A Yelp lawsuit seeking to force the company to reveal anonymous users could have serious repercussions for free speech online.
Virginia’s Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday for an online defamation case, where Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in Alexandria sued Yelp because of the negative customer reviews it got on the site, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Hadeed tried to identify and sue the authors of seven anonymous comments — among more than 80 total reviews — by matching up the reviews’ content with its own customer database. According to the complaint, Hadeed isn’t asserting the negative reviews are patently false, but the company couldn’t find these customers in their database.
The company sued Yelp in 2012 and a court ordered the social site to turn over its customer database and reveal the anonymous users. Yelp users must register with the site to post reviews and ratings.