In the land of the free to sue anyone they want and home of the brave lawyers with no scruples to take their money, frivolous lawsuits are no stranger to the U.S. Justice System. Much to the detriment of good legal beagles out there, these lawsuits kill the reputations of so many things.
And now, they may kill Yelp all together.
The crowdsourcing website for reviews, scorn, honesty, and trolls has been in the courts of ‘Merica one too many times. However, these last few cases may have legal experts reconsidering how review websites are beneficial when so many people abuse them.
Yelp itself deems 20 percent of user reviews “suspicious.” Sure, all reviews are filtered strenuously, but anyone can cop a fake profile and become an Internet troll — even if it means hiring a copywriter to sound like a legitimate consumer.
As part of a project dubbed “Operation Clean Turf,”Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced last September that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews and pay hefty penalties for false advertising and deceptive business practices. His investigation found that these businesses – ranging from bus companies to teeth whitening services – systematically tried to game the system by paying freelance writers from Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe between $1 to $10 per review.
Did that stop the surreptitious Yelpers? Nopers.
Take Christopher Dietz, who bemoaned the fact that a one-star review in Yelp destroyed his business. To wit, he sued for $750,000 from one woman that started this diabolical domino effect. As the Washington Post reports, “The case is being closely watched by First Amendment advocates and businesses alike. First Amendment advocates say companies are increasingly turning to such tactics to stifle negative — but important — consumer information on review sites like Yelp.”
The good thing is the court systems are at least trying to take some extermination resources to trolls. Take the case of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning. Dude gets seven negative reviews that burned his behind, but because they were anonymous, he sued Yelp — you know, defamation of character. Never mind that his service may suck out loud. He was hurt because he couldn’t track the offenders (some of whom were almost certainly fraudulent Yelpers) by their emails.
And now, we have the case of Ron Gordon Watch Repair. This guy in Brooklyn apparently blows at fixing clocks and watches. Some people complained on Yelp, so Ronald threatened those who besmirched his good name with a cease-and-desist order. Check it…
Ironically, Yelpers think Ron Gordon’s attorney blows at his job too, so that’s cute. Is it fair for people to provide poor service and then complain because people have a say in it? Probably not. Yelp is on the free speech machine known as the Internet, so if you want to close down review websites, you are going to have come at it with a much stronger angle than “This woman hurt my feelers,” “No one can write coherent sentences in a review,” and the ever-popular “Nuh-unh!”
However, as more of these websites sprout up, the highest court may have to look at either banning all review websites or just banning the idiots who bring up these lawsuits against said websites. Who knows? It could go either way.