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Court Rules Yelp Can't be Ordered to Remove Negative Reviews

     
3:39 pm on Jul 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yelp cannot be forced to remove negative reviews, according to a California court ruling, and the reviews can only be removed if the company decides to do so.

This is a significant ruling in terms of free speech, and of liability, and means that companies such as yelp cannot be held liable for a users' reviews on its system.
In a 4-to-3 opinion, the court said that federal law protected internet companies from liability for statements written by others.
Forcing a site to remove user-generated posts “can impose substantial burdens” on the online company, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the majority opinion. “Even if it would be mechanically simple to implement such an order, compliance still could interfere with and undermine the viability of an online platform.”


[nytimes.com...]
9:02 pm on July 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I've never had a problem getting false reviews removed. The utility to do so is in place & the process is quick. Of course it is easy when the false review is obvious.

In other circumstances, one mans trash is another's treasure. A negative review that is valid, benefits the user and is an integral part of Yelp's business model. That review may not sit well with the business owner however.
10:15 pm on July 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Chuckles. This ruling will be one that MIGHT (I say MIGHT) come back in the long term. With the DOJ, FBI and FTC looking at FB regarding CONTENT and, as a result SAFE HARBOR (which the CA court relied upon), things might change pretty quick.

But that's a different day, somewhere down the line.
2:35 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This ruling is wrong. If the Review of a business is inherently false and doing damage to a business. Why should not one be able to sue to have the review removed.
5:04 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I love Yelp. I always go straight for the 1-star ratings, I don't care about the 5-star ratings.
The negatives are what yelp is about. THIS is what saves you time and money.

The preponderance (%) of 1-star ratings tells all. Even with fake 1-star reviews, the sheer number of poor reviews is telling.
Use your brain to separate the BS from the real.
Worst I've ever seen? AT&T with an average of 1-star. After years and years, I know d@mn well they are as true as can be.
Will I ever try AT&T internet? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Not until I am dead.

Business owners with many, very negative reviews, of course, will hate them, because it exposes the TRUTH.
If the bad reviews can be illegitimately removed, Yelp becomes useless.

I LOVE the Amazon reviews. I always research them to find out what random buyers had to say. I go straight for the 1-star reviews. Tells you everything you need to know. Then, I go and buy on eBay (Amazon kicked me out of their ad program - my pages were TOO GOOD - Too "Amazon-like". Earnings denied.)
.

[edited by: Sally_Stitts at 5:22 pm (utc) on Jul 5, 2018]

5:18 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Business owners with many, very negative reviews, of course, will hate them, because it exposes the TRUTH.


But, that's the problem, it's not always the truth.
5:23 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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That's why you must use your brain.

Am I to ignore such a trove of info, because some might be phony? Does this render all the info useless? I think not.
I'll take whatever I can get, and try and glean relevant info from the heap.




[edited by: not2easy at 6:39 pm (utc) on Jul 5, 2018]
[edit reason] ToS #19 [/edit]

10:38 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Watch the owner responses. If they apologize, they care. If they don't respond, beware. If it's a bogus review, they'll let you know.
11:38 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If they don't respond, beware.
If they respond with angry personal attacks, run.

If the Review of a business is inherently false
negative != false
11:40 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Reality is most times none of the above apply. Sometimes it's just a bad day for whoever. Yelp, on the other hand, despite being right in control of their site while RELYING ON SAFE HARBOR as a defense, has a lot of bridge mending to do. And immediately applying some commonsense moderation would be a good place to start. (not likely as that would be actual WORK by humans drawing a paycheck affecting the profitability of a rumormonger site)

Businesses, on the other hand, do not live or die by Yelp alone if they actually have good service/product to offer. That said, some might actually need to grow a pair and toughen up their skin.
11:49 pm on July 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@lucy24, correct on both counts. If their MO is to respond with angry personal attacks, run for the hills. And, negative does not equal false, but it also does not equal true. It only equals negative for that review...and nobody but the reviewer and the owner knows the difference. If the owner has proof that it's false, why shouldn't the site be required to remove the review?
11:45 am on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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>If the owner has proof that it's false, why shouldn't the site be required to remove the review?

exactly, there should be recourse - one way would be to sue the person to wrote the false review -get them to take it down.
12:57 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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We've spoken a lot about negatve reviews, but it also works the other way: positive reviews which are false are just as bad, imho.
2:13 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@engine - I would say bad but not as bad as a malicious false review intended to do damage
3:09 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yes, not as bad, but still misleading.
I've monitored certain specific reviews and every time someone posts an objective review that is not glowing, almost instantly, a number of positive reviews pop up, until the negative review disappears off the page. There's a pattern. If nobody posts an objective negative review, nothing happens.

I've watched negative reviews which reflect my views of an experience and i've noticed the owner argue with the negative reviewer. That always indicates a possible issue. Should the argument by the establishment owner remain? I believe so.

