Digital Civil Rights Group Says Yelp Isn't Responsible for Bad Reviews

Categories: Business, Tech
Primus.gif
The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging a federal appeals court to block an attempt by "disgruntled businesses" to hold online forums, including Yelp, responsible for customer's reviews.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Friday, the EFF argues that the court should uphold existing laws that foster free speech online, and protect online service providers from liability for what users say about businesses. In other words, the Santa Rita Jail can't sue Yelp when inmates give the holding cells there only one star.

Several businesses filed suit against Yelp, claiming that the widely used review site manipulated and manufactured customer reviews to force businesses to advertise on the website. A lower court sided with Yelp's request to dismiss the case. And now the EFF is arguing that lowering the standards for online forums like Yelp would "chill online speech." "If online service providers like Yelp could be held liable for material posted by any one of their millions of users merely upon thin claims of 'manipulation,' providers would feel pressured to censor or eliminate forums altogether," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "The result is fewer places for people to participate online and a loss all of us who rely on user reviews and other user-generated material."

The EFF pointed out that Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act to protect online forums from lawsuits like these -- and the intention of the law was clear: to ensure the Internet is "a robust platform for users' free speech," said Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. 

"Users post millions of reviews on Yelp each year, but sites like this wouldn't exist without CDA 230's protections," Hofmann said. "We're asking the appeals court to make sure that sites like Yelp continue to thrive and remain vigorous forums for Internet users to share opinions and recommendations."

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly

My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Tk
Tk

Yelp is not business friendly, the Yelpers should pay a subscription to write reviews instead Yelp goes after business for money. What a scam.

Tanner Andrews
Tanner Andrews

I am a small business owner and find Yelp to be a site thatdoes not promote fair and equal treatment to the businesses that are on thesite.  My company has 17 reviews, thetotal star average would be 4.5 stars, which is not perfect, but really whois.  The issue I have is that only 2reviews are showing and 15 are “filtered” giving me a 2.5 star rating.  They are displaying less than 12% of thereviews posted, which to me is not an accurate depiction of my actual companyreputation.  By showing this inaccurateview of our company I believe they are committing fraud, defamation andlibel.  The excuse they hide behind istheir algorithm.  Well I am not buying itany further.  I started a Facebook Pageto try and get a clearer picture of whether this problem is Nationwide and towhat extent it runs.  I would like to seeif other companies are having the same issue I am having and to see examples ofthis.  Visit the Facebook page and postyour thoughts, they won't be filtered. 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/...

Tanner Andrews
Tanner Andrews

I am a small business owner and find Yelp to be a site thatdoes not promote fair and equal treatment to the businesses that are on thesite.  My company has 17 reviews, thetotal star average would be 4.5 stars, which is not perfect, but really whois.  The issue I have is that only 2reviews are showing and 15 are “filtered” giving me a 2.5 star rating.  They are displaying less than 12% of thereviews posted, which to me is not an accurate depiction of my actual companyreputation.  By showing this inaccurateview of our company I believe they are committing fraud, defamation andlibel.  The excuse they hide behind istheir algorithm.  Well I am not buying itany further.  I started a Facebook Pageto try and get a clearer picture of whether this problem is Nationwide and towhat extent it runs.  I would like to seeif other companies are having the same issue I am having and to see examples ofthis.  Visit the Facebook page and postyour thoughts, they won't be filtered. 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/...

crabtrem8
crabtrem8

It's like any other site. YouTube, iTunes, Twitter, Facebook. Every site that offers user interaction will have some items considered a review. It is opinion. The judicial system cannot make a rational decision if their lives depended on it. Just another government bureaucracy.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Seems kinda iffy to me.  If they really do "boost" reviews for businesses that cough up cash, then they're taking responsibility for bad reviews into their own hands.

Yelpsucks
Yelpsucks

Yelp is a fraud! I wouldnt believe 1 posted business review ever! Scelp SUCKS!

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...