Many web sites require a user to agree to a long and incomprehensible “terms of service” before they can use the site.
Since these contracts are dozens (or hundreds) of pages, everyone just scrolls to the end and clicks “AGREE.” (See two examples in Figure 1).
While you’d think that a company could slip in some secret contract clauses somewhere (e.g. “you agree to give up your first-born child to MegaCo Inc.”), this isn’t usually feasible—someone will EVENTUALLY find these clauses and cause a public relations disaster.
Here is a secret method for putting totally unreasonable terms into a contract and preventing the user from being able to read them.
The secret is: the contract is literally INFINITE in length, so no one can read it all!
Details: the terms of service operates as follows (see Figure 2):
- The first N pages are the real contract.
- After the real contract is over, additional pages are randomly generated with legally-valid but meaningless legalese.
- The contract has no scroll bar, so the user has no idea how long the contract is.
- To accept the contract, the user clicks the “scroll to end and accept” button.
- Thus, anyone who accepts the contract cannot have read the whole thing, since it is infinitely long.
Using this dirty trick, when a user has agreed to the contract after reading M pages, the company that wrote the terms of service can simply start putting the super-unreasonable contract terms on page M+1 and beyond.
The only downside to this plan is that it is almost certainly totally illegal in every jurisdiction.
PROS: Would probably be an interesting “future law school textbook case” if it were ever tested in court.
CONS: You will probably go to prison if you implement this idea.