On January 7, 2014, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia law required social reviewing website Yelp.com to reveal the identities of anonymous online reviewers to a business claiming it was defamed by the reviews. Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., 62 Va. App. 678 (Va. Ct. App. 2014). Hadeed Carpet Cleaning alleged that Yelp reviews of its business contained false and defamatory statements.
Pursuant to its defamation claim, Hadeed subpoenaed Yelp for the names of the authors of seven reviews which described Hadeed’s poor service. The court ruled that the reviews were “commercial speech,” and that Hadeed’s right to reputation trumped the reviewers’ right to anonymous speech.
Hadeed argued that the authors of the reviews had represented themselves to be customers of Hadeed by writing personal reviews of the business, but Hadeed could not verify in its records that the reviewers were actually former customers.
Based on this, Hadeed alleged that the reviews were false and defamatory, because if the reviewers were not customers, they falsely claimed to have received poor service.
Ninth Circuit Recognizes First Amendment Protections for BloggersOn January 17, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers receive the same First Amendment protections as institutional media in defamation lawsuits. Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox, 740 F.3d 1284 (9th Cir. 2014).The case involved a dispute between Kevin Padrick, a principal with Obsidian Finance, a firm that advises financially troubled businesses, and Crystal Cox, a self-described investigative blogger."