Consumer review sites continue to grow in popularity. Sites like Angie's List, Avvo, and Yelp (to name but a few) allow people to post their experiences with lawyers, doctors, hairdressers, restaurants, roofers, and just about anyone else, and assign a rating to the service provider they used. When used honestly, these sites can provide a benefit to consumers. But they can also provide a mechanism for bogus reviews intended to maliciously destroy a business's reputation. Here in Virginia, negative reviews are often the subject of defamation lawsuits.
In general, the First Amendment protects expressions of opinions on these sites. All legitimate reviews, both positive and negative, can help consumers come to well-informed conclusions. Negative reviews, however, cross the line if they include false statements of fact. Consumers are free to express unfavorable opinions regarding their experiences with a service provider, but the First Amendment does not allow them to defame the service provider by posting false information.
Read the rest of the article at the Virginia Business Litigation Lawyer blog.
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