Empirical Study of Predispute Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in Social Media Terms of Service Agreements

Michael L. Rustad,

Richard Buckingham,

Diane D'Angelo, and

Katherine Durlacher, all of Suffolk, have written An Empirical Study of Predispute Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in Social Media Terms of Service Agreements, forthcoming in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review. Here's the abstract:

With predispute mandatory arbitration clauses, a large and growing number of social networking sites (SNSs) are depriving users of their consumer rights. SNS users across the globe are required to agree to predispute 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 Court’s arbitration jurisprudence has made it difficult to challenge these troublesome contractual clauses and practices. The Roberts Court’s recent decisions, including AT & T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion (2011) and CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood (2012), make it clear that the Court favors a broad enforcement of consumer arbitration agreements stripping the state of the ability to police these documents. These decisions are, in effect, a federal takeover of arbitration, preventing state efforts to protect consumers against one-sided and oppressive consumer arbitration clauses. This Article is the first empirical study of the use of predispute mandatory arbitration clauses by SNSs and sheds light on whether SNSs have used arbitration clauses strategically in order to achieve a “liability-free” zone in cyberspace. Our empirical findings reveal that SNS arbitration clauses contravene many of the principles deemed necessary for a fundamentally fair process for consumers to resolve disputes.