Take them to cleaners!
(Sorry, could not help it)
A US Court of Appeals has ordered Yelp to identify anonymous reviewers who slammed a cleaning company. In his ruling this week [PDF], Judge William G Petty, sitting in Virginia, told the review-sharing website to turn over personal information on seven of its users who had panned Hadeed Carpet Cleaning on Yelp.com. The family …
"Yelp has a contact email address, ZIP code and IP addresses from which the site was accessed on file for each account holder, all of which are crucial for the cleaning biz's litigation."
I'm pretty sure a Hushmail / throw away email address, and a dynamic IP that the ISP will almost certainly no longer have a log of will be of no help whatsoever...
Nothing is done to quell the favorable comments of companies that lie, cheat, steal and act like a bunch of arseholes. Especially not investigate whether or not said reviewers had received any kickbacks for making such comments.
<sarcasm>Because that *NEVER* happens.</sarcasm>
You're dead on.
Resellerratings is notorious for that. Apparently like many will state across the net, they and many others use reverse SEO to stop bad reviews. I gave up with the face value of review sites. Now if a review doesn't mention both a positive and a negative that are near equal in weight, I ignore it and find one that does.
Astroturfing is as shitty and cynical as it gets, and it's being actively promoted to businesses by people who pray to the SEO gods without understanding them. Google recently made moves to apply less value to seemingly astroturfed/blog comments/form comment spam, so it now actively harms the ranking of the company. Of course the SEO muppets won't either bother to find out or will actively hide this information in order to keep on selling spamming services.
Some interesting articles on techdirt about this, including an analysis of a wall of fake reviews on Amazon about a book.
"Nothing is done to quell the favorable comments of companies that lie, cheat, steal and act like a bunch of arseholes. Especially not investigate whether or not said reviewers had received any kickbacks for making such comments."
Although, it is now a criminal offence in the UK "for traders who falsely represent themselves as a consumer or engage in misleading marketing". Up to £5000 fine and/or 2 years in prison - could polarise the thinking of someone considering doing this. Admittedly, there are that many resources available for detection but if you have any evidence, I am sure your local Trading Standards office would be happy to take a look.
I feel Yelp is shady as it is, even without the anon posters.
The very first time I used Yelp, I didn't realize I wasn't seeing all reviews. Then I noticed the link that reveals them all. That link required WAY too much involvement for a paranoid type like me not think it was all smoke and mirrors just so I would only see the higher rated reviews. Sure enough it became a pattern, and if I wanted to see all reviews, I always had to enter text based off an image (like shitty download sites).
Yelp, resellerratings, bizrate...all of them are just so biased that I don't even bother any more. I just look at the median reviews of users on various sites to determine what I can. Only looking at the good ones will lead you to deception, and only looking at the bad ones will only lead you to deception. Lose/Lose.
So what happens when the same thing applies to Amazon?
A movie studio or a Murdoch owned publisher can afford to threaten to go after anyone who pans their DVD or book.
And since Amazon has your credit card it's not a big leap for the court to order Amazon to collect the judgement against you. If the MPAA are involved they probably don't even bother going to court.
Amazon reviews have long been useless. In fact, worse than useless. You did see the "reviews" on the $40,000 TV set that none of the reviewers actually bought, right? That was done in jest, but even after it was spread far and wide on the Internet, Amazon did nothing to remove the bogus reviews. How hard would it be for them to limit the reviews to people who actually bought the product from Amazon? Sheesh!
The only people I trust for reviews are people I know. Facebook may suck in a lot ways, but at least if I'm considering a product that others I know may have bought I can post and get information I can trust from people quickly and easily. You can't trust any site on the Internet anyone has ever heard of because the spammers/SEOs/shills long ago made the positive reviews worthless. If it is a product that has fanboy fervor (i.e. iPhone, Galaxy S series, Playstation, Xbox) you can't trust the negative reviews, either.
