A Virginia trial-court recently ordered Yelp to reveal the identity of seven anonymous reviewers complaining against Hadeed Carpe Cleaning in Washington. The carpet cleaning service then sued the reviewers for libel and defamation.
The libel suit claimed that the seven anonymous complaints came from the seven defendants, who were actually Hadeed’s competitors rather than real customers. Alexandria Circuit Court Judge James Clark determined that because Hadeed claimed the seven reviewers represented themselves under false pretenses, it met the standard of the state law that allowed for disclosure of their identity.
Yesterday, Yelp and Public Citizen Litigation Group filed an appeal, contending hat Judge Clark’s ruling did not meet the Virginia statute hat requires the disclosure of anonymous names when their identity is central to claims against them. Public Citizen claims the Virginia isn’t clearly defined. They also state that other states with more clearly defined laws have had rulings that disagree with Judge Clark’s.
“Every other appellate court has held, whether under the First Amendment or under state procedures, that anonymous defendants are entitled to demand that the plaintiff make a factual showing, not just that the anonymous defendant has made critical statements, but also that the statements are actionable and that there is an evidentiary basis for the prima facie elements of the claim,” the brief said.
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