San Francisco Ruling Says Libelous Review Can Stay


Have you ever been concerned that leaving a negative review online might come back to haunt you? Maybe you had a poor experience with a particular employee or you ordered a product that was defective, but whatever the details are, it can be scary to vent all of your feelings onto such a public space. For Ava Bird, leaving poor feedback about her former lawyer turned ugly – fast.

While the details are a bit vague, the story is as follows: Bird hired San Francisco attorney Dawn Hassell to represent her and after parting ways, left a negative review for her on Yelp. Eventually, the case made it to court, where a judge ruled that Yelp was required to remove the review due to libelous claims. However, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially reversed this decision, noting that federal laws are in place to protect online platforms from this kind of situation.

Although the 1996 Communications Decency Act did offer protection in this instance, allowing Yelp to essentially stay out of the equation, it still leaves an open door for individuals to fall victim to a lawsuit based on their words. It’s a fine line between exercising your right to free speech and ensuring that you aren’t damaging the reputation of someone in a profound way.

Pointing To A Problem

Some larger organizations are really recognizing just how instrumental their platforms can be, both for good and bad, and are taking actions against these kinds of issues. Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube all have these types of situations on their radars and without completely overhauling their policies, are making efforts toward protecting users as well as themselves.

These types of situations will certainly be handled differently across the nation, but in California, the results of this case worked to shine a light on a huge problem. According to the judge’s ruling, it was determined that even the most threatening or private information, photos, or videos could not be taken down with a court order. That means that theoretically, anyone can post anything about you, anywhere, and not have to deal with any sort of consequences.

Is this kind of freedom of speech helpful when trying to provide genuine feedback about others, or are we entering into dangerous technological territory?

Having been bitten by the writing bug at the young age of 6, Courtney gets to live her dream every day by creating content for a wide range of clients. When she’s not typing away at the computer, she loves spending time with her two sons in the Pacific NW.


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