Court Says Negative Yelp Reviews Shouldn’t Be Censored
The reversal was important because the previous decision had effectively censored Jane Perez’s Yelp review of contractor Christopher Dietz without a court finding that what she wrote was actually false and libelous.
Previously, a judge had told Perez that she had to rewrite her posts to remove a reference to jewelry missing from her home, and to recharacterize the dispute between her and Dietz over nonpayment.
But an appeal by Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union led to the court determining just two days later that “the preliminary injunction was not justified and that the respondents have an adequate remedy at law.”
“It shouldn’t be easy to take down speech that you don’t like,” said Paul Alan Levy, an attorney for Public Citizen. “You can’t get injunction against defamation. If it’s really defamation, you get damages.”
Yelp and Angie’s List were not directly involved in the case in their role as online forums for user content. However, Yelp provided the following statement:
Consumer freedom of speech provides an important public service, protected by law. Yelp provides a valuable contribution to this dialogue by providing a two-way platform for consumers to share their experiences and for businesses to respond to their customers. Courts have consistently ruled that consumers have the right to share their truthful experiences. As a result, businesses that choose to sue their customers to silence them rather than address their comments, rarely prevail and often bring additional unwanted attention to the original criticism.