A ruling from a Virginia Court of Appeals has rendered anonymous reviews unprotected, at least in Virginia. The popular online review website Yelp is at the center of litigation regarding the legitimacy of anonymous reviews. On one side is Yelp, whose terms of service explicitly ban users from posting faked reviews that are negative or positive. On the other side are the businesses hurt by these reviews.
This landmark case will shape the landscape of online reviews for some time to come. The plaintiff’s case seems to mirror the plight of so many businesses with reputation and image problems. Yelp uses an automated system to deal with spoofed reviews, which it claims is capable of dealing with these fakes. Yet the fact remains that fake reviews have become an industry in and of themselves. While this court ruling does little to improve these conditions, it does set the precedent for future cases.