Lawyer Who Sues Yelp Admits He Had No Idea About Section 230 Safe Harbors

from the great-moments-in-lawyering dept

Last week, we wrote about a defamation lawsuit over a review on Yelp, which seemed to backfire -- bringing a lot more attention to the negative review than if left alone. That case actually was settled soon after, but yet another defamation lawsuit has been filed by yet another person -- this time a dentist -- over a negative review. There are a few things worth commenting on about this lawsuit, but the big one that caught my attention is that the lawsuit was filed both against the couple who wrote the review... and against Yelp.

Now, as pretty much everyone knows around here, filing against Yelp is a big no-no. Yelp is clearly protected by section 230 safe harbors that make third party service providers immune from liability for actions of their users. This is pretty widely known among anyone involved in anything having to do with internet law... but was not known by the lawyer who filed the suit. In fact, the lawyer admits in the article above that he "wasn't aware" of the law and will probably drop the suit against Yelp now that he knows about it. But, it certainly raises questions about the lawyer if he was totally unaware of a key piece of internet legislation before filing such a lawsuit.

Then, there's the bizarre response from the dentist, replying to the point that Yelp lets the service providers directly contact those who write negative reviews to try to clear up the problem. The dentist says: "I would be very upset and would not know what to say to them." Fascinating. So, rather than talking it out as adults and clearing up any misunderstanding (and from the sound of it, it was a basic misunderstanding), she jumps straight to the lawsuit stage? She doesn't know what to say to them, but has no problem dumping a lawsuit on them. Isn't America great?

Filed Under: liability, section 230
Companies: yelp


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  1. identicon
    Zack, 16 Jan 2009 @ 7:10am

    Re: Shake Down

    This is definitely a problem, but where do you draw the line? Once ONE user gets sued for defamation or liable or anything else that can be tied to a negative review, that opens the field up to all sorts of law suits from other companies with bad reviews...then people become afraid to be honest, then the whole system is screwed.

    Maybe it should be up to the service provider (Yelp, in this case) to mediate and make sure the two parties can come to an agreement - not involving free services, or completely removing the negative review, but instead maybe just having the user modify the review, taking out words like "dishonest practices" and other more aggressive claims, and just stick to, "this place sucks, don't go there" and give it 1 star.

    I don't know, it's going to be interesting to see how this issue pans out over the coming years. Certainly could make or break the review sites...

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