Tuesday is social media TOS day! I gave my last scheduled presentation about the topic yesterday at the High Ed Web conference in Buffalo, NY (Donna Talarico blogged my session for LINK!), but I will keep sharing insights on social media TOS for a few more weeks.
Should I even care about social media terms of service?
That is the implied question I always got when I gave my Social Media TOS Crash Course presentation at higher ed conferences over the past few months.
Let’s say we just wish we could do without the TOS. This sentiment is also very well expressed in this recent tweet from Liz Gross.
— Liz Gross (@lizgross144) September 27, 2013
The reasoning usually goes like this:
Do we really need to follow these rules?
Other schools (or big brands) are doing exactly what is forbidden by the TOS.
So, it must mean that it is somehow “ok” to break the rules, right?
Social media is (or at least should be) all about the people. It can be beautiful, energizing and really creative, so why do we have these stinky rules to limit the possibilities?
Shouldn’t we all be able to roam freely (save as and re-post on our account photos that belong to others)? It’s a free country. And, anyway, who is going to bother to find out and complaint about what we do on social media?
Do as I say, not as I do
I’ll be honest and say that I do understand and sympathize with most of these points.
It should be easier to share stuff posted on social media.
And, if you were to ask me if I follow all the time EVERY single rule mentioned in the TOS of the social media platforms I used personally, well, let’s say, I would take the 5th.
Assessing personal risks
It is really all about the risks you want to take as an individual.
In the case of Instagram no-reposting rule for example, you might be willing to break the TOS while making sure you ask permission to the copyright holder to repost his/her photos on your PERSONAL account with proper credits.
In this instance, it’s really just like going a bit above the speeding limit when there is no traffic, no construction work on the road and good visibility (and, well no cops around to give tickets, because they need to meet quotas :-)
Doing the same without asking for permission from the copyright holder is like adding a couple of beers to this scenario.
If it is your personal account (unless you have some serious frenemies), it might get totally unnoticed and go unreported. No real harm done.
If somebody reports you, the platform might suspend your account for a few hours or proactively remove the post (replacing the file by a notice of take-down after a DMCA complaint). No huge harm done again, it’s just your personal account.
Would you speed (or drink a couple of beers) if you were driving a school bus full of kids?
It would be dangerous and reckless.
You might still manage to drive everybody’s home safely, but if anything goes wrong…
Moreover, if any member of your community sees you going above the speed limit (or stumbling your way out of a bar and jump into your school bus at 3PM), there is a big chance that this person will report you. Especially if reporting you to the authorities only takes an anonymous click to flag a given social media post.
Some rules are worth breaking, but others…
I believe friends should not let friends break social media TOS with their school accounts. Why not avoid possible headaches or embarrassment that would arise if your school account were to get flag or even worse suspended?
So, please, let’s be friends! :-)