In the world of viral where any amateur writer can produce a blog, or a post and practice their freedom of speech, how far should this be allowed to go? Well this is a question of our first amendment right (Freedom of speech / Freedom of expression). I guess the real question is where freedom of speech ends when it comes to the internet.
Yelp has been going through a law suit for a defamatory review that was posted on its website. The review was very critical of how a law firm had represented its client (review posted by the client). The arguments made, are that the review damages the reputation of the law firm (well, yes, that is the point of the review, isn’t it?). The law firm states that the review is false and misleading. A San Francisco judge decided that the posts are defamatory and ordered Yelp to remove the posts. A second judge upheld that decision. You know that Yelp is fighting this with the utmost urgency because this is the base of their business. Needless to say, Yelp is asking the California Supreme Court to intervene (which will be answered by mid-October). Read more on this case here.
This is surely a blog that has many different legal angles that most likely can be argued either way. Depending on what you hold true to be freedom of speech and defamation - Hence the term “The Disputed Truth”. Besides looking at this from a legal stance the outcome of this case can become a real game changer in the world of viral and consumer reviews, and even advertising with marketing.
Let’s think about all the sites that we go to and read reviews alone. Let’s think about Ebay, and Amazon alone. Before we buy a product we usually review what people are saying. With the ruling of this case these types of things are in jeopardy. I mean, if you read some of these reviews people leave on products or the company selling the product, they can be pretty harsh to say the least. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about all the posts and blogs we read on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Not only the initial post but the comments on the posts. So my question here is, “where does this end if the California Supreme Court decides to uphold this decision?”
I personally think that Yelp should not be told to remove these type of reviews, and for that matter I think that companies should not be allowed to sue a person for giving a review of the company and their experience. Unless it is a case where people are being paid to post negative things on a competitor (I have never heard of this, but wouldn’t doubt it happens). I think the good remedy to make a bad review irrelevant is getting more good reviews instead of bad ones (bettering your level of service). That is what the rating system is all about. Just because you have one bad review doesn’t mean you have a bad rating. Actually if your company is established it would take multiple bad reviews to make you have a low star rating. I am in favor of trying to keep the integrity of businesses from the use of the consumer voice. I think that is the best way. To be honest this is not a Pleasantville world. Who the hell would even go to a site to see reviews on something if they know people can’t post honest negative opinions? If this were the case, the integrity of the sites overall rating and reviews are skewed and dishonest, and is that what we want? This is another way to silence the masses!