No First Amendment Rights for You: Court Cracks Down on Yelp-ing


Photo credit: Unnormalized, Flickr

Fans of Yelp-ing bitter restaurant reviews under anonymous names, it might be time to start watching your words: The Virginia Court of Appeals ruled this week that Yelp must reveal the identities of seven extremely negative reviewers of a carpet cleaning company.

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning of Alexandria, Virginia believes that seven negative reviews were written by “customers” who don’t actually exist. (The implication is that the reviews were posted by a competing company.) The United States Supreme Court, according to this Atlantic piece, has traditionally upheld First Amendment rights except when they extend into the realm of defamatory speech. The Virginia Court of Appeals reiterated that position: “Defamatory speech is not entitled to constitutional protection.”

It’s fascinating stuff for Constitutional law nerds and a death knell for anonymous Internet flame-throwers. But will Yelp be as entertaining once it’s free from one star reviews like…

Langer’s Deli, Los Angeles, California

The iconic Los Angeles deli with 4.5 Yelp stars is famed for its salty service and a pastrami sandwich one of its 1,987 reviewers calls “the sandwich of gods.” Not everyone agrees:


Alinea, Chicago, Illinois

Grant Achatz, you may have a James Beard Award and your restaurant may routinely be considered among the best in the world, but your fellow Chicagoan Marty is not happy with you:


The Clam Shack, Kennebunk, Maine

Yeah, yeah, Clam Shack, so your lobster roll was just named the best in New England (and thus, the world, right?) But Bill T. has some sage words for you:


Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas

This is the best brisket this writer has ever tasted. She waited three hours in the Texas sun to try it and had the sunburn to prove it. But such an experience is causing folks who can’t sample said brisket to leave angry reviews:


The Brooklyn Bridge

It’s not just restaurants that have been feeling the Yelp heat. Though it’s considered by most to be an architectural landmark, too bad for you, Brooklyn Bridge. You get one star for:


Good thing bridges can’t sue.

[The Washington Times via Grub Street]