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SCOTUS Lets Bad Yelp Review Live

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 23, 2019 3:05 PM

A recently rejected petition for cert. filed by President Trump's go-to defamation lawyer sought to force Yelp to take down a review that a California court had initially ordered to be taken down, before the California Supreme Court ruled otherwise. And now SCOTUS will let that ruling stand.

The ruling is big news for internet companies as the petition sought to challenge the federal immunity granted to online platforms for what their users publish. And if you've been on any social media platforms, ever, you know that none would exist, or be worth using, nor as popular, without that immunity.

Behind the Bad Review

The take down order was issued by the California court to both the individual that wrote the allegedly libelous review and to Yelp, and it was issued after a default judgment.

However, the big caveat here is that Yelp was ordered to remove the review (along with the individual), but Yelp was never a party to the case. In its appeals in state court, it argued that under Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as an online platform, it could not be held liable for what users post. In the end, the California Supreme Court, and apparently the U.S. Supreme Court, agreed with Yelp.

Notably, Yelp reviewed the allegedly libelous review and did not find that it met their own standards for being removed, and thus did not remove it. And of particular interest for our readers, the bad review actually involved a law firm and an angry client whom the firm withdrew from representing. And perhaps the most shocking fact is that the court not only ordered that Yelp, a non-party, take down the review, it also ordered over half a million in damages.

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