Yelp! Court Rules Right to Anonymity Not Absolute
Original source: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/court-rules-that-yelp-must-unmask-the-identities-of-seven-anonymous-reviewers/282959/
Whether it’s a case of dirty carpets, or dirty tactics, Yelp is in the legal spotlight thanks to a lawsuit by Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, of Alexandria, Virginia (consider yourself forewarned – their website will make your eyes bleed: http://www.joehadeed.com/). It stems from the fact that Yelp refuses to remove negative reviews, and the company owner (presumably Joe) claims that the negative reviews are from people who never received their service.
In other words – competitors. Since everyone knows what a great and honest place the internet is, this sort of thing could never actually happen, but Joe Hadeed believes it did – and he’s gone to court to prove it. What surprised everyone is that the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hadeed, ordering Yelp to turn over the identities of their seven anonymous reviewers.
What’s more interesting, is that those of you who are into Marketing, or PR, will immediately notice that this appears to have backfired on Hadeed, with the latest round of new ‘anonymous’ Yelp negative reviews rolling in. One reviewer in 2014 even claims that the manager has resigned his position, and that she’s had her rug destroyed by Hadeed, with 38 people finding that review helpful. One of the older negative reviews of Hadeed from 2011 has been rated by 124 users as helpful, and technically isn’t that ‘negative’ – at least not when compared to some of the more recent reviews. More importantly, despite being a one star review, it links to someone who’s obviously a very real Yelp user.
Since Yelp has appealed this ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court, this will definitely be a case to watch, as it will set a clear precedent for future cases like this.