I rather approve of Amazon keeping the joke reviews. Some of them are rather good and take down ridiculous products in a non-libellous way; and then there are the reviews of How to avoid huge ships on Amazon, which has become a whole class of meta-literature on its own.
> it's not a big leap for the court to order Amazon to collect the judgement against you.
It is a massive leap.
The courts might fine you, but collecting the payment involves a whole raft of regulations. First of all, it is up to you to pay and if you don’t then they can garner your wages, send you to jail for non payment (in some cases), or send round bailiffs to collect equivalent value. Throughout all of this they will know all about your main bank account and your credit cards but are not able to simply use this information to get the money.
For criminal offences it is different. They can freeze and confiscate your assets (depending upon the offence) which includes bank accounts and property but unless you have been involved in a large scale criminal enterprise this is highly unlikely.
Amazon reviews are not restricted to purchasers of the product in question, so they are really a waste of time, especially with niche products vulnerable to the negative campaigns of competitors. There is much fakery and astroturfing that goes on. Amazon just want the illusion of depth of content and appear to be set on the policy, they won't change it although of course they easily could.
No, a movie studio can't sue for bad reviews. They get bad reviews all the time, and it doesn't really seem to matter that much.
And Fox News is exerting great efforts to damn a book about its founder, Roger Ailes, but is unlikely to have any effect. The people who love Fox News wouldn't have read it, the people who hate Fox News will buy it no matter what Fox says, and everyone else will be discouraged by the bulk.
I was following this a bit on another news site yesterday. Yelp's claim is that they have a threshold for the number of reviews you need to submit before your review will always display. Something or other about with a sufficient number of reviews over an appropriate period of time you become a reliable reviewer. I've never used the site and make no assertions as to the veracity of the claim.
Here's my take on the lawsuit and the ruling: It's frelled.
It is possible Hadeed has indeed been defamed. It is also possible Hadeed is using the courts to intimidate real customers who were upset with the quality of the service. Simply revealing the names of the posters to Hadeed and his lawyers doesn't take into account the second risk. What is needed is an impartial 3rd party to asses Hadeed's claim that they were not his customers without revealing their names to him or his lawyers. If the posters are indeed not on his customer list then the names should be revealed to him and his lawyers. The impartial third party should be either the judge or some appointed by him.
Defamation is definitely not protected under free speech. You can state your experience and your unhappiness but making disparaging comments or false claims leaves you open to being sued for defamation and it should. No individual or Biz should be subjected to false claims that can hurt their personal or business reputation. If in fact there was a conspiracy and these are all false claims then I hope these individuals are heavily fined and sent to jail for their crimes which can most definitely destroy a small business.
Why simply "unmask" the reviewers to the company?
Surly the judge could order a 3rd party to get the company's customer list and the reviewer's identities and find out if they were legitimate complaints or astro-turfing?
If so, then by all means allow the defamation case to proceed as they deserve it, otherwise protect their identity.
Ha. Years ago I ran an IT consultancy review site, which (as some of you might imagine) quickly drew some very negative reviews. One guy in particular had clearly gone through agony with a particular agency and spelt out in great detail the actions they took which eventually pushed him into a nervous breakdown.
Enter their lawyers, who took apart the review in question, labeled most of it libelous and asked me to remove those sections. This I did, and the remainder read something like:
"I worked for X for 6 months in (redacted) I found (redacted) was eventually hospitalized (redacted) unable to walk (redacted)..." and so on. Frankly it read worse than the original. I can only assume the agency had hired the cheapest laywer they could find. They disappeared from the market soon after...
" "But if the reviews are unlawful in that they are defamatory, then the John Does’ veil of anonymity may be pierced, provided certain procedural safeguards are met. This is because defamatory speech is not entitled to constitutional protection.
"Yelp, meanwhile, stood fast in its assertion that the case threatens the rights of its users to discuss their experiences honestly and freely. It will appeal to a higher court to scrub the subpoena."
