Obama Will Sign ‘Yelp’ Law Revolutionizing Online Free Speech

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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A bill that protects freedom of speech online is set to hit President Obama’s desk for approval.

The bill titled the “Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016,” passed the House Sept. 12, and passed the Senate Monday (with no amendments). An earlier version of the bill called the “Consumer Review Freedom Act,” did not make it through the House, but served as the framework for the legislation that now makes its way to the White House.

The impetus for the legislation was that a number of consumers found themselves fighting multi-million dollar legal battles after leaving negative, but honest reviews of companies on sites like Yelp.

These stories follow a similar narrative. Companies become outraged at a negative online review, and then sue the reviewer for something like defamation. This was the case for Yelp reviewer Emily Fanielli, who was sued by her contractor for a negative review where she detailed how the man ruined her kitchen renovations.

The main function of the bill is to remove “gag clauses,” which give businesses the power to punish or silence those who honestly criticize their products or services online.

Congressman Issa says that the internet is supposed to be a place for the free exchange of ideas, but he questions how free it is if “it’s been cherry-picked and censored to weed out things some people find unfavorable?”

“The bill we’ve now sent to the President’s desk will ensure that the internet remains a place where the freedom of speech can thrive and protect honest consumers from retaliatory litigation,” the congressman says.

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