In the past we have mentioned how terms and conditions are not things we “agree” to, but things that are forced on us whether we like it or not. Some people were appalled that we compared this situation to slavery, but they misunderstood. We did not compare it to slavery: we called it slavery, which is quite different. We said not that it is like slavery, but that it actually is slavery. We implied that forcing us to agree to terms that, in word count, often amounted to the size of a substantial book showed a complete contempt for the users on whom these conditions were being imposed.

But is that fair? “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity,” as the proverb known as “Hanlon’s Razor” has it. Perhaps the multiplication of verbiage is simply the result of a long series of small individual decisions made by lawyers and managers, none of whom really intended to make it impossible to read the terms and conditions.

Let us then look at an example. Samsung is one of the world’s largest purveyors of mobile phones. In order to use their mobile phones, you have to agree to the terms and conditions. Dr. Boli thought he might, as an exercise, see how many words he was agreeing to if he used a Samsung phone. The first section of the agreement came to 16,839 words. That was the general agreement. Like relativity, though, your theoretical agreement is divided into general and special theories. There is a separate agreement for each component of the software that Samsung places on the phone. Tapping the link to the first of those agreements brought up this screen, which, we remind you, displays the terms and conditions specifically for a component of a mobile device. It is displayed here as close to actual size as possible, considering that device screens have unpredictably different resolutions, and we might add that this is a picture of a larger-than-average mobile-phone screen.

If you can’t see this image, all you’re missing is a grey cloud of invisibly tiny text.

We should note that the text does not flow: the line breaks are fixed. The only way to read this text (which goes on for quite a few more screens’ worth) is to enlarge it, and then move the enlargement back and forth to read the beginning, middle, and end of each line. To make it even barely legible if you have perfect vision, you will have to enlarge it enough that only about a third of each line will be visible at a time; so you will have to move the enlargement a minimum of three times to read one line. Multiply that by the number of lines in this screen, and multiply that by the dozen or so screens’ worth of text in this document.

Dr. Boli, on this evidence, rests his case, and believes the defendant corporation stands convicted of contempt by its own testimony.