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Slanderous Reviewers can be Sued

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YellowSocks

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I have read a couple of articles lately (including one in Parade magazine today) that there have been several lawsuits lately where the courts have sided with the recipient of the bad review. One was a case of a landlord in Chicago whose tenant claimed the building had mold.
It is still a free country and you can still say what you like, but slander and libel have never been legal and if you can show that a false or malicious review cost you monetarily you can sue for damages... and the courts have been supporting that position.
=)
Kk.
 

Copperhead

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And once TA becomes part of a suit, which they could for posting such false reviews and looses, they may open their eyes to address management's rebuttals more closely.
Let it be said that I am not a sue happy person at all, in fact quite the opposite but sometimes it takes a hit in the pocket for someone (some companies) to see the error of their ways.
 

Don Draper

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I truly think this is happening with TA already, it's why I think it's gotten much easier to have a false review removed. AMEN!
 

EmptyNest

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I truly think this is happening with TA already, it's why I think it's gotten much easier to have a false review removed. AMEN!.
Do you know that for sure? Has TA ACTUALLY been sued by anyone??? WHO KNOWS??? JAY perhaps????
 

Don Draper

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I truly think this is happening with TA already, it's why I think it's gotten much easier to have a false review removed. AMEN!.
Do you know that for sure? Has TA ACTUALLY been sued by anyone??? WHO KNOWS??? JAY perhaps????
.
I don't know anything for sure, but just know from area innkeepers that by simply writing and explaining that a guest never stayed there or that it was patently false the reviews were taken down very quickly. A fellow innkeeper here is also an attorney and she has been amazed that they haven't been hit with a libel suit before. At the very least, there should be a simple way to have your place removed from TA if you choose, which I don't know if you can do now or not.
 

EmptyNest

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I truly think this is happening with TA already, it's why I think it's gotten much easier to have a false review removed. AMEN!.
Do you know that for sure? Has TA ACTUALLY been sued by anyone??? WHO KNOWS??? JAY perhaps????
.
I don't know anything for sure, but just know from area innkeepers that by simply writing and explaining that a guest never stayed there or that it was patently false the reviews were taken down very quickly. A fellow innkeeper here is also an attorney and she has been amazed that they haven't been hit with a libel suit before. At the very least, there should be a simple way to have your place removed from TA if you choose, which I don't know if you can do now or not.
.
http://www.bbb.org/boston/business-reviews/internet-services/tripadvisor-inc-in-newton-ma-95286/#rating
 

EmptyNest

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I truly think this is happening with TA already, it's why I think it's gotten much easier to have a false review removed. AMEN!.
Do you know that for sure? Has TA ACTUALLY been sued by anyone??? WHO KNOWS??? JAY perhaps????
.
I don't know anything for sure, but just know from area innkeepers that by simply writing and explaining that a guest never stayed there or that it was patently false the reviews were taken down very quickly. A fellow innkeeper here is also an attorney and she has been amazed that they haven't been hit with a libel suit before. At the very least, there should be a simple way to have your place removed from TA if you choose, which I don't know if you can do now or not.
.
I believe you have to PROVE..somehow to them that the review is fradulent. As far as them being libel..they are not writing the reviews...only providing the means for someone to post their own review.
I don't think we need to discuss this more here as there is already threads dealing with TA. We don't need to go there again. :)
 

gillumhouse

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I think this IS something that needs discussion BUT if Jay could wade in on this to say if there HAS been a suit or not. The general attitude among innkeepers up to now has been the same as John Q Public about City Hall - you can't fight them - so just roll over or "assume the position". This gives hope that perhaps you CAN fight it. We just need more solid information rather than speculation or opinion.
 

