

What I’m suggesting here involves some rules of the road here on the Internet. Jeff Smith, a character played by Jimmy Stewart, pointed out something profound in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. He said, “…I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain ordinary everyday kindness and a little ‘looking out for the other fella too'”.

Terms of Service from Jeff Smith

When I hear about companies going after individuals just to hurt them instead of agreeing to disagree, I believe our society is weakened. What protects individuals from being persecuted by companies appears to be shrinking in the cyberspace realm.

I heard about a David/Goliath battle going on right now that could improve our on-line world. Here is the Wikipedia piece about it.

Recently, I listened to NPR coverage, titling the piece The Man Who Stood Up To Facebook. It’s a story that is still unfolding, so stay tuned!

2 comments