INT, WTF is Yalp yelping about? If customers and commenters want to feel confident, then yelp should STOP this shadiness-appering arrangement of "join us and pay us and the bad ratings can be suppressed" type of thing. I routinely automatically delete yelp emails.
This is one case where I HOPE google is forwarding stats back to the spammers/large-company-mail aggregators. It would, however, be unlikely that google would pummel its own revenue by revealing "80% of your targetted, purported, or one-time subscribers delete your mesages witthout any detectable indication of having scrolled through it. They just change the label to 'spam' or outright delete on site..."
What would truly SUCK is if -- assuming this is not already the case -- yelp and yelp-like companies get ahold of the TLD information and start auto-populating consumer-oriented businesses and pre-populating their ratings with negative and defamatory and scary comments, forcing ALL consumer front-facing entities to rely even more on the companies such as "reputation.com", forcing companies to do damage control on potentially bogus damage before the public even sees it.
What would ensue, likely, is a costly war of attrition between the likes of yelp and companies that just utterly do NOT want to be in the review pools in the first place. Theoretically, yelp need only get wind of an existing or startup company's site or operating permits/licenses, and then force creation of a review page on them, and then somehow-paid commenters not traceable back to yelp give negative review.
Now, in advance of such damage (factual or not), many companies might face the prospect of be FORCED to publicly divulge business transactions in some limited way to make sure that complaints cannot be considered valid unless a corresponding incident or invoice or activity process number can be published by the one making the comment first, then the attacked/slandered/libeled company would upload a detail record indicating what was contracted, what was performed, what was deferred, and what amelioration measures were offered, accepted, rejected, modified, etc.
No business around will go down that path because most companies consider client details to be secret sauce as well as just plain (reasonably) private unless a court action requires revealing them.
I don't recall hearing such venom, dizziness, and upset over Angie's List and such, but then I don't follow them and don't seek out what people say about them. Yelp, otoh, is so out there that they will easily make the headlines, and typically wrt to the negative astroturfing of clients who mostly indicate that the negative review worsened when they told yelp to buzz off.
It seems yelp is becoming or is already a de facto "registry of business births and deaths" wherein yelp decides or sculpts your biz reputation according to how good-to-them a customer you are, from the way I read things.
Yelp would seem to be yet another one of those targets where the NSA could domestically burnish/clean up its reputation if it would use QTLF (Quantum TimeLine Fu) to un-birth companies that enable reputation-destruction of companies unwilling to play review-site-gamesmanship.
OTOH, Reputation.com... Does anyone know their success rate or any involvement with forcing yelp to take down libelous or defamatory or destructive comments? Or, is the problem not yet at a critical mass that gets the attention and smack-down fu of reputation.com? Or, is reputation.com not even geared at fighting with yelp on behalf of complainants? Hell, the way things appear, fetuses, or at the very least business majors, will need "reputation.com" protection even in the proto stages. Imagine if embryonic start-ups started getting listed in yelp. Imagine if would-be investors got soured (the shouldn't, since they have their own vetting channels) because a yelp-like entity (RUDE -- Reputation-Untangling/De-tail-spinning Entity) played some role in altering a company's destiny, curtailed funding, and made money in the process of it. (This could become a movie.... Or a spin-off of one sniffing the topic...)
One last question: If the judge suspended all operations of Yelp and enjoined from review site activities for 18 months yelp in particular based on the preponderence of anguished businesses (large and small) would type of retribution/blow back could there be from elements not often associated with yelp. In the Elliot Ness days, a tool like yelp would be a invincible "protector/enforcer" tool. I wonder how many courts will ponder that idea...
This is opionion and open-air rumination. So, yelp lawyers, stf away from me. I write all this because I am concerened that one day, even seasonal lemonade stand 8-year-olds will have to pay up for digital reputation protection just because someone gets wind of their operation permits. That just is not right, having to fend for your reputation before even having traction or enough growth to garner natural correction rather pay up since every negative comment likely kills off 10x as many prospective clients as one good comment might bring in. It seems to me that yelp's business model significantly depends upon business operators remembering the rule of thumb about how one upset customer can cost you x number (x=/> 5 or 10 customers).....