Don Draper

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I think this IS something that needs discussion BUT if Jay could wade in on this to say if there HAS been a suit or not. The general attitude among innkeepers up to now has been the same as John Q Public about City Hall - you can't fight them - so just roll over or "assume the position". This gives hope that perhaps you CAN fight it. We just need more solid information rather than speculation or opinion..
I agree. I wonder how much info will be available though, you know if there is or has been a lawsuit they would play it very close to the vest. I'll be very interested to hear if Jay has any info.
 

seashanty

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really ... something has to be done about the so-called unbiased reviews that are false. if a guest has a bad stay, they have a right to tell about it and complaining type folks tend to complain loud.
pandora's box has already been opened with all the reviews posted all over the place and not just for hotels and b&b's.
now, just for some comic relief
Amazon hijacked: 10 funniest review threads
[h2]Reviews posted by Amazon customers have become one of the online retailer's most useful and popular features. But they are open to abuse by mischievous commenters.[/h2]
 

ginocat

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Lawyers in your country make good money, eh? Really - sue the review forums??? Ridiculous!!! People need to get over it. It makes it sound like every bad review is a fake and that's not true. Maybe we should sue when we see a bunch of good reviews. They "obviously" have been placed there by the owners friends, etc.......
Actually, I know of more than one BB that has had wonderful reviews written by friends and relatives. That's why when I read reviews I sometimes knock off the best and the worst and then decide.
 

YellowSocks

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I'm not sure you could sue TA for bad reviews... only if they knew the reviews were fradulent and refused to remove them. The person at fault would be the one who posted the review originally. If it's false, it's libel, and there are laws about that. If it's true, though.... then you don't have as much you can do about it.
Here's a link to one of the articles I read: http://www.parade.com/news/intelligence-report/archive/090920-online-comments-spark-lawsuits.html. Actually, here's the entire article...
Online Comments Spark Lawsuits
The Internet can seem like an open forum for people to rant and rave. But more and more, individuals are being held to account for what they write. A Chicago realty company sued a tenant this summer for $50,000 after she wrote online that her apartment was moldy. Another blogger was ordered to pay $1.8 million after calling someone a “failed lawyer.” A suit filed by a chiropractor who received a negative review online was settled out of court.
Many of us rely on Web reviews for honest feedback about everything from restaurants to electronics to doctors. But when does opinion cross the line into libel?
“People have the right to free speech,” explains Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends digital rights. “But they’ve never had the right to defame someone. They still don’t.” The general rule is that you can be held responsible for spreading false statements that hurt someone’s reputation, whether you post them online, publish them in a newspaper, or whisper them at a cocktail party. If you want to write a negative review online, your best bet is to stick to the facts of your experience without drawing conclusions about a person’s character. “If you say you didn’t like someone, that’s fine,” says David Miranda, an intellectual property attorney. If you say you think he’s an embezzler and he’s not, you’ve gone too far.”
— Rebecca Webber
What's interesting to me is that this is the second or third thing I've seen in the past week or so about this subject.
=)
Kk.
 

gillumhouse

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I'm not sure you could sue TA for bad reviews... only if they knew the reviews were fradulent and refused to remove them. The person at fault would be the one who posted the review originally. If it's false, it's libel, and there are laws about that. If it's true, though.... then you don't have as much you can do about it.
Here's a link to one of the articles I read: http://www.parade.com/news/intelligence-report/archive/090920-online-comments-spark-lawsuits.html. Actually, here's the entire article...
Online Comments Spark Lawsuits
The Internet can seem like an open forum for people to rant and rave. But more and more, individuals are being held to account for what they write. A Chicago realty company sued a tenant this summer for $50,000 after she wrote online that her apartment was moldy. Another blogger was ordered to pay $1.8 million after calling someone a “failed lawyer.” A suit filed by a chiropractor who received a negative review online was settled out of court.
Many of us rely on Web reviews for honest feedback about everything from restaurants to electronics to doctors. But when does opinion cross the line into libel?
“People have the right to free speech,” explains Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends digital rights. “But they’ve never had the right to defame someone. They still don’t.” The general rule is that you can be held responsible for spreading false statements that hurt someone’s reputation, whether you post them online, publish them in a newspaper, or whisper them at a cocktail party. If you want to write a negative review online, your best bet is to stick to the facts of your experience without drawing conclusions about a person’s character. “If you say you didn’t like someone, that’s fine,” says David Miranda, an intellectual property attorney. If you say you think he’s an embezzler and he’s not, you’ve gone too far.”
— Rebecca Webber
What's interesting to me is that this is the second or third thing I've seen in the past week or so about this subject.
=)
Kk..
Exactly, and I misspoke in my intiial response - it is NOT TA that would be sued - it is the person who posted the false - slanderous, libelous - review. It is not to intimidate TA or other review sites, what should happen with this publicity is that people who are posting reviews that are - as Samster had - a personal atack, finding out they are not as anonymous as they thought and they can be sued for slander. It may cut down on the reviews that damage our businesses.
 

