2013 Conference

Social Media TOS Crash Course

  • Social Media TOS Crash Course
  • Karine Joly
  • #mpd3

sign that says do not pass this pointWarning. What you read here today could be outdated tomorrow. Social media terms of service (TOS) can change. Often. Karine Joly of Higher Ed Experts helped HigherEdWeb attendees navigate through the wordy, often confusing, TOS from major social media platforms. Also, she covered copyright law and shared real-life examples of what not to do. Despite the legal material, she prefaced that she’s not giving legal advice.

“I’m not a lawyer, but today I tried to dress like one,” joked Joly, shortly after her presentation started.

Joly began by asking audience members to raise their hands if they had a specific social media platform, and then to continue raising hands if those same people had read that platform’s TOS—and she added in how many words they would have read (or, glazed) over. Few hands were raised as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others were explored. With word counts like these, it’s no wonder why most opt to check the box, “and move on their merry way,” said Joly.

  • Facebook: 19,000 words
  • Twitter:  18,000 words
  • LinkedIn: 19,000 words
  • Instagram: 12,000 words
  • Tumblr: 10,000 words
  • Google+: 8,000

And, when Joly asked for hands of YouTube account owners, she told those who raised hands, “No! None of you do… trick question…You use your Google account.” Still, the YouTube section of Google’s TOS is 8,000 words.

When she added these up, she came to a sum of about 103,000 words.

“That’s not as long as the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that’s ahead of The Hobbit,” she said, adding that she read every single word and it took her 19 hours.

Before Joly delved into examples, she reminded us that our (as in colleges and universities) social media policies are not equal to TOS. She likened a school’s policy to “what your mama taught you” where as a TOS is more like law enforcement—there are consequences. She said that not following TOS is like speeding or have a drink or two before hitting the road: “it’s OK until it’s not.”

The good-natured Joly admitted that TOS aren’t fun, and she shared a tweet from a higher ed colleague that said something along the lines of: every time I share something cool I am doing on social media, @karinejoly says it’s against the TOS.

Yes. A social media party pooper.

“…but someone has to take that role,” she said with a smile.

Joly covered highlights of these major platforms, and also shared (with permission, of course) a short video from Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Pew Research released a study in July that said when it comes to online privacy, next to hackers/criminals, people are most concerned with advertisers.
  • On Facebook, you only need one personal profile. Don’t create a separate “personal” profile for professional reasons, such as admin’ing a business page. Joly said that at many conferences (not HighEdWeb!)—especially those related to admissions—it is often recommended to do this. However, she says this is a big NO-NO and instead recommends using your single personal profile and use the given privacy controls to protect the account. In short – it’s OK to be YOU on your College page.
  • Twitter has follower limits and unfollow limits. “Pace yourself,” says Joly, on when you start a new account and want followers quickly. Following too quickly can get your account shut down.
  • LinkedIn –don’t connect with people just to spam them.
  • The DMCA – Digital Millennium Copyright Act – governs the sharing of images saved from the Internet and then shared/used elsewhere. If you’ve ever “right-clicked” and “saved image as” you might be guilty of violation DMCA. Be aware of what you’re doing, says Joly.  Google’s transparency report shows that in just one month it received more than 15 million requests to remove URLs from search results. Likewise, if you find a violation, such as someone using one of your photos, you can file a DMCA complaint. Joly illustrated an example of a college sending a report to Twitter when they found a “show the darker side of campus” student account was using a photo as its background image.
  • The Copyright on Campus video had a simple lesson: you need permission if you want to share. Even Fair Use laws are not as automatic or as clear cut as you might think. There’s four factors to consider: purpose and character of use;  the nature of the copyrighted work (creative of factual); the amount of content; and the effect of the use on the market (like loss to copyright holder). Also, attribution is an area of confusion; it’s not a substitute for permission—just because you find something online doesn’t mean anything…
  • Watch what photos you share. Joly used Instagram as an example; using third party programs, such as Statigram, to show off photos from a certain hashtag is OK; that uses Instagram’s API, and thus is OK under TOS. On the other hand, saving those photos and uploading them to Facebook is another NO-NO. As another option, Instagram allows you to embed photos on a website, and other API-using apps such as TagBoard and Storify can be used to safely share Instagram photos.
  • Facebook cover photo TOS is a fantastic example of the changing landscape of the rules. First, the cogver photo couldn’t contain text or a call to action. Then, the social media giant allowed for 20 percent of the cover photo to contain text. Now, the rule is completely relaxed. “They like to keep me on my toes,” Joly said of Facebook.

Photo Credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers via Compfight cc

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.