This past week a judge ruled that a dissatisfied customer called Jane Perez must take down portions of a negative review she posted on Yelp which accuses contractor Christopher Dietz of shoddy work, doing damage to her home, and even alleged theft. Dietz, it turns out, is suing Ms. Perez for $750,000 on the grounds that her review is libelous.
The lawsuit is, not surprisingly, a warning of sorts to people who take to Yelp and other online forums to rant and rave about businesses. But could a comment about your terrible meatloaf at the local diner land actually land you in court?
The answer is, only if what you write could be considered slanderous or untrue. Saying you didn’t enjoy your meal is fine—it’s hard to argue with that. But saying it was the worst meatloaf in the world, or that you saw a roach come out of the kitchen when you didn’t, could get you in hot water if the business decides to pursue it.
I think online reviews are a good thing, as they help me make my decision about where to go or what company to use. But that doesn’t mean we should abuse our freedom of speech by heaping on insult after insult or saying things that aren’t true.