Yelp Ordered to Surrender User Data by Virginia Court

yelp-logoA new ruling from the Virginia Court of Appeals is forcing Yelp to reveal the names of seven anonymous users that left bad reviews of a carpet care business. The ruling looks at the legitimacy of online reviews that cannot be verified through traditional means. Yelp currently allows users full posting rights as anonymous, believing that everyone should have the right to express their opinions without identifying themselves personally. The courts, apparently, disagree.

Drawing on a pre-existing statute, the Virginia court ruled that the reviews presented significant enough risk to the business that the owner was justified in requesting the user data. This case falls under well defined laws in the state of Virginia, but the rest of the US is still reeling from the verdict. Will this ruling forever jeopardize a user’s right to post a negative review of a business anonymously?

Is free speech the same as false advertising? Where should the legal line be drawn? In a recent Search Engine Journal article, our CEO Pierre Zarokian explores the issue in depth, examining the ramifications of this landmark ruling.

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