NSA, step in, amend your charter to be a domestic reputation protector for the weak, and help unburden some of the over-clogged courts, which don't have enough time machines to untangle the oversubscribed court calendars.... Thank you very much....
(Honestly, I only added TWO teaspoons of sugar to my mug of coffee, and nothing else...)
It's a good thing they're defending if it's borderline, but defamation is defamation, trying to be anon doesn't change that.
Guys, get over your petty Yelp phobia. They're not the same company they were in 2010, and it's pretty sad that every story about them ends up with dozens of people piling on about how shady they seem. They're a place to find a new spot to eat tonight, but you'd think they were breaking knees and calling in fake health reports on anyone who doesn't pay them -- something obviously not the case if you actually visit any listing. Even the "sponsored" listings have negative reviews these days.
If a court case opened in 2012 pops up in 2014 and seems (seems) to have a legit claim in the eyes of the judge, then it's going to take yelp (or other companies seemingly operating in similarly) a lot more distancing than 2010 M.O.s.
I know I went on a tear in my prior comment, and it's just rumination/what-iffing, and heavily mentions yelp. Yelp probably indeed is not the only company having its name in the press over ratings scandals, but, it seems that circa 2008, the same "2010" debacle was hovering. If craigslist enabled reputation destruction or took part in benefitting from reputation cleanup after allowing reputation slayers to hide anonymously within craigslist, then CL, too, would similary face user wrath and unmasking orders by an assigned judge.
What yelp might do to help itself is to allow aggrieved customers a way to "freeze" the commenting and turn them off, and act as a sort of "reputation.com" by activly quashing any sites or pages of sites that try to flag-up the things a judge might have ordered yelp to take down permanently or for some cooling-off period to give resuscitation time for an aggrieved company or one that perceived it was damaged.
If a company hurt by ratings (whatever the source of them) is granted a cooling off/sanity-checking period to help a court find out whether the complaining company is imagining things or really is being unfairly or fairly pummelled, then that might be better than constantly-flagged-up negs, and might help expose the hiding of negatives on companies that really are legit targets of negative ratings.
Unfortunately, review sites are triple-edged swords for reviewed entities -- damned if you do, damned if you don't, and re-damned if you change sides.
Something else yelp could do to help itself is by forcing all commenters to review their identities if the comments are overly-slamming and overly-effusively--praising. Oh, wait... That might mean my down-thumbers would be entitled to my email address here... Ouch... I feel a slice from the triple-edged sword severing an artery.... (fading to black....)
Because it is. Deal with it.
The court does not a priori know either Yelp or the posters. The outline for the procedure should proceed from: I have two people who are making opposing claims. One says he has anonymously been defamed. The other says it really happened and they feel intimidated by by the person who claims defamation. The court must protect the second party until such time as there is reasonable cause for the assertion of defamation. The first party simply asserting it is insufficient. Reasonable cause should be something roughly the equivalent of a search warrant. Given the particulars of the case Hadeed should be producing a complete list of his customers that is turned over to an impartial third party. Yelp should be turning over the names of the posters in question. The third party compares the lists, if a given poster is not on the list of customers the poster should have the option of producing a receipt for said services. Hadeed should have the option to refute receipt. If the poster can't produce a receipt or Hadeed can prove the receipt is questionable, then Hadeed's lawyers get the names and he can proceed with a defamation suit.
I may get downvoted for this, but if I needed to pay someone else to do a bit of cleaning (that would only ever be for medical incapacity reasons given my Presbyterian upbringing), I'd probably talk to family members and neighbours about which company to purchases services from. They will have had the actual cleaners in their houses for a period of time, and will be able to judge quality and trustworthiness.
I'm just wondering how relevant one of these rating Web sites can be for local choices like this? Your local pub/coffee shop/church/social club/'third place' might be the best ratings agency?
