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The Vine Rules & All That Comes With Them

on May 22, 2014

Vine LogoVine burst onto the scene collecting 40 million users by August 2013 and remains one of the most popular free apps in the iTunes App Store. Vine faces some stiff competition in its second year from both Instagram video and Snapchat; however, their terms of service is still worth taking a peek at.

Reading through the Terms of Service everything seems typical – they are long and boring! It wasn’t until section four that something really caught my attention. This section states the following:

“We may, but are not required to monitor or control the Content posted via the Services and we cannot take responsibility for such Content. Any use or reliance on any Content or materials posted via the Services or obtained by you through the Services is at your own risk.”

While users are accustomed to the “you’re responsible for your content” phrase, Vine’s stance on this seems pretty harsh! They are clearly just trying to protect themselves as a company; however, it seems a bit much to explicitly state that they are not required to monitor content posted on their platform.

Moving over to The Vine Rules, they again state that they do not actively monitory user content. They go on to say that they will not censor user content except in limited circumstances described on the page. Vine clearly relies on current users to report any misbehavior on the platform. The Vine Rules have listed eight specific areas that have “limitations” on the type of content that can be published. These limitations range from instructing users not to post direct or specific threats of violence against others to not impersonating others through the service.

The Vine Rules

While these rules seem to be in place to help protect users, if the platform is not doing anything to monitor user activity how can we really expect to be protected? Relying solely on other users to report bad behavior seems a bit too unrealistic in my eyes and Vine should step up to the plate to help protect its users more.

Early on there were some issues with explicit and inappropriate content being shared via the Vine platform. It even made a pornographic video the featured “editors pick” on its homepage for a brief moment. Twitter, Vine’s owner, did respond by banning searches for explicit content; however, had they been monitoring user content, they might have been able to stop the problem even earlier.

The age requirement for Vine began at 12 years or older; however, after the rash of pornographic images Vine upped the requirement to 17 years or older. This means that users must confirm their age of 17 or older before using the app. While this will certainly help keep younger kids away from being exposed to inappropriate images, it will not curb the problem completely by any means. Even with the age of 17 or older, there will still be a great deal of minors using the services which could mean serious backlash (from their parents) for Vine if those minors are subject to explicit images.

Vine LogoThe use of the Vine platform does raise an interesting ethical situation for journalists as well. Jeff Sonderman makes a great point in saying that “videos have the potential to be more realistic or graphic that a still photo.” While that’s great for when you want to “bring the world virtually closer to a news event,” sharing videos of traumatic events like the Boston Marathon bombing can make terrible situations even worse by adding action and audio.

There are some clear cut ethical issues that face Vine both from a user and a company standpoint. While their terms of service clearly state that they are not responsible for the content posted via their platform, I think it would be wise for Vine to take a little more ownership. Getting more involved in their user’s content could help to quickly alleviate any explicit, under age or violently graphic content that might appear.

Ta-ta for now!


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10 responses to “The Vine Rules & All That Comes With Them

  1. Stacy Shanks says:

    It’s crazy that Vine went from having a younger age requirement than most to having a really high one. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have all specified 13 in their policies. I wonder why it picked 17. I know you said that it was because of the pornographic scare but it seems like an odd choice to go that high. The only thing I can think of that makes sense is it was trying to match the NC-17 rating of movies. In all honesty, I’m not sure any age requirement matters when anyone can sign up and forge a birthday when registering.

    I really liked your points about how Vine doesn’t monitor its content. I think that monitoring content is mandatory for a social media platform. Vine has taken a stance that people can pretty much do whatever they want and there are few times when Vine will step in. It’s like Vine is trying to be the cool teacher in school and earn that reputation where it’s a platform where you can do whatever you want. That seems like a sign of disaster like the pornographic incident you mentioned.

    • Hi Stacy!

      Thanks for reading! It does seem like a very large jump to go from 12 to 17 years of age – I believe trying to match the movie ratings was also a factor in their decision. I remember reading in an article something along the lines of the explicit images called for the change and the movie ratings was sort of their way of “justifying” a higher age requirement. It was kind of like their “fall back” plan if you will.

      I completely agree – I understand that all content cannot be monitored, that’s just not possible. But to openly say that they pretty much never look at their users stuff seems pretty extreme! I think there needs to be more of a happy medium between platform regulated content and user regulated content.

  2. tjstrese says:

    Great post Lacee! I was a fan of Vine when it first came out and it is unfortunate that it kind of fell off due to Instagram Video and other competition. You made some great points about minors using these services and I couldn’t help but reflect about how quickly the climate for these types of situations must have changed. What I mean by that is it seems like just in the last couple of years, services didn’t have just text based media to be concerned with. Pictures and video have become widely accessible and share-able at a rate that policy cannot keep up with. I agree with Stacy in that the 17 thing must have come from a desire to be similar to the movie ratings system.

