Policy

Va. High Court Throws Out Injunction Against Negative Online Review

Says Blocking Online Speech Pending Outcome of Suit Is Not Warranted 1/02/2013 10:21 AM Eastern
 
In a decision being hailed by Public Citizen as an important one for Internet freedom, the Virginia Supreme court has vacated a lower court decision mandating that a negative review of a contractor be pulled from review website Yelp.

On Dec. 7, a Fairfax County, Va., judge had required a woman to remove parts of a negative review on Yelp and enjoined her from repeating the claim in other reviews. She is being sued by the contractor for what he alleges were false and defamatory statements.

Public citizen and the ACLU appealed that injunction, saying the contractor needed first to prove the claims were false, after which he could get damages, but that for the court to force her to remove the comments before such a determination amounted to censorship. The Supreme Court ruled that the injunction was not justified and agreed with Public citizen and the ACLU that the contractor "had an adequate remedy in law."

"The decision confirms the importance of not shutting down public discussion on the Internet just because someone doesn't like what's being talked about," said Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy. "Review sites like Yelp are vehicles for the free flow of ideas by helping consumers make informed decisions on how to spend their hard-earned dollars."

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