Internet Law

Lawyer's rewrite simplifies Instagram's terms of use

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Instagram’s terms of use run more than 5,000 words and encompass at least seven printed pages. They are written at a postgraduate level, though the photo-sharing site is a popular among teens.

A group of youths asked to read the terms couldn’t make sense of them, the Washington Post reports.

The group was gathered at the request of the Children’s Commissioner for England, according to this report (information begins at page 8 of the PDF).

“Boring! It doesn’t make any sense,” a 13-year-old girl complained.

“You have to take about 10 minutes on each sentence,” said a 13-year-old boy.

As an exercise, the commissioner asked the Schillings law firm to simplify the terms and conditions. Partner Jenny Afia, a privacy lawyer, took on the job. She titled the terms and conditions “Our Rules if you want to use Instagram.”

Here’s one example of the changes. This is the sixth provision of Instagram’s basic terms of use: “You must not defame, stalk, bully, abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate people or entities and you must not post private or confidential information via the Service, including, without limitation, your or any other person’s credit card information, social security or alternate national identity numbers, non-public phone numbers or non-public email addresses.”

Afia summarized the information in two sentences. “Don’t bully anyone or post anything horrible about people,” she wrote. “Don’t post other peoples’ private or personal information.”

Here is another paragraph from Instagram’s terms of use regarding rights: “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.”

Here is what Afia wrote: “Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.”

The simpler rewrite was tested on the same group of youths, and they found them much easier to understand, according to the report.

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