A very popular website online called Yelp is a business that allows people to post reviews about local businesses. This can be both good and bad for the companies that are listed on the website. It can be very beneficial if they are an upstanding company like Visualize Legal – Legal Graphics, providing excellent products and services. However, it can be very detrimental if they are not providing proper services, products, or they are lying about the amount of money that they are charging. This is the case with a company by the name of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, a business that is in the DC area. They did not sue Yelp because of the seven bad reviews that they are targeting which talked about their practice of charging more than they are advertising for their services. They are suing this company because they state that the reviews are fraudulent, made by people that had not used their services.
Are They Allowed To Do This?
First of all, the people that post on Yelp do not have to disclose their complete identity. They can leave feedback on any company that they wish. They are protected by the First Amendment rights of free speech, and in most cases, these reviews, especially the bad ones, are things that companies simply have to deal with. In this case, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning is not suing on the premise that the people were lying about how much they had to pay. They are suing Yelp for the right to disclose who these seven people are, specifically to definitively determine if they were their customers.
Why Would They Want To Do This?
The reason that a company would want to do this is to prove that these are not simply fabricated testimonials that are designed to undermine their company. This is something that usually doesn’t happen because of what are called the Dendrite rules. These specifically state that it is going to take a substantial amount of evidence for any company to be forced to reveal who these public commenters are. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning is stating in their lawsuit that due to the number of testimonials that were so incredibly negative, that these had to be fabricated, and to prove their point and prove that these were not their customers, the anonymity of these posters must be revealed.
Is This Going To Happen?
Based upon the Dendrite Rules, and the lack of evidence that was presented, Yelp ignored court orders to reveal these individuals multiple times. Subsequently, Public Citizen filed on behalf of Yelp and argument that the Virginia court has absolutely no jurisdiction over Yelp at all. Until this is resolved, it is likely that Yelp will win because the First Amendment does protect anonymous speech. However, you have to wonder about the sanity of those that are in charge of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning because the more that they protest, the more guilty they will continue to look, and they will inevitably lose more customers.
Although freedom of speech is a right that all Americans share, it can sometimes be abused. It can be used in very diverse and devious ways. If these are fabricated comments designed to undermine the credibility of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, they would have less of a chance of succeeding if the company would simply have not filed lawsuits to determine whether or not these people commenting were real. It is a fine line that must be walked with companies like Yelp where anybody can say whatever they want to. If Hadeed Carpet Cleaning is smart, they will drop this before too much damage is done, damage that will cause people to only remember them as the business that was fighting against First Amendment rights and will be perceived as hiding the fact that they do lie about the prices that they charge.Read Article