Written by John Villasenor, featured on Forbes
On February 6, Yelp filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court challenging an order to provide information about the authors of allegedly defamatory reviews. The case, Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., is one of many in recent years that are forcing the courts to balance the First Amendment rights of anonymous online reviewers against the right of businesses to pursue defamation claims.
Yelp v. Hadeed concerns a set of negative reviews on Yelp that Hadeed believes were not authored by real customers. Hadeed filed a complaint in July 2012, and then subpoenaed Yelp to produce documents containing the “full name, gender, birth date, IP address, or email address” of the authors of the reviews in question. In seeking to compel Yelp to produce the documents, Hadeed invoked a Virginia “unmasking” statute that addresses anonymous communications that “may be tortious or illegal.”
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