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Jan. 02, 2013

Virginia Court Says Comments on Yelp Should Not Be Squelched

Ruling Confirms That Injunction Against Negative Reviews Amounts to Censorship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a positive move for free speech on the Internet, a Virginia court has lifted an injunction against a woman who posted criticisms on Yelp about a contractor.

The court’s Dec. 28 decision was in response to an appeal filed by Public Citizen, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, to end a Fairfax County judge’s injunction against a woman who was being sued by someone about whom she made negative comments on the Internet review site Yelp. The groups said the injunction violated the First Amendment.

Jane Perez had been ordered to remove parts of a negative review she made about a contractor named Christopher Dietz. She also was barred from repeating those claims in other reviews. Public Citizen argued that the contractor could get damages if, after a full trial, a jury agrees that Perez made false claims about him that meet the standard for libel. Because such a process has not occurred, forcing Perez to remove her comments amounted to censorship.

“The decision confirms the importance of not shutting down public discussion on the Internet just because someone doesn’t like what’s being talked about,” said Paul Alan Levy, an attorney for Public Citizen. “Review sites like Yelp are vehicles for the free flow of ideas by helping consumers make informed decisions on how to spend their hard-earned dollars.”

To read the court’s decision and other case documents, please visit http://www.citizen.org/litigation/forms/cases/getlinkforcase.cfm?cID=794.

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