Terms & Conditions: Twitter competitor App.net’s terms of service, privacy policy explained

terms & conditions app net social media service

Check out the full Terms & Conditions archive.

Welcome to the second edition of Terms & Conditions, a weekly column where break down the terms of service, privacy policies, and other legalese we all love to ignore — but that have serious bearing on our digital lives. This week’s target: App.net.

Social media’s coolest newcomer, App.net, has been described as a more open, advertising-free, developer-friendly alternative to Twitter. The service, which launched in alpha in mid-August after a successful $500,000 crowdfunding run, currently costs $50 per year to use. And with respect for privacy and its users in general, App.net released the first versions of its terms of service and privacy policy at the end of August. To make things even more open, App.net has requested that users review the documents in an effort to refine them, a process that is taking place on Github.

At present, App.net appears to be sticking to its principles, with a ToS and privacy policy that are simple and easy to follow.

“We asked our attorney to help us craft some terms that outline, with the least amount of legalese, the important things you need to know about accessing and using App.net’s website and service (collectively, “Service”),” begins the ToS document. “These are our terms of service (“Terms”). Please read them carefully.”

That we will.

App.net Terms of Service: Part 1. Accepting terms — whether they change or not

Like all terms of service, the document kicks off by saying that you must agree to the terms to use the service. Or, to flip it around, if you use the service, you agree to the terms. Nothing odd or unreasonable about that.

App.net also reserves the right to change the terms at any time. This is probably not so they can trick you into signing over your life savings or handing over your new puppy to the App.net team. Rather, the terms will change if they roll out new services. To be a safe, vigilant user, you need to pay attention to changes to the terms of service — because if you keep using the service after they change, then you have agreed to the new terms by default.

Part 2. Accounts

Unlike Facebook, App.net allows users to create accounts that do not publicly carry your real name. You can make “pseudo anonymous” accounts. And you can make “parody” accounts, but parody accounts must be explicitly identified as such. Further, you do have to give App.net your real name — or at least the name that appears on whatever credit card you use — for billing purposes.

Furthermore, by agreeing to the ToS, you take responsibility for keeping your login credentials a secret, and accept all the consequences of not doing so.

Part 3. ‘Content & conduct’

Anything you post to App.net — links, photos, poetry, whatever — is your responsibility, “including its legality, reliability, and appropriateness.”

App.net has the “limited right” to “reproduce, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute” the content you post to the service, which basically means that you give App.net the right to do exactly what you intend App.net to do: publish the content to your followers.

Unlike some other services, App.net is quite clear about its deletion policy: You can delete any of your content, and it will immediately be taken out of public view. App.net’s servers may still retain some of the content, but only for a period of two weeks. It is then gone forever.

App.net then lists a variety of content that you man not post to the service. Their description is quite clear here, so I’ll just let them do the explaining. The following types of content are forbidden from App.net (and yes, links to pirated content and child pornography are included):

  • Content that is libelous, defamatory, bigoted, fraudulent or deceptive;
  • Content that is illegal or unlawful, that would otherwise create liability;
  • Content that may infringe or violate any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, right of privacy, right of publicity or other intellectual or other right of any party;
  • Unsolicited promotions, political campaigning, or commercial messages (SPAM);
  • Private information of any third party (e.g., addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers); and
  • Viruses, corrupted data or other harmful, disruptive or destructive files or code.
  • Use the Service in any manner that could interfere with, disrupt, negatively affect or inhibit other users from fully enjoying the Service or that could damage, disable, overburden or impair the functioning of the Service;
  • Impersonate or post on behalf or any person or entity or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity;
  • Collect any personal information about other users, or intimidate, threaten, stalk or otherwise harass other users of the Service;
  • Create an account or post any content if you are not over 13 years of age;
  • Circumvent or attempt to circumvent any filtering, security measures, rate limits or other features designed to protect the Service, users of the Service, or third parties.

Later in the document, App.net says that breach of any of the rules outlined in the terms of service — including those above — may result in you losing your App.net account, and access to the service.

Part 4. App.net is not your property

Under the “App.net’s Materials” section of its ToS, the company simply says that you are forbidden from stealing App.net’s technology, or the information posted to App.net, and using it for your own purposes outside of the service itself. Do so, and you’ll probably get kicked out.

Part 5. Outside content

I’m not exactly sure whey they didn’t include this portion under Part 3. — it would certainly fit there — but for whatever reason, they’ve decided to include “hyperlinks and third-party content” in its own category.

While the first part says that you may not link to App.net or content on the service to make money, it’s the second part that really matters for most people: Specifically, App.net does not take responsibility for any lies posted by its users. Nor does it take responsibility for content outside of App.net that its users may link to; if you click on a link to something offensive or illegal, that’s not App.net’s problem.

Part 5. “Unavoidable legal stuff”

All this section says, in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS (why does legal stuff have to scream at us?), is that App.net takes no responsibility if you break its code of conduct, post illegal material, stalk someone because of information found on App.net, or otherwise bring the wrath of lawsuits down on App.net’s head. If you do, you will have to pay the consequences, and the legal fees, involved.

Part 6. Copyright

If you post links to pirated material, and App.net gets served DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices, you might get kicked out of App.net entirely. So don’t do that. (App.net has a stand-alone Copyright Policy, which has more details about DMCA takedown notices.)

Part 7. Laws and stuff

App.net is a California company, and is therefore subject to the state’s laws.

Part 8. Settling disputes

If you and App.net have a problem with each other that relates in anyway to something covered in the terms of service, you both agree to try to resolve the matter directly with each other. If, after 60 days, you and App.net have failed to resolve the problem, the negotiations may then move into “mediation” territory, which also lasts a maximum of 60 days. During these first 120 days, neither you or App.net may sue each other. After the first 120 days, however, lawsuits may be filed.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen, and negotiations can then move into arbitration territory, which means the you’ll try to settle the dispute out of court. But, unlike the simple mediation process, a third-party will officially serve as the arbitrator, who can decide how damages are awarded, and whether anyone will have to pay the other’s legal fees. Arbitration can only last up to 90 days, except under “extraordinary circumstances.”

Part. 9 Getting kicked out

As mentioned above, failure to abide by the terms of service could result in you account being suspended or entirely disabled.

At the end of the document, App.net asks for your feedback, which you can give through the Github discussion board, or by emailing App.net at: support@app.net.

>>Next Page: App.net’s privacy policy

1 of 2