Huffington Post Not So Progressive Anymore – Adds Forced Arbitration to Terms of Service

When The Huffington Post launched in 2005, it was embraced as a progressive alternative to conservative online media.  Now, following its sale to AOL, the liberal answer to Drudge has officially gone corporate.

The Huffington Post, along with all other AOL brands such as TechCrunch, MapQuest or AOL Mail, has updated its terms of service to include a forced arbitration clause.  Beginning on September 15, 2014, anyone who accesses any AOL-owned website or service will be prevented from holding AOL accountable in court if/when the company suffers a data breach due to its negligence or violates its users privacy in the pursuit of advertising profits. The decision to add a blatantly anti-consumer clause flies in the face of The Huffington Post’s progressive image. 

Media companies and websites use forced arbitration clauses to evade privacy laws because they allow the company to kick violated users out of court and instead funnel them into a rigged forum run by an arbitration provider selected by the company. This arbitrator is not required to have any legal training and does not even have to follow the law. AOL’s forced arbitration clause also prevents users from joining together in a class action, meaning that each user must take on AOL and its lawyers alone.  

And the only way users can retain their rights is to refrain from ever reading The Huffington Post or using any other AOL product or service. The U.S. Supreme Court has blessed the abusive practice forced arbitration and there is little to no ability to appeal a forced arbitration decision. 

Forced arbitration clauses are becoming ubiquitous in website terms of service, but they are also controversial.  In 2009, Facebook users were so appalled by the practice that they successfully campaigned the social media giant to remove its forced arbitration clause.

The Huffington Post's readers must demand that the website follow Facebook’s lead.