There is a pretty succint definition of defamation (which can be either spoken "slander" or written "libel") here
If defamation with intent occurred, then the people who defamed the plaintiff can expect some civil or crinimal punishment, particularly if the anonymous defendants are unable to prove their claims and the judge or jury then rules that claims were intended to do harm Of course, they must first identify who made the comments in the first place, hence the interest of this case.
For me, putting a comment onto Yelp is somewhere on a par with running an ad in a newspaper or publishing an article in a consumer choice magazine.
If your business is all about reputation grading, then some due diligence is clearly in order. Should Yelp prohibit anonymous contributions or withdraw the shield from anonymous commentary when required by a subpoena? For the latter, my guess is yes, they may well have to. After that, there are still a lot of legal minefields to navigate, so it is anybody's guess what will happen next.
OTOH, putting something on a public forum (like this one) against a public figure is usually held to a lower standard, given that people in the public eye have to expect a certain amount of mud slinging.
Besides, people wouldn't normally come to the Register or the New York Times to ask about a restaurant or dry cleaner's service. But even if they did, smart posters would probably express their honest opinions and not willingly and deceptively defame a restaurant or dry cleaner's reputation. As far as I recall, expressing one's political views, parodizing or satrically expressing opinions about public figures is stlll OK, even in today's increasingly paranoid cyberspace.
All in all, this would be an interesting test case. Libel and slander cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute effectlvely in the US, perhaps less so in the UK. Most people will settle out of court for a retraction or public apology. Proving that monetary damages were incurred from defamation is also pretty hard.
But I am not sure I'd want our multiple fanboi rantings and the occasional tirades seen on illustrious sites like this one to ever be qualified as defamation (particularly anonymous ones!). But most of us reasonable types take the anonymous with the bad.
I was victim of an attempted MOT scam. You know the very common kind, where the garage gives a list of false "failings" to hopefully generate revenue from the work. Instantly knew it was wrong and withdrew the car, took it to another 'honest' garage who passed it - no work necessary.
So I had all the documentation, false fail and pass to back me up.
Went to YELP and found a wonderfully glorious praising review of the scammers. So I wrote my own honest review of what had happened, to balance things out.
Guess what, my honest review was blocked, the other dishonest one was retained.
Moral of the tale? YELP isn't going to bite the hand that feeds it.
maybe Yelp should just make a decision: either identify (publicly) the reviewers, or accept full legal responsibility itself for the content of the reviews. That way if someone is defamed they can go directly to the entity that put the offending review out there ....
If you are going to say something bad about a person or a company, there should be no right of anonymity.
Free speech does not mean "tell lies about anyone you like with no comeback".
Tripadvisor is another scam website.
Hotels have been blacklisted for trivial reasons, and with no real evidence, (apparently often after they choose not to advertise),
These review sites are a scam, and a waste of time.
"If you are going to say something bad about a person or a company, there should be no right of anonymity." - Do please tell me how exactly under those terms am I supposed to warn others about an EU-based online store that used to be legit, but recently simply pocketed several hundred Euros from me, considering we're talking about a fairly voluminous order of some rather interesting adult toys...? Further investigations show I'm not the only one who got suckered. ...AC, obviously.
Not what I meant, but of course you knew that.
If people are allowed to post lies about others with no comeback, no proof required, and no checking, that is not free speech, it is an open invitation to defamation, and possibly blackmail.
Likewise good reviews should be subject to checking or traceability, simply to prevent shills.
I never pay much attention to these sites, but some people do.
From Judge Petty's opinion: "Moreover, Yelp employs a proprietary algorithm to filter potentially less reliable reviews. These reviews are moved to a separate page that a user can access by clicking on a filtered reviews link at the bottom of a business listing."
So, from the comments above one could deduce that "potentially less reliable" refers to some value of "positive" or "negative" depending on whether the subject business has tithed to Yelp, then?
