Discord wants to void your right to sue them in court — but you can opt out of the practice

On April 15, Discord’s new Terms of Service changes went into effect, and there’s one major addition: an arbitration clause. What does it mean for users? It’s an important change easily lost in the fine print for anyone on Discord — and those in the know have a chance to opt out of the new agreement before May 15.

Basically, arbitration is a way of handling legal disputes outside of the court system. In terms of this new clause, it means that if you have any kind of dispute to settle with Discord, you can’t sue them or join a class-action lawsuit of other affected users. (Note: this only applies if you’re a U.S. resident.)

Based on what’s now laid out in the TOS, any disputes between a user and Discord will be handled privately, in meetings with the company. If those meetings fail, the dispute goes to arbitration. This process is private, which means the public has no way to review the evidence or results, it’s expensive, and there’s no guaranteed right to an appeal process. Whatever the arbiter decides, is the end of it. The process almost objectively privileges companies, which have a lot of power and resources, over individuals.

McDonald’s also did this with its TOS last fall, and it was… really shady. Basically, if you wanted to take advantage of the McDonald’s app (say, to get free fries on Fridays), you had sign up and agree to an arbitration clause. McDonald’s already had a history of twisting public opinion around customer lawsuits. Remember the woman who sued McDonald’s because her coffee was too hot? She was scorched with third-degree burns because McDonald’s served her coffee that was 180 degrees Fahrenheit. While the victim won the lawsuit, McDonald’s’ PR apparatus turned that story into a punchline about Americans being lawsuit-happy. (Watch the documentary Hot Coffee chronicling this story – it’s great, unlike how it all played out in real life.)

You are not going to get third-degree burns from Discord. But having legal recourse in case something happens is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking, “well I probably won’t sue Discord ever so who cares.” But right now there’s a group of parents who are suing Discord, alleging that predators are exploiting their kids on the platform. As legal scholars have noted for decades, the arbitration clause is a hindrance for so much of what we don’t see coming.

So, how do you opt out? This is also noted in the fine print: Users can write an email to arbitration-opt-out@discord.com within “30 days of April 15, 2024 or when you first register your Discord account, whichever is later.” The NCLC has a template that you can download, and it’s not complicated.

Basically, just say you want to opt-out, include the date, and most importantly keep a copy for your records. A corporation won’t do that for you.

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