The best negative reviews are where the establishment owner apologises, and takes on board the comments. Clearly, i'm talking about objective reviews, and not people ranting.
6:03 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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A false negative review does damage to the business. A false positive review does damage to the human customer.
6:07 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I tend to look for the reviews in the middle.

"Our stay was ok, except for one small issue" type of thing.

If the business responds negatively, that's a bad sign.

Otherwise I ignore the best and worst reviews assuming they are probably not valid.

If there's nothing in the middle, I move on to the next business.
8:23 pm on July 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This story is about a court ruling, not how one interprets reviews.
5:27 am on July 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Exactly ... and that ruling is based on other case law. We will have to see how this plays out.

I suspect other challenges will be made in the future.
4:18 pm on July 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't understand a ruling like this will work with other rulings or laws like the "right to be forgotten (just an example, pick your favorite ruling/law)".

One says you can't be made to remove content, the other says you must?
5:23 pm on July 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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One says you can't be made to remove content, the other says you must?
Last I checked, California was not a member of the EU.
8:45 pm on July 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Last I checked, California was not a member of the EU.

LOL ... tell that to the EU, they seem to think they can apply their rules world wide.

And of course I said "pick your favorite ruling/law" you know, any conflicting rule/law creats an issue.
11:36 am on July 9, 2018 (gmt 0)

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California was not a member of the EU - But the EU is trying !

I posted on Glassdoor about a CEO who a total B***H**E - firm got it removed and flooded it with fake reviews of guy..... 6 months later governing body fired him for being incompetent .

Personally Ill treat reviews as true unless there are plenty of them.
11:02 am on July 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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A false negative review does damage to the business. A false positive review does damage to the human customer.

A false positive also damages competitors to a degree since they get less business.
5:22 pm on July 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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since they get less business
But only temporarily. After having a bad experience at a business that got an unwarranted good review, they'll eventually try you instead. That’s assuming you are not selling something like cars or real estate where people can't turn right around and buy another one. I was thinking of things like restaurants or repair shops that get repeat business.
8:09 pm on July 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The case in the OP was about FORCING the removal of content UGC at yelp by a third party. The court ruled that can't be enforced. The rest of this thread has been about emotions regarding bad/good reviews rather than the actual case itself. No worries, just reminding all why the thread started in the first place.
3:54 am on July 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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In the case cited, there didn't seem to be any tangible damages by the "posting defamatory statements against her on Yelp."

If there had been a direct loss from the Yelp review, the court may have come to a different decision.
5:32 am on July 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If there had been a direct provable loss, and the reviews had contained false statements of fact, ordinary libel law would kick in. The question then would have been whether the site, the individual writer, or both, would be liable for damages.
7:40 am on July 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Any decision toward that outcome would create a precedent that would kill Review Sites across the net.
1:20 pm on July 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't think sites should be forced remove reviews - i think that is the wrong approach BUT something needs to change as the sheer amount of false reviews across various sites is bad for both the consumer and the businesses. It is only getting worse year on year. Im in travel and Tripadvisor is obviously the main one there and it is rife with fake reviews both positive ones and fake negative review attacks against competitors. I personally know people that have gone out of business due to fake negative reviews - that is a serious issue that is long overdue from being addressed.
The problems as I see them are:

The ease that fake reviews both negative and positive can be place
The difficulty in getting reviews removed (if there is a valid reason for it)
The lack of transparency and responsibility on the user that places reviews

All the above can be changed by implementing laws so that review sites are required to have:
Reasonable confidence that they know the identity of a user (requiring stricter registration procedures) - some will find their way round it of course but make it much harder to that the effort it takes significantly reduces your standard fake user.
Require sites to work within set requirements for having reviews removed , requiring them to respond to all requests.
Ensure users understand they are legally responsible for the reviews they place and if proven to be unfair , inaccurate or against libel law in general they will be financially responsible for damages. Ensure users know what they can and cannot say at a general level..
Require sites to provide a mechanism wereby businesses can contact the user directly that placed a review and obtain details of the user should they decide to take legal action - this one is a delicate one as of course your dont want users data to be easily obtainable but currently it is impossible to take legal action against anonymous fake reviewers Could be that each country implementing the law has a independant system wereby a business requests start of legal process via the review site and the review site must then pass the user details on to the authority, then the first stage of the legal process is anonymous, but if cleared for next stage the details become available to the prosecuting lawyers.

It is a massive change i know and unlikely to happen any time soon, but I do think eventually we will start to see tighter controls like this on the internet and its use. This includes use of review sites, social media sites etc as the effect they have on all aspects of our lives now is so massive.
Personally as a business owner I would like to be better protected against fake reviews and libelous posts but also I would have concerns over privacy and control. Even now already there are a handful of mega businesses that have too much control so the question is how to provide protection without allowing abuse of our data.
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