Court Deals Blow to Anonymity and First Amendment
Ruling runs counter to tradition of anonymous speech in the United States
January 14, 2014
The Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled that Yelp users have no right to anonymity when they post negative comments about a business online. The ruling was handed down after the owner of a carpet-cleaning business said criticism about his business was not posted by customers.
“The Virginia statute makes the judge a gatekeeper to decide whether or not there’s a common-sense reason for someone in our position to get this information” on a Yelp user, a lawyer for Hadeed Oriental Carpet Cleaning argued. “In order for someone like Joe Hadeed to find out who these people are, he has to explain his case, and if he can convince the judge that there might be a real lawsuit against this person, the judge can then say, ‘Yes, you can get this information.’”