Bad Reviews on Yelp? SCOTUS Doesn’t Want to Hear It

January 24, 2019

You may not be happy with an unfair online review you received that you feel is damaging your business. But you may have little recourse in court to have it removed if the online site chooses not to. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a case against the online reviewing site Yelp. The case involved Yelp’s refusal to remove allegedly defamatory reviews from its website, stemming from a 2016 defamation lawsuit.

Supreme Court and Yelp reviews

© Audtakorn Sutarmjam/EyeEm - EyeEm/Getty Images

In the lawsuit, attorney Dawn Hassell accused former client Ava Bird of leaving false, negative claims about her in a Yelp review. Yelp was issued a court order to remove the posted content in question but refused, citing Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act that protected it from censorship. The California Supreme Court sided in Yelp’s favor, ruling they did not have to remove the negative review. The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court has refused to review the ruling. Therefore, the California Supreme Court ruling stands.

Yelp applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s dismissal. “We are happy to see the Supreme Court has ended Hassell’s efforts to sidestep the law to compel Yelp to remove online reviews,” Yelp wrote in a statement. “This takes away a tool that could have been easily abused by litigants to obtain easy removal of entirely truthful consumer opinions.”

Section 230 protects web services like Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook from being held liable for user-posted content.