Over the past few years, a quiet revolution has begun as many social networking sites impose pre-dispute mandatory arbitration on consumers. With these arbitration clauses, a large number of these sites are depriving users of their consumer rights. Members of these social networking sites are required to agree to pre-dispute mandatory arbitration as a condition of accessing content. Consumers that enter into clickwrap or browsewrap agreements waive their right to a jury trial, discovery, and appeal, likely without being aware that they are losing these important rights.
The U.S. Supreme Courtâ€™s arbitration jurisprudence has made it difficult to challenge these lurking arbitration clauses. In recent court decisions, the courts have made it clear that they favor an enforcement of consumer arbitration agreements, stripping the state of the ability to police these documents. These decisions hinder states efforts to protect consumers against these devious arbitration clauses. Suffolk University Law School has published â€śAn Empirical Study of Predispute Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in Social Media Terms of Service Agreementsâ€ť, the first empirical study of the use of pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses by social networking sites. The article discusses the details of these clauses and questions the ethics of them.