    To give an opposing argument, I do not think social media channels should be responsible for the content that users submit. These platforms are simply supplying the pipe line, users fill it with content. Saying that these companies HAVE TO monitor the content, to me, is a form of censorship and though I appreciate the concern of having children see things they shouldn’t, I’m not willing to enable censorship to stop it. Personally.

    • Hi Jake!

      Thanks for reading! Yes, like I said to Stacy, the 17 year old restriction did have a bit to do with movie ratings – great catch! I like your point that, up until recently, pictures and videos weren’t necessarily on the forefront. I hadn’t even considered that platforms might need to completely rewrite their terms of service to incorporate this booming side of their platforms.

      I don’t necessarily think that the platforms should be solely responsible for the content on their channels – however, I also don’t think that it should remain solely in the hands of the user. I get that regulating too much might make users feel contrasted and unable to freely share their opinions; however, I do think that platforms should willingly SAY that they monitor your content to some extent…even if they don’t plan to follow through with it (ethical? Not at all…a reality? Probably!)

  3. kblitch says:

    Great post!

    I must say that I’m not surprised that Vine is not monitoring what is being posted on their site. I know this might sound terrible, but when you consider the number of Vine’s posted daily, you would need an entire department dedicated to just watching the videos and pulling them down. Having your community monitor and report is the better idea… with what you have going for you.

    I’d actually like to give Vine some credit for writing that into their terms of service—I understand that legally they have to, but some companies would find a way to sugarcoat that and make it a little more difficult to understand. They let you know. It may be frustrating and we might not like it, but at least they told you what they’re doing, and the standards they hold themselves and their users to. You know what you’re getting into, and what you can find.

    Changing the age is/was a smart move. It also gives them a little wiggle room for when someone creates a fake account—they CYA’d themselves. Funny how that can always work when you need to make it work in your favor. People will still create an account if they really want it (despite the age they are) but at least they put a rule in place for people to follow.

    • Hi Kristin!

      Thanks for reading! I do appreciate their honesty; however, I still think that there should be some sort of platform monitoring done by the service itself. Relying solely on the regulation and reporting of your users seems to get you in trouble…like the pornographic issues that have plagued the platform from early on. While they are open about their policies, how many users are actually reading them to know that their content isn’t being watched? I think we all just assume that everything we put out there is being combed over. Granted this is an argument that plays right into the whole we as users need to educated ourselves before clicking that “agree” button – it’s a double edged sword!

      Changing their age restrictions was definitely a good move; however, like any other platform, you can’t really rely on that to keep minors away from your content. Lying about your birthday is very simple; however, you’re right, they certainly covered their own rear ends from a company stand point!

  4. Hi all!
    I think there should be a middle ground when it comes to Vine and its content: I think they should TRY to monitor the content that is posted on its services if only to take down the truly abusive material. However, like many other social networks, there is no way they can catch every single video posted, so it should be up to users to report that abusive content.

    When I read that they upped their age requirement from 13 to 17, I thought “riiiight, good luck enforcing that!” Faking ages is very easy to do, so if kids get kicked off Vine because they’re not old enough, they’ll figure out how to get back on. When it comes right down to it, I’ve been of the mind that it’s the parent’s job to do their best to keep kids from seeing things they shouldn’t. They make parental locks on devices for a reason or — gasp — just don’t let your child have a smartphone!

    • Hi Amanda!

      Thanks for reading! I agree completely! There should totally be a middle ground somewhere! I wouldn’t want to content monitoring to rest solely in Vine’s hands; however, I think it’s completely unrealistic to allow users to regulate 100% of the content! You’re right, faking your age is WAY too easy now and it’s really up to the kid’s parents/guardians to ensure that their kids aren’t doing the “wrong” thing – but that’s a whole new discussion! I applaud Vine for attempting to block younger kids from the platform through and they have certainly covered their own rear ends in the process!

  5. How would you enforce the age requirement? I remember faking that I was 13 on the internet. I feel that these rules are put in place just to protect the company not to protect those users. We always here of stories that involve minors on the internet. Companies never take responsibility but the media usually ends up blaming the parents. How can companies make sure that the users isn’t lying?

    • Hi Maria!

      Thanks for reading! I agree, enforcing the age limit seems a bit far-fetched. However, they are covering their own rear ends in the process. I think it’s up to the parents/guardians of kids to really monitor what they are doing online. Will there be some that fall through? Absolutely! Is that okay? Certainly not, but there is little more than Vine can do about it. This is actually one piece of their terms of service that I’m okay with.

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