“You will do as you are told/Until the rights to you are sold.”

Frank Zappa said it about TV in “I’m the Slime” (1973), but he’d extend it to social media, I’m sure.

First, a disclaimer: I am neither a lawyer nor a computer programmer.

But you know that 27-page Terms of Use Agreement that you signed when you signed up for Tweetstorm and Face-a-Gram? Like most people, you signed “I Agree” without reading it.

That agreement was written by a team of 100 corporate lawyers who were carefully selected for their lack of souls. I took the time away from my busy schedule to read the 6-point agate of the agreement, which I summarize below in laymen’s terms:


What that means is that any content you post on their service belongs to them, and they can do with it as they please.

It also means that the platform can censor what you write. It can filter what you see. It can exercise its own political beliefs in choosing candidates and policy narratives to promote.

It owes you nothing. Period.

That’s the price of posting your vacation selfies in front of The Bean, and seeing your friends’ cat videos.

But there’s good news: You can assert your rights by revising that agreement, asserting Title 27 of U.S. Code Subchapter 3B, and cutting and pasting this language into your timeline.

Not only that, by cutting and pasting this language into your timeline you can reprogram Face-a-Gram’s algorithm to show you posts from dozens of your followers, instead of the mere half-dozen or so that you’re used to seeing.

Got that?


Seriously, that Terms of Use Agreement is written in dense legalese for a reason. You agreed to whatever you agreed to with the platform for whatever reasons you whose to do so. Of course such an agreement cannot be unilaterally altered by one of the parties, especially when the other party to the agreement has all the hand.

Not only that, the notion that you can somehow alter the software that runs the platform by cutting and pasting boilerplate text into a text box is just absurd. If there’s one job description that outnumbers lawyers at these companies it’s programmers.

They employ legions of programmers and data scientists. Really good ones. No, the text box on a web page is not a “back door” where a typical user can take over the whole data engine that makes the website run.

Bottom line, an individual user on a social media site is a grain of sand. The site is the beach. It doesn’t give a crap about your rights, your individuality, or your liberty. The site will connect your electrons with images of your friends’ electrons as long as you contribute to their numbers. They will drop you like a bad habit when it suits them.

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