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Yelp and Your Online Reputation

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Yelp and Your Online Reputation

Yelp lawsuit raises the question: Do online reviewers have the right to remain anonymous?


By By the Professional Remodeler staff June 3, 2015
Yelp sticker on business door.
This article first appeared in the PR May 2015 issue of Pro Remodeler.

Yelp has long been accused of extortion-like business practices, but recently, the online review site went on the defensive when a crowdfunded documentary began receiving national attention. The film, which is halfway through principal photography, claims that Yelp buries positive reviews and highlights negative ones if business owners won’t advertise with the site. Yelp officials vehemently deny the allegation. 

Billion Dollar Bully had an original goal of raising $60,000 on Kickstarter to pay for the rest of filming, but it handily surpassed that figure, with more than $90,000 donated by the end of the funding period. 

Media attention for the film affected Yelp’s shares, which were down by as much as 4 percent when news of the documentary hit. The stock has rebounded since then, and at press time was trading at 49.59. Yelp’s high was 101.75 in March of last year. 

In other Yelp news, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in April in a closely watched case regarding a carpet-cleaning company in Springfield. 

In 2012, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning sued three Yelp users who anonymously posted negative reviews of the business. Owner, Joe Hadeed claimed that the reviews were fabricated and that he was unable to match them with any customer records. 

In the suit, the reviewers are named “John Does” and Hadeed’s attorneys subpoenaed Yelp for their real identities. Yelp refused, and two lower courts found in Hadeed’s favor, ordering Yelp to supply the information.

However, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed those decisions, stating that Yelp doesn’t have to disclose the users’ information. The reasoning was that the state’s lower courts did not have jurisdiction over Yelp—a California-based company. The justices’ decision to focus their ruling on jurisdictions rather than Hadeed’s actual argument leaves an important legal question unanswered: Do online reviewers have the right to remain anonymous in this case? PR

Yelp lawsuit raises the question: Do online reviewers have the right to remain anonymous?

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