Technology: Why it pays to read the fine print on social media terms of use

Not understanding the rules on various social media sites could lead to a loss of control, or worse.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably accepted terms of use for dozens of online services without even reading them. However, the terms and conditions you’ve accepted – particularly when creating an account on behalf of your company – can cause problems down the line. Companies using social media platforms as part of an online advertising strategy should understand that the terms of use of these platforms likely are enforceable. They should also understand that there are specific terms governing ownership of uploaded content, promotions and other issues that may impact an online advertising strategy.

Courts routinely hold that website terms and conditions may be a binding and enforceable contract between the website and the user. With regard to social media, federal courts in Illinois and California have held that the Facebook and Twitter terms of use regarding forum-selection are enforceable against individual users. If courts enforce terms of use against individual users, they are likely to enforce them against more sophisticated, business users. Thus, companies using social media platforms should not brush off the terms of use, assuming that they are inconsequential or won’t be enforced.

Contributing Author

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Christopher D. Mickus

Christopher D. Mickus is an attorney with Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP (Chicago). He is a partner and leader of the firm’s recently-launched Advertising, Marketing...

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Katherine Nye

Katherine Nye is an intellectual property attorney in the Advertising, Marketing and Social Media Group at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP (Chicago). She regularly...

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