The Scenario: You Get a Bad Online Review and It Just Will Not Go Away

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Unfortunately, due to Yelp’s unforgiving structure, this negative review continues to appear immediately below my client’s website in every Google search. Unfortunately, the many glowing reviews remain buried in the black abyss. According to Dale Landrith, Chief Strategist at Dream Local a Rockland based digital marketing company; this happens about 20% of the time with YELP reviews and seems to be a glitch in the sites algorithms and filtering system.

Although a terse cease and desist letter from counsel would appear to be the most direct course to relief, in fact, this tactic may well backfire pushing the disgruntled reviewer to retaliate with further and more hostile internet criticisms. Moreover, existing federal laws afford sites such as Yelp virtual immunity from liability for such postings and make it extremely difficult to effectuate their removal. In fact, only in cases where the content of the posting is clearly false – for example you are a bike shop and the review talks about your buy reviews on Yelp pizza, can an aggrieved business owner flag it on Yelp for removal. Other than that, as long as the review is not profane, threatening or false, anyone can post an opinion.

According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (a common name for Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ) is a landmark piece of Internet legislation in the United States, codified at 47 U.S.C. § 230. Section 230(c)(1) provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by others: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

  • WHAT REMEDY IS AVAILABLE TO THE BUSINESS OWNER?

If you have not already done so, the first thing to do is to “claim” your business listing. Next, respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. By responding, you can clear up miscommunication, if that was part of the issue, tell of changed policies if that rectifies things for future customers, and prove that you are customer service oriented and responsive.

It’s absolutely crucial to answer bad reviews in a conciliatory way, choosing your words carefully and thanking them for their review. By doing so, you have a chance to push these bad reviews down, raise the positive and do a little marketing all at the same time.

I hope that this gives you a bit of insight as to what the legal community can and cannot do regarding the Wild World of the digital age. It’s a jungle out there-

  • Andy
  • BE VIGILANT, BE PROACTIVE

Andrew Zulieve is an Intellectual Property Attorney and strategist who helps companies and individuals maximize their Intellectual Property assets including Trademark, Copyright and Trade Secret Development,Registration & Protection, as well as Infringement Litigation and other complementary aspects of Business Law such as complex contracts, construction law matters, unfair competition and business structuring. From his office in Lincoln County, he serves clients both nationally and internationally.

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