The Big Chill

Just to be clear, this is not a review of the classic 1983 film which features one of the greatest sound track in movie history Sorry if I’ve disappointed anyone. This post concerns a case in Virginia wherein a contractor is suing a disgruntled former client based on comments the client posted on Yelp. The court in the case has ordered that certain of the comments be removed immediately. That’s an unusual ruling to say the least. Some folks worry about the chilling effect that this case may have on people’s ability to post online reviews. And that concern is legitimate. But once again, it’s important to remember that the Web is just a form of communication. It doesn’t change underlying legal principles. The First Amendment protects opinions in whatever form they’re published. But it doesn’t necessarily protect false statements of fact, even if those facts show up in an opinionated review. In her Yelp posting in the Virginia case, the former client accused the contractor of stealing her jewelry. That’s not an opinion. And if it’s false, the person who makes that accusation might have a problem. Internet or no Internet.