Hadeed not having customer records shouldn't serve as proof of Hadeed not doing any work for the anon commenters. There is zero legal requirement that requires private companies to keep, or even provide, copies of receipts, invoices or any other transaction records. Most companies do keep those records as they're handy if there's an audit or other problem but you aren't required to keep them.
I've got no horse in this race, but it doesn't seem right that someone can cite documents, or lack therof, that they aren't required to keep, as proof of something occurring or not. That's not only a massive logic failure, it means the anon users can turn this right around and say they have no record of Hadeed providing services to them, but Hadeed is still liable for their damaged rug.
What gets me in all this, is that their might very well be more than a little truth to the anons statements. The first third of my career was in retail and then, as is the case now, businesses just brush off unsubstantiated comments. They let the quality of their offerings and scads of satisfied customers set the record straight.
It's when people get aggressively defensive that you really need to look a bit deeper. As long as there have been merchants there have been unsatisfied customers and the only thing you can do about it is keep satisfying as many people as possible. You certainly don't go attacking potential customers as that leaves you wide open for compounding issues.
An anon Yelp user can now say that Hadeed has and will sue you if you fail to provide a stellar review. You're wide open and vulnerable if you attack the public, it's just dumb.
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You don't actually know anything about law or how the courts work, do you? And you didn't read the judge's opinion so you don't actually know anything about the case or the law underlying the ruling. And you don't feel like finding out anything about it, because it's easier to write shallow posts and give witless advice than read legal documents.
Hey! My stalker is back! Yay!
Don't you think talking about shallow posts and witlessness when your contributions consist almost exclusively of comments on my comments is a bit rich?
I'll have to check my copy of Hoisted by Your Own Petard: Tips to Avoid Saying Stupid Things in Public but I'm pretty sure Anonymous Weekend Stalker is right between the sections dealing with Sad People and Pitiable People.
I can understand how you get bored on the weekends, but there are far healthier things you could be doing with your time than following me around. That kind of behavior is indicative of a number of serious mental health issues, all of which can be managed satisfactorily if you begin treatment before you completely isolate yourself.
Now, kindly go away, and stop stalking me. It was cute at first, but you've been doing this for nearly a year now and that's more than a little creepy. You didn't realize you had been doing it this long did you? That's how obsessions do though. They gradually escalate into full blown problem behaviors.
So either make yourself known, so that I may shame you properly, for your own good (I've read where obsessed people often lose interest when they are dismissed by the person they are obsessed with) or send me Holiday Greeting Cards next year. You address me more often than my mom, therefore you are required to send me Holiday Cards and maybe a token gesture thanking me for providing you with a stage to be heard from.
No hams though, every fucking vendor sends me hams, I got enough this year to give all the staff a free ham and seven more to the homeless shelter. I'm allergic to coconut and some kinds of strawberry flavoring, just steer clear of those things. Booze is always good, but I wouldn't want to put you out by getting me an overly expensive gift. I broke my Spallation Neutron Source Director of Tooling coffee mug in October and they didn't make extras, but if you happen to have one you'd like to give me that would be great. My assistant has a list of acceptable gifts if you are really short on ideas. Contact her and she'll add you to the registry.
I read the article as them not offering the services that they were panned for. IE: Their window cleaning service was reviewed as shoddy, sub-standard work; but they don't do windows.
The other way, that they had no record of having the reviewers as clients does not make much sense, as I don't think you could supply an invoice to "Anonymous."
I don't have an issue with Hadeed having the customer list to prove they aren't his customers. That seems to me to be allowable as a probable cause argument to move it to court for a full test. Where I have a problem is with that being sufficient for him to get the names of the anon posters.
I think it isn't fairly resolvable without both parties submitting their initial claims to an impartial third party. And I think it is critical because the third party establishes a baseline before claims start shifting. If Hadeed doesn't produce a complete list, or there are ways that people who are his customers don't get on the list, that should go to his credibility. Likewise if the anon posters weren't his customers I have nothing against stringing them up on the nearest tree. But there's a lot of room for mistakes and misunderstandings in making those determinations, and I think it should proceed with more due diligence than is present in the court decision.
