A multi-day Virginia trial recently concluded with a woman convicted of defamation for her scathing online review of a local contractor. As reported by Eater.com, the defamation charge stems from a one-star review that she published on Yelp back in 2011.
The Yelp review claimed that the contractor not only botched the job he performed for her, but also stole her jewelry and damaged her home. While the review has been deleted since then, the man filed a $750,000 lawsuit against her, stating that she had committed defamation and cost him thousands of dollars in lost business.
However, the contractor also had defamation charges levied against him due to his online responses to her review. In the end, he too was found guilty of defamation for his online comments. The dual conviction led to neither party receiving damages.
Many have seen this conviction as setting a precedent that Yelp reviews can be deemed defamatory, possibly leading to future cases over online reviews. Additionally, recent cases have revolved around Yelp reviews and whether its users are protected by the U.S. Constitution.
A recent court ruling forced Yelp to reveal the identities of seven anonymous reviewers after they left negative reviews of a Virginia business. The presiding judge stated that the First Amendment did not apply to them as they were never customers of the business they reviewed, making their reviews a false statement of fact, not an opinion. According to the judge, there is “no constitutional value in false statements of fact,” making their reviews unprotected.
At SLS Consulting, we understand the importance of improving and maintaining the online reputation of the companies we serve. Today, so many businesses succeed or fail on the sentiment their customers express online, so we work to represent our clients as positively as possible and prevent damaging, defamatory comments from harming their reputations. To learn more about how our marketing team can help you, call us at (323) 254-1510.