TripAdvisor's Rankings Of 'Dirtiest Hotels' Is Not Defamation
from the but-now-we-know-who's-upset-about-it... dept
The court isn't buying it, at all.
It is true that the Defendant published an article with a numerical ranking, and that the Defendant suggests reasons to support its opinions, including that “87 percent of those who reviewed [Grand Resort] recommended against staying there,” but neither the fact that Defendant numbers its opinions one through ten, nor that it supports its opinions with data, converts its opinions to objective statements of fact. Any reasonable person can distinguish opinions based on reasons from facts based on reasons—just because TripAdvisor states its reasons for including Grand Resort on its list does not make the assertion one of objective fact. A person who is unable to distinguish the phrase “it is hot,” a subjective opinion, from “it is one-hundred degrees,” an objective fact, is hardly “reasonable.” Similarly, TripAdvisor’s “Dirtiest Hotels” list is clearly unverifiable rhetorical hyperbole.I find the implicit suggestion in there that the plaintiff is not a reasonable person somewhat amusing as well. Either way, as Goldman notes, this should be a somewhat useful case whenever others are threatened for opinion-based lists they put together. That said, as a district court ruling it doesn't have much widespread impact, but with clear and concise reasoning, that doesn't mean it can't be helpful in convincing other courts to rule similarly.
TripAdvisor’s list is of the genre of hyperbole that is omnipresent. From law schools to restaurants, from judges to hospitals, everything is ranked, graded, ordered and critiqued. Undoubtedly, some will accept the array of “Best” and “Worst” rankings as impenetrable maxims. Certainly, some attempt to obfuscate the distinction between fact and opinion as part of their course of business. For those that read “eat here,” “sleep there” or “go to this law school” and are unable to distinguish measured analysis of objective facts from sensational “carnival barking,” compliance will be both steadfast and assured. Nevertheless, the standard, fortunately, is what a “reasonable person” would believe. A reasonable person would not confuse a ranking system, which uses consumer reviews as its litmus, for an objective assertion of fact; the reasonable person, in other words, knows the difference between a statement that is “inherently subjective” and one that is “objectively verifiable.”