Can you? I use Amazon and never realized that. Why should it even be necessary?
The reason people are down on Amazon reviews is because anyone can place a review on a product without having purchased it. It practically encourages trolling, enables astroturfing (both positive and negative), and colludes with both libelous competitors and con-artist sellers.
It would be like placing eBay feedback on a trader without ever having traded with them. It harms the customer or future buyer, and it harms the seller (for products on the Amazon Marketplace). Guess whom it doesn't harm?
Ask yourself why Amazon would have such a seemingly ridiculous policy and you will answer your own q.
Did you read my comment ?
Yes, anyone *can* place a review on Amazon. But Amazon tell you if that person actually *bought* the item they are reviewing.
Thus empowering you to make you own mind up.
I find it fascinating to see reviews for DVDs which have yet to be released, from the ignorati. There was one (which rightfully drew some cutting comments) for a comedians live DVD from someone who said "I don't like him on telly, so this will be pants".
You've got several issues here:
- free speech
- the right to defend one's reputation
I'm normally with the free speech crowd and (limited) anonymity, but when it comes to people actually making very damaging claims against either another person or a company then those claims need to be examined.
However. I think Yelp's resistance in handing over the personal details of the posters is something that I think they need to do due to their business model. More importantly it stops a trend of social media companies (in fact, any type of company) handing over members details carte-blanche & without challenge. If this resistance disappeared then I think we'd have something to worry about.
So, the process should go as it has:
- plaintive asks for users details as they claim to have been slandered
- yelp resists this
- court makes a decision against yelp
- yelp resists again and appeals
- higher court makes a decision against yelp
- yelp resists and once more appeals
- even higher court makes final decision
- posters data is then handed over or not depending on outcome
The above is, although not perfect, a justifiable process. the only down side is that the lawyers get rich and every other bugger gets poorer. However, it does discourage companies casually going after people unless they feel that they have a genuine grievance.
I don't see that continuing to iterate the process without addressing the underlying issue advances the cause of justice. Both the claim of defamation and the claim of bad service with fear of retaliation must be viewed as possible but suspect. Until the courts have probable cause one way or the other, the posters should remain anonymous. And a third party seems necessary to determining probable cause.
Yelp can only provide plaintiffs with the details *they chose to retain*.
If they don't keep logs, don't hold any identifying information, they can shrug their shoulders, turn over an empty envelope, and say 'hey we complied - we gave them all the information we have...'
This has been an ongoing problem for hotels and similar businesses for years with TripAdvisor. So called customers or visitors post mischievous reviews that cannot be taken down. In some cases it has destroyed them. Far too many sites allow any old review posting and then absolve themselves of all responsibility when asked to take action to remove content. The list of offenders includes the likes of:
The ease with which erroneous of blatantly vindictive information can be made public, anonymously is something the law has not caught up with. The main issue is that the poster can be in one country and the hosting company in another. There is simply not enough cooperation between Governments and law enforcement authorities to resolve these sorts of issues in a timely manner. There is a very big difference between censorship and responsibility. This opens the next can of worms where people rant that by removing these sorts of posts, the internet is being censored. If this material were to be published by the media, the editors and directors would be getting the cheque books out every other day as it would be deemed to be libellous or defamatory.
The Internet is rapidly becoming a repository for endless volumes of misinformation, or in many cause downright dangerous. How many times as an IT Professional do you search for something to find 99% of the results are idiotic postings along the lines of “Oh, I had this problem and I did this…. But it did not work”. It was never ever going to work in the first place, and worse still the “did not work” is often a response for “it totally shafted my computer and I had to reinstall it from scratch”.
Entire forums are full of this drivel as there appear to significant number of the population that just want to post something. It matters not what it is, if it is relevant or sensible.
To sum up, the Internet as we know it is not far off broken and before long that will be broken and beyond repair.