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Old 01-10-2014, 07:57 AM   #1
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Question PMBug's marketplace reviews

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In a decision that could reshape the rules for online consumer reviews, a Virginia court has ruled that the popular website Yelp must turn over the names of seven reviewers who anonymously criticized a prominent local carpet cleaning business.

The case revolves around negative feedback against Virginia-based Hadeed Carpet Cleaning. The owner, Joe Hadeed, said the users leaving bad reviews were not real customers of the cleaning service — something that would violate Yelp’s terms of service. His attorneys issued a subpoena demanding the names of seven anonymous reviewers, and a judge in Alexandria ruled that Yelp had to comply.

The Virginia Court of Appeals agreed this week, ruling that the comments were not protected First Amendment opinions if the Yelp users were not customers and thus were making false claims.

“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,” said Raighne Delaney, a lawyer at the Arlington firm Bean, Kinney & Korman who represented Mr. Hadeed. “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.’”

But Paul Levy, a lawyer who represented Yelp, said the ruling might be concerning to consumers.

“Hadeed really did nothing to justify the need for the identity of the Does in this case,” said Mr. Levy, who works at the D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen. “It’s going to make it more difficult for the marketplace of ideas to get valuable information about companies.”

Mr. Hadeed, who deferred comment to his attorney, said in court documents that he believed most of the critiques — many of which complained about unfair business practices and deceptive advertising — were coming from a small number of users who were creating fake accounts to post multiple reviews.

“Yelp said that all the posts had different IP addresses, but how many IP addresses does one person have between all their devices?” Mr. Delaney said. “It would be easy to create a number of different fake accounts.”

Yelp’s attorneys cited legal standards established across the country for identifying people who post anonymous comments and said Mr. Hadeed had not met those requirements. But the court noted that the state has its own standards for “unmasking” those who make potentially libelous anonymous comments online and agreed with the Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria, which said those standards had been met.

“We are disappointed that the Virginia Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that fails to adequately protect free speech rights on the internet, and which allows businesses to seek personal details about website users — without any evidence of wrongdoing — in efforts to silence online critics,” Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto said in a statement. “Other states require that plaintiffs lay out actual facts before such information is allowed to be obtained, and have adopted strong protections in order to prevent online speech from being stifled by those upset with what has been said. We continue to urge Virginia to do the same.”

In a 25-page majority opinion, Judge William G. Petty said, “Generally, a Yelp review is entitled to First Amendment protection because it is a person’s opinion about a business that they patronized.

“The anonymous speaker has the right to express himself on the Internet without the fear that his veil of anonymity will be pierced for no other reason than because another person disagrees with him,” Judge Petty wrote.

However, the court said that First Amendment rights do not cover deliberately false statements and agreed that Mr. Hadeed provided sufficient reason to think the users might not have been customers.

If “the reviewer was never a customer of the business, then the review is not an opinion; instead, the review is based on a false statement” and not subject to First Amendment protection, the opinion stated.
...
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...y-seven-negat/

I don't ever want to be in a position like Yelp was here. Any ideas on how we can insulate pmbug from potential litigation over member reviews? Require members to post an invoice/receipt number in any reviews?
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:18 AM   #2
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I once wondered if it was possible to create a 'bad builder' website,
where unhappy customers could describe their experience and name the builder. With the builder having a right to reply. Say a max of two posts each with max 200 words.

And a 'bad customer' section on the site, where poor builders who have been shafted by nasty customers could name n shame. With the same right of reply.

With the names in alphebetic order, serial offenders would get the publicity they deserved .............

It was the legal aspect that stopped me taking it up and I have long wondered if 'feedback' would become something the legals might pursue.

Malicious feedbackers need to be exposed as they can cause real harm to a business.
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:45 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by PMBug View Post:
I don't ever want to be in a position like Yelp was here. Any ideas on how we can insulate pmbug from potential litigation over member reviews? Require members to post an invoice/receipt number in any reviews?
I would guess that there were steps taken prior to going to court to get this issue resolved. If people are honest with their dealings and reviews then it should never be a problem. I am sure that Yelp got drug into court because they were not willing to out the reviewer or take the review down. I am guessing if a review was found to be false here, it would be removed without much effort. I could be wrong though.
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Old 01-13-2014, 08:07 PM   #4
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How about encrypting the identifying information, so you couldn't give them the information, even if you wanted to?
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Old 01-14-2014, 11:12 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by PMBug View Post:
I don't ever want to be in a position like Yelp was here. Any ideas on how we can insulate pmbug from potential litigation over member reviews? Require members to post an invoice/receipt number in any reviews?
If it ever came up, I think that you should PM the member with the review in question, and ask for an order number. If they cannot provide one, the review gets removed. If anyone is going to come ask for it, it will be the vendor in question. With an order number corresponding to a complaint, a business should be able to look into it at that point.
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Old 01-15-2014, 02:40 PM   #6
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Maybe post a copy of the 1st amendment in the OP of each review, then have everyone say IMHO, and my review does not reflect the views or opinions of this website.

This is just crazy, if this holds up then the 1st amendment is meaningless.
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Old 01-15-2014, 07:59 PM   #7
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We could a disclaimer to the member agreement that all posts by the member are their opinions only and that PMBug.com is in no way responsible for the content of their posts, etc. etc.
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Old 01-18-2014, 10:43 PM   #8
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Maybe it's time to do as Shakespeare suggested. Kill all the lawyers.
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Old 01-22-2014, 06:55 PM   #9
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Cali Lawyer has just posted an in depth article regarding bloggers and liability
his thoughts may be helpful regarding the o.p.

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a private, basement-dwelling blogger or contributor, cannot be successfully sued under a strict liability standard, that is, for simply making the false statement of fact. Instead, the blogger must be shown to have made the statement on the basis that the blogger knew, or should have known of the falsity of the statement. This is a HUGE victory for internet bloggers on this point alone.
http://www.tfmetalsreport.com/blog/5...uit-has-spoken
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Old 08-19-2015, 04:13 AM   #10
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Bron Sucheki -

The list below has the main active PM forums (or sub forums) where precious metals are discussed from an investing point of view. I have ranked them by total membership numbers, which is not perfect as it doesn’t necessarily represent active users but it is a fair indicator of either popularity or longevity of the forum.

http://research.perthmint.com.au/201...al-forum-list/
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Old 08-19-2015, 10:06 AM   #11
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I saw that yesterday. Nice of Bron to remember us (he's posted here on our forum before).
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Old 08-21-2015, 04:20 PM   #12
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Interesting list. I visit about five of those on a semi-regular basis. I like it here because we also get casual on other subjects that are only peripherally related to PM's, and then only in the geopolitical sense of it all.
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Old 08-21-2015, 05:49 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ancona View Post:
Interesting list. I visit about five of those on a semi-regular basis. I like it here because we also get casual on other subjects that are only peripherally related to PM's, and then only in the geopolitical sense of it all.
Yeah, it's kind of like this area is that room at the party most people don't know about where the guys with 1/2 a brain shoot the crap, serious, semi-serious, and complete buffoonery. There might be some disagreements, but it's usually fairly casual and if it gets to heated, you just go back to where it's mostly douchebags or call it a night.
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