Freedom of Speech Suit Makes a Case for Reputation Management
An ongoing case in the Virginia Supreme Court proves that managing your online reputation is more important than ever. The business Hadeed Carpet Cleaning received seven negative anonymous appraisals through online reviewing platform Yelp. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning’s owner, Joe Hadeed, is suing those reviewers, because he believes these reviews are in fact not from his customers, but from business competitors trying to destroy his reputation. This is exactly why business owners need to promote and defend their online reputations.
Hadeed’s attorneys sent a subpoena to Yelp, hoping to obtain the reviewers’ identities. Yelp, however, ignored the subpoena, claiming that reviewers had a right to anonymity and that their opinions were protected whether positive or negative in nature. Yelp attorneys believe that divulging the information would violate the reviewers’ constitutional right to free speech. This, in turn, would set a dangerous precedent that might discourage business patrons from posting honest reviews on Yelp.
Hadeed’s argument, however is this: the Yelp review is only protected if it is an honest customer opinion. If, in fact it was not posted by a customer of Hadeed’s, it will be deemed a defamatory statement and therefore not an opinion protected under the first amendment.
If the Virginia Supreme Court agrees with Hadeed’s lawyers, the decision may prove unpopular since many believe this case lacks evidence to suggest that the reviews are inauthentic. Whether you are an attorney arguing in the Virginia Supreme Court, or a car accident lawyer in PG County MD , you know a case is difficult to win without evidence. Hadeed seems to believe he can win this case and is willing to go to court to defend his business’s name. Of course it would be best to avoid going to court in the first place. To prevent a situation like Hadeed’s, there are many ways to lessen the impact of negative reviews: tackle customer complaints as soon as they arise, collect and respond to all client feedback, and control your brand’s search results on the web. Trust your brand to a firm that offers you Search Engine Optimization, Online Reputation Management and Web Design, so as to protect your business’s good name online.