Yelp has already appealed the decision

Seven anonymous Yelp reviewers are the target of a recent court investigation, and Yelp has been asked to identify them. 

According to The Atlantic, Alexandria, Virginia-based Hadeed Carpet Cleaning received some negative reviews on Yelp, and like most companies in that position, wasn't happy about it. But the issue is that Hadeed Carpet Cleaning says the reviewers were never actual customers at all.

According to Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, it was unable to match the Yelp reviewers -- who used pseudonyms on the site for anonymity -- with actual customer experiences. Hence, the company asked that Yelp reveal the identities of these seven reviewers so Hadeed Carpet Cleaning can confirm if these are actual customers, or just people leaving false reviews. 

Many people go to Yelp today for reviews on businesses, which are based on a scale of one to five stars. Reviewers can also leave comments on their experiences, and negative reviews have the potential to hurt a business if they sway customers away. 

Yelp, however, wasn't handing over the customers' identities. The company believes these reviewers have the right to say what they please anonymously thanks to the First Amendment, so the case went to court. 

As it turns out, the Virginia Court of Appeals has ordered that Yelp reveal the identities of the seven individuals because it said the comments are not supported by the First Amendment if they aren't actual customers of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning. 

Yelp has already appealed the decision, saying that Hadeed Carpet Cleaning needs to bring more evidence to the table that these are not actual customers before it receives such information. Also, Yelp thinks there should be proof that the comments caused any harm to business. 

"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," said Yelp spokesman Vince Salitto.

The case will make its way to the Virginia Supreme Court from here. 

Source: The Atlantic

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