Don Draper

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I'm not sure you could sue TA for bad reviews... only if they knew the reviews were fradulent and refused to remove them. The person at fault would be the one who posted the review originally. If it's false, it's libel, and there are laws about that. If it's true, though.... then you don't have as much you can do about it.
Here's a link to one of the articles I read: http://www.parade.com/news/intelligence-report/archive/090920-online-comments-spark-lawsuits.html. Actually, here's the entire article...
Online Comments Spark Lawsuits
The Internet can seem like an open forum for people to rant and rave. But more and more, individuals are being held to account for what they write. A Chicago realty company sued a tenant this summer for $50,000 after she wrote online that her apartment was moldy. Another blogger was ordered to pay $1.8 million after calling someone a “failed lawyer.” A suit filed by a chiropractor who received a negative review online was settled out of court.
Many of us rely on Web reviews for honest feedback about everything from restaurants to electronics to doctors. But when does opinion cross the line into libel?
“People have the right to free speech,” explains Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends digital rights. “But they’ve never had the right to defame someone. They still don’t.” The general rule is that you can be held responsible for spreading false statements that hurt someone’s reputation, whether you post them online, publish them in a newspaper, or whisper them at a cocktail party. If you want to write a negative review online, your best bet is to stick to the facts of your experience without drawing conclusions about a person’s character. “If you say you didn’t like someone, that’s fine,” says David Miranda, an intellectual property attorney. If you say you think he’s an embezzler and he’s not, you’ve gone too far.”
— Rebecca Webber
What's interesting to me is that this is the second or third thing I've seen in the past week or so about this subject.
=)
Kk..
Exactly, and I misspoke in my intiial response - it is NOT TA that would be sued - it is the person who posted the false - slanderous, libelous - review. It is not to intimidate TA or other review sites, what should happen with this publicity is that people who are posting reviews that are - as Samster had - a personal atack, finding out they are not as anonymous as they thought and they can be sued for slander. It may cut down on the reviews that damage our businesses.
.
If there was a suit brought against someone for WRITING a false review, TA CAN be held accountable for keeping it posted and not taking it down.
 

