Video platform T&Cs so complex they can take an hour to read, Ofcom says

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The terms and conditions of video-sharing sites such as Twitch and TikTok are so ‘impenetrable’ that many adults would struggle to understand them, according to the regulator’s report.

In its Regulating Video-Sharing Platforms report, Ofcom found that the terms and conditions of the platforms can take a long time to read – at nearly 16,000 words, OnlyFans had the longest terms of service, which would take the average adult user over an hour to read. This was followed by Twitch (27 minutes, 6,678 words), Snapchat (20 minutes, 4,903 words), TikTok (19 minutes, 4,773 words), Brand New Tube (10 minutes, 2,492 words) and BitChute (eight minutes, 2,017 words).

Ofcom calculated a ‘reading ease’ score for each platform’s terms of service. All but one was assessed as being “difficult to read and best understood by high-school graduates”.

Twitch’s terms were found to be the most difficult to read while TikTok was the only platform with terms of service likely to be understood by users without a high school or university education.

It was also found that Snapchat, TikTok and BitChute use ‘click wrap’ agreements – where platforms make acceptance of the terms of service implicit in the act of signing up. Users are not prompted or encouraged to access the terms of service and so it makes it easier to agree to them without actually opening or reading them.

The report also found that many firms fail to be clear enough about what content is and isn’t allowed, or the consequences users face if they break the rules.

And it said that content moderators do not always get the guidance and training they need to understand and properly enforce the rules.

Jessica Zucker, online safety policy director at Ofcom, said: “Terms and conditions are fundamental to protecting people, including children, from harm when using social video sites and apps.

“That’s because the reporting of potentially harmful videos – and effective moderation of that content – can only work if there are clear and unambiguous rules underpinning the process.

“Our report found that lengthy, impenetrable and, in some cases, inconsistent terms drawn up by some UK video-sharing platforms risk leaving users and moderators in the dark. So today we’re calling on platforms to make improvements, taking account of industry good practice highlighted in our report.”

Further reports will be published later this year including one focusing on the platforms’ approach to protecting children from harm.

An IET study from June found that over half of five- to 13-year-olds spend the majority of their recreational time online.

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