How does these social networking terms and conditions template deal with the legal issues relating to the use of a website by children?
Children using social networking websites present a number of distinct legal problems. To give three examples:
- Great care needs to be taken to ensure that the processing of personal data about a child or supplied by a child is lawful. One issue here is that children may be unable to give consent to the use of their personal data, because they do not understand the meaning or implications of giving consent.
- Explicit materials that may be lawful for adults to view may be unlawful for children to view under the indecency laws.
- In English law, contracts are not enforceable against children, except in certain limited circumstances that are unlikely to apply in relation to website use.
Unfortunately, these are not the sort of problems that can be "dealt with" by including a particular form of words in your T&Cs. They need careful consideration in relation to each website. Very often, the best that can be done is to ameliorate the problems, rather than solve them.
If you are planning to launch a social networking website targeted at children or liable to be used by children, we strongly recommend that you take specialist legal advice.
Note: social networking sites often attempt to exclude users under the age of 13. This particular age limit features is in US legislation. For more information, see the Children Online Privacy Protection Act .
What rights do visitors have to use the website under these T&Cs?
This document is based on our premium website T&Cs. It includes a limited licence to users, who are permitted only to view, download to a web browser cache and print pages from the social network site. Streaming and access to other website services may also be included in the permitted uses. Uses that may be expressly banned include republishing or selling website information and commercial uses.
What restrictions do the T&Cs place upon users in relation to website usage?
The T&Cs contain a set of specific restrictions on use of the social network, including prohibitions on uses that:
- harm the website or harm people;
- constitute fraud or are otherwise against the law;
- spread malware; or
- involve systematic data gathering.
Other potential prohibitions include using robots and using information from the site for direct marketing.
Does this document cover passwords in any way?
The T&Cs require users wishing to access social networking functionality to register an account, and to keep their passwords secure.
Can we prohibit particular types of user from registering with the website?
Optional provisions requiring users to be above a minimum age and fulfil a residency requirement are be included.
Does this T&Cs document regulate user generated content, particularly defamatory content?
Legal hazards are inherent in running a social networking service. For instance, defamatory messages may be posted by users.
On the one hand, the T&Cs prohibit the posting of defamatory material (and other unlawful or actionable content). On the other hand, the T&Cs contain an explicit agreement from the user that the user will not take action against the social network in respect of such defamatory material.
The social network obviously retains the right to edit or remove user content and to block a user's access to the site.
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