Shaun of the Dead

Over the years, as editor of MercatorNet, I have been warning the world about the dangers of a zombie apocalypse. To no avail. I have been mocked and derided and asked what sort of medications I was taking, or not taking.

I pointed out that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has done such a magnificent job in guiding Americans through the current pandemic, has a webpage devoted to prepping for the zombie apocalypse. I referred my critics to the endless stream of documentaries about zombies: World War Z, 28 Days, Shaun of the Dead, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I Am Legend, and so on. To no avail. I might as well have been talking to, you know, a zombie.

But now, to demonstrate the proximity of the peril, I have been alerted by a punctilious reader to clause 42.10 in the terms and conditions of Amazon Web Services:

However, this restriction [about acceptable use] will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.

The T&C, including the zombie clause, were updated yesterday. Apparently Amazon still fears an outbreak. Does it know something that we don’t?

And it’s not just Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, which has the heebie-jeebies about zombies. MailChimp, which provides MercatorNet’s email service, states in its terms and conditions that it cannot be held liable for interruption of service under these circumstances:

We won’t be held liable for any delays or failure in performance of any part of the Service, from any cause beyond our control. This includes, but is not limited to, acts of god, changes to law or regulations, embargoes, war, terrorist acts, riots, fires, earthquakes, nuclear accidents, zombie apocalypse, floods, strikes, power blackouts, volcanic action, unusually severe weather conditions, and acts of hackers, or third-party internet service providers [emphasis added].

In fact, as the world is experiencing the devastation of Covid-19, the extensive literature on zombies shows that things could have been much, much worse. Here is a scene from I Am Legend, in which a scientist boasts that she has cured cancer (all cancer) with a genetically-engineered vaccine:

The cynical take on the zombie clause in the Amazon T&C is that it proves that the nerdy guys who run Amazon and other tech giants are a gaggle of immature, overpaid jerks who revel in ridiculing their customers. A likely story! – but it is true that most people never read the T&C for the software and apps that they use.

To demonstrate this, some companies have inserted absurd clauses which were discovered only after months of sales.

A UK video game store once inserted this clause as an April Fool’s joke:

By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non-transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorized minions.

Only 12 percent of users clicked the “nullify soul transfer” option.

In 2014, the European law enforcement agency Europol tested a T&C for public WiFi use.  This included a “Herod clause”. The user could only access free WiFi if “the recipient agreed to assign their first-born child to us for the duration of eternity”. Some people agreed.

Anyhow, back to the dangers of a zombie apocalypse, which are far more pressing than the dangers of not reading long and incomprehensible T&Cs, it appears that a second instalment of World War Z is in the works. I commend it to sceptics.

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.