After a law firm was temporarily successful in suing Yelp, forcing them to remove a negative review, the California Supreme Court is now taking the case.
Originally, a state appeals court ordered that Yelp remove the scathing review written by a seriously displeased client, according to Ars Technica. But even before that, a lower court ruled that the reviewer, known as Ava Bird, would pay $500,000 to Dawn Hassell of Hassell Law Group because of defamation. Bird reportedly failed to appear.
The legal debate surrounds California’s Communications Decency Act. Yelp claims the statute gives companies the right to refuse removing content that is posted by third parties, like reviewers.
Eric Goldman, a legal expert from Santa Clara University, wrote a lengthy analysis of the lower court’s ruling.
“Of course any removal order injures Yelp by usurping Yelp’s editorial policies about its content database. But because of the default judgment on defamation, the court can neatly sidestep that First Amendment injury by claiming that we know this content is beyond First Amendment protection,” Goldman opined.
In other words, Goldman believes that the court’s original ruling forcing Yelp to remove the review is detrimental to both Yelp as a business, and the First Amendment.
“Then again, the court isn’t interested in Yelp’s editorial policies because it treats Yelp more like a passive technology conduit that gets no First Amendment love.”
Big tech companies apparently voiced their opinions to the California Supreme Court, according to Ars Technica. Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook, reportedly stressed that the lower court’s decision will “silence a vast quantity of protected and important speech” and sets a dangerous precedent.
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