Why suing to have negative reviews removed is a waste of money
“We’ll have our lawyer contact Yelp and they’ll remove the review”. It’s a common response from organizations who have seen damage from negative online reviews. It’s also dead wrong.
Yelp in particular has been at the center of a number of lawsuits which seek to fight review sites’ right to display user-generated rankings. And Yelp has won, every single time. The latest clash to hit the press involves a libel suit filed by a Washington locksmith company whose owner claims Yelp allowed a rating for a different business to be placed on his page in an attempt to extort him to pay for on-page advertising.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case and ruled against the business owner, with the three-judge panel calling the allegations “threadbare” and stating there simply was no evidence that Yelp falsified or fabricated content.
“We fail to see how Yelp’s rating system, which is based on rating inputs from third parties and which reduces this information into a single, aggregate metric is anything other than user-generated data.” — Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown
This is just one in a long string of rulings that makes quite clear that a lawsuit won’t make your online reputation woes go away. Courts have been unanimous in upholding the right for websites to display user-generated ratings, regardless of the damage they do to the businesses named or how nebulous the working of systems like review filters may be.
If your organization doesn’t have a plan to protect its online reputation that starts with a stakeholders’ first interaction then you’re eventually going to run into trouble. While you can certainly work to repair a reputation once it’s damaged, it’s much easier (and, let’s speak to what really counts in the minds of many business owners, less expensive) to build a cushion of protection before you take a big hit.