Copperhead

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I'm not sure you could sue TA for bad reviews... only if they knew the reviews were fradulent and refused to remove them. The person at fault would be the one who posted the review originally. If it's false, it's libel, and there are laws about that. If it's true, though.... then you don't have as much you can do about it.
Here's a link to one of the articles I read: http://www.parade.com/news/intelligence-report/archive/090920-online-comments-spark-lawsuits.html. Actually, here's the entire article...
Online Comments Spark Lawsuits
The Internet can seem like an open forum for people to rant and rave. But more and more, individuals are being held to account for what they write. A Chicago realty company sued a tenant this summer for $50,000 after she wrote online that her apartment was moldy. Another blogger was ordered to pay $1.8 million after calling someone a “failed lawyer.” A suit filed by a chiropractor who received a negative review online was settled out of court.
Many of us rely on Web reviews for honest feedback about everything from restaurants to electronics to doctors. But when does opinion cross the line into libel?
“People have the right to free speech,” explains Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends digital rights. “But they’ve never had the right to defame someone. They still don’t.” The general rule is that you can be held responsible for spreading false statements that hurt someone’s reputation, whether you post them online, publish them in a newspaper, or whisper them at a cocktail party. If you want to write a negative review online, your best bet is to stick to the facts of your experience without drawing conclusions about a person’s character. “If you say you didn’t like someone, that’s fine,” says David Miranda, an intellectual property attorney. If you say you think he’s an embezzler and he’s not, you’ve gone too far.”
— Rebecca Webber
What's interesting to me is that this is the second or third thing I've seen in the past week or so about this subject.
=)
Kk..
Exactly, and I misspoke in my intiial response - it is NOT TA that would be sued - it is the person who posted the false - slanderous, libelous - review. It is not to intimidate TA or other review sites, what should happen with this publicity is that people who are posting reviews that are - as Samster had - a personal atack, finding out they are not as anonymous as they thought and they can be sued for slander. It may cut down on the reviews that damage our businesses.
.
If there was a suit brought against someone for WRITING a false review, TA CAN be held accountable for keeping it posted and not taking it down.
.
Innisder, you are correct. IF TA does not take down a false review after being informed that the person never stayed at the hotel and they do not presue to hold the review writer accountable to prove their stay , it CAN be held liable in a court of law as they were providing the means for the false review to be seen. (i.e. - lets say Joe Blow reporter wrote a false and damaging article in the MY CITY newspaper, it is not the reporter that gets sued, it is both the reporter and the newspaper)
SS, it is when attorneys file a class action suit that it becomes worth their while to take on a case such as this ... not just one lonely B&B or independent hotel filing a suit, that just isn't practical IMMHO. Now if a big name hotel corporate office decided to sue, after receiving many complaints from it's franchisees of issues such as the examples posted, that would have a large impact. (Trouble with that scenario is that most BIG name hotel changes make more money through TA than without it, and it is the small franchisee that has the burden of the false review. And if that hotel only has one false review, it most likely will have very little impact on their business )
 

cmonahan

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Law only sides with the receipent of the review when facts are stated in the review.
In your example the writer specifically mentions 'the building had mold' as a statement of fact.
In cases where the writer only expresses personal opinion, law will side with the writer. For example if the writer says 'it smelled like mold', that is an expression of opinion.
 

jkarennj

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Law only sides with the receipent of the review when facts are stated in the review.
In your example the writer specifically mentions 'the building had mold' as a statement of fact.
In cases where the writer only expresses personal opinion, law will side with the writer. For example if the writer says 'it smelled like mold', that is an expression of opinion..
Innkeepers and hoteliers are in an unfortunate position when it comes to wanting to sue for libel in the case of online reviews. The law today protects sites like TripAdvisor. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act essentially protects web sites that allow people to post content, such as reviews of B&Bs. It was a law that passed many years ago before the whole online review phenomenon was even around, yet the broad net now includes that type of online content. The ones making the libelous comments are the reviewers, even though TripAdvisor is publishing it. There are different standards for internet publishers and print publishers. The ones to sue would be the reviewers, but when they are anonymous, it makes it difficult for you to sue. And as far as I know, websites do not have to reveal who is behind the "anonymous" reviews.
I interviewed an experienced cyberlaw attorney for my blog many months ago about this very topic. Click here to listen to it.
I don't think anyone has brought legal action against TripAdvisor at this point, although I'm sure thousands of suits have been threatened.
I have a hunch things are going to change in the online review game over the next several years. More and more sites, I believe, will have a verification system that will either allow only those who have actually purchased the product or service to leave reviews, or at minimum distinguish reviews from proven customers from those who have not been verified buyers. It's already happening on other popular sites, and I plan to ask TripAdvisor's CEO, Steve Kaufer, about this very matter when he participates in a Q&A with me on stage at the New England Innkeeping Conference & Trade Show this November.
 

seashanty

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i am curious to know how a site such as trip advisor or bandb.com or any of the many many sites that encourage reviews would be able to tell if a reviewer stayed at the place they were submitting a review for.
what would constitute proof of stay?
and that's just the beginning .....
 

wendydk

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i am curious to know how a site such as trip advisor or bandb.com or any of the many many sites that encourage reviews would be able to tell if a reviewer stayed at the place they were submitting a review for.
what would constitute proof of stay?
and that's just the beginning ......
I would imagine a receipt or bill of some kind, or show a credit card charge to the property(?)
 

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