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State Court Rules Yelp Must Release Names of Reviewers

Excerpt from SFGate

Jan 12, 2014 8:00 am

Skift Take

This won’t set a precedent and seems to be tied only to state law in Virginia, but it is a ruling that is of concern to Yelp, and assuredly is getting some attention at TripAdvisor, as well.

— Dennis Schaal

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A court ruling forcing Yelp to disclose the identities of several anonymous critics is getting bad reviews from free-speech advocates. A Virginia appeals court ordered the San Francisco site to identify those responsible for seven negative reviews of a carpet cleaning company, citing a state statute that allows courts to unmask those behind online avatars if there is “legitimate, good-faith” belief they violated the law.

Legal experts say that Virginia has a lower standard for outing internet users than other states including California and that the decision likely won’t set a precedent for the wholesale disclosure of anonymous speech online. But it could cause some would-be critics to think twice before choosing to publish on a negative review.

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