No judge has the authority to force Yelp Inc (NYSE:YELP) to reveal the names of the individuals who wrote negative reviews about a carpet cleaning agency in Virginia. This is the ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court.
The court dismissed the cleaning company’s defamation claim. The agency had introduced the case purporting that Yelp was going against the first amendment protection for anonymous speech. The court claimed that the carpet cleaner should take the case to California as it is Yelp’s headquarters as well as its database.
The lawyer representing Hadeed Carpet Cleaning said that the company has not yet decided whether it will take the case forward as suggested by the Virginia Supreme Court. There are chances that the business may try to appeal for help from the Virginia general assembly to follow up the case with other businesses with the same problem but existing outside the state.
The current decision by the Supreme Court has somehow shattered the hopes of businesses affected by negative comments posted on Yelp. The carpet cleaning business had plans to sue for defamation from seven individuals who had posted negative commentary related to the business. However, the business was unable to fulfill this mission as a result of Yelp’s refusal to disclose the identities of the seven individuals. A lesser court had ruled against Yelp, ordering the company to release the names. However, Yelp Inc (NYSE:YELP) successfully challenged the decision at the Supreme Court.
The case has been controversial, with the argument that negative remarks were allowed just as much as positive ones. Hadeed Carpet cleaning agency was challenged to prove that the negative remarks were false, in which case the company would obtain the right to sue successfully. The anonymity in favor of Yelp was deemed as a justified victory. However, the case might yield loopholes if further probing continues. In the meantime, it is obligated to keep user identities anonymous according to the company policy.