Yelp Reviewer Faces Legal Issues

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One of the cool things about having a phone that can get on-line is going to sites like Yelp.  For those that have never used Yelp on your phone, let me quickly explain.  Go to Yelp, put in your location, put in what you are looking for (i.e. tacos) and up will pop locations that have tacos sorted by their ratings!  Very cool.  If you use Yelp on your computer you can rate, review and talk about the good and “not so good” in your area.   It is a powerful tool that creates amazing word of mouth marketing at the most organic level, the end user.  If you are a business owner, you should be aware of Yelp and keep an eye on the site to see what people think about you.  And unless you have amazing business practices, from time to time reviews will be negative.

That is exactly what happened as  one Yelp reviewer said something negative about a local chiropractor.  Here is the quote:

“I don’t think good business means charging people whatever you feel like hoping they’ll pay without a fuss. Especially considering that I found a much better, honest chiropractor.”

The chiropractor did not like what he read and sued the reviewer Christopher Norberg over the comment.

Now, not being one to judge what is the law and not the law, and whether the reviewer was right or wrong, I can tell you this; the internet community is watching very carefully what happens in this case.  Norberg’s attorney, Michael Blacksburg went on to say  “This strikes at the heart of Yelp’s business model and other Web sites that provide a bulletin board for people to state what they think of businesses in their community. This is clearly Christopher Norberg’s version of conversations with the doctor relating to a billing dispute and his opinion of how the doctor was behaving. This is clear opinion that falls squarely within constitutionally protected speech.”

So I guess what Mom always told us was good advice, “if you have nothing good to say about someone don’t say anything at all.”  Or at least in cyberspace, be very careful how you say it.  Opinion is protected by libel law but just because you declare a statement as opinion it does not necessarily make it one.  If you are a blogger, tweeter, Yelp reviewer or just a commenter on forums and boards you should probably take a peek at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s guidelines for blogger’s and web user’s  regarding Online Defamation Law.

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Just like you, I see negative posts all the time.  Are they opinion or a statement of fact?  Sometimes it is hard to tell.   Just remember, count to ten before you post that flaming review/comment and keep yourself out of court.

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