Yelp seems to be having a tough time with reviews lately. Just last year, several New York businesses were slapped with hefty fines for paying for fake positive Yelp reviews. So, what now? A Virginia business owner has successfully sued Yelp for the identities of anonymous negative reviewers that are suspected to be fake…meaning that they were never clients of this business at all. Customers are allowed, due to their First Amendment rights, to post a public statement about the services received. However, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that “If the reviewer was never a customer of the business, then the review is not an opinion; instead the review is based on a false statement.”
According to Yelp spokesman, Vince Sollitto, “We are disappointed that the Virginia Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that fails to adequately protect free speech rights on the internet, and which allows businesses to seek personal details about website users — without any evidence of wrongdoing — in efforts to silence online critics.”
You’re probably wondering how you can tell if an online review is legit or a fake. Check out this Techlicious blog for some pointers.