Yelp Will Shame Any Business That Sues Over Negative Reviews

Revenge is a dish best served in the form of a shameful pop-up
Jul 27, 2016 at 11:14 AM ET
Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso

The average American probably believes its their constitutional right to talk smack about a seafood joint that made you sick on the internet, and as a result, Yelp is prepared to die defending it. Well, not really, but the site is now publicly shaming businesses that threaten to sue their customers for negative reviews.

In a blog post on the site, Yelp’s senior vice president, Vince Sollitto announced that any businesses that files a lawsuit (or threatens to) because of a bad review will have their page marked with a digital scarlet letter in the form of a public warning. The pop-up alert will read as follows:

“Consumer Alert: Questionable Legal Threats. This business may be trying to abuse the legal system in an effort to stifle free speech, including issuing questionable legal threats against reviewers. As a reminder, reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”

In order to read or post reviews for these businesses, users must first click a button acknowledging the popup. (If they don’t instead choose to navigate away from the page entirely for fear of getting sued into oblivion.)

Sollitto sites the now-famous case of a Dallas pet-sitting service suing a customer for $1 million after she posted a one-star review. Prestigious Pets (which is still branded with a consumer alert) claimed the review “left the business a shell of its former success” and violated a non-disparagement clause. Yelp sided with the customers, stating that the site exists “to empower and protect consumers,” and supports the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which was introduced in Congress earlier this year.

While Yelp is right—it’s pretty reactionary to take legal action against someone for essentially just saying that your business sucks—negative online reviews are more influential, statistically.