The last time I blogged about a lawyer who sued Yelp for defamation, I spilled 3,000 words (and shed many tears).
Fortunately for my mental health and your reading queue, I’m pleased to report that today’s case has better–and more succinct–news.
The lawyer-plaintiff is Lenore Albert. Her Yelp page.
She claims a former employee orchestrated a social media attack on her business, including posting fake disparaging reviews on her Yelp page plus this image (which she claims isn’t clearly demarcated as user content instead of Yelp-sourced content):
Albert also claims that Yelp further screwed up her page when she refused to advertise with it.
She sued Yelp for defamation, tortious interference and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lower court granted Yelp’s anti-SLAPP motion.
The appeals court affirmed.
Anti-SLAPP. The first question is whether the user postings are protected public interest material.
Citing Wong v. Jing, the court says that user reviews about “a lawyer heavily involved in the foreclosure fallout from the Great Recession” qualify.
Further, a “third party’s comments about some other person’s products or services” aren’t commercial speech for anti-SLAPP purposes (which is correct; the statutory exclusion covers advertising).
Substantively, Albert’s defamation claim is preempted by Section 230. The court says: “The case law on this point is conclusive” (amen!!! cites to Zeran, Batzel, Nemet, Hupp, Jones v. Dirty World and Almeida).
The court distinguishes Roommates.com because “there is no evidence that Yelp solicits defamatory or misleading reviews. In fact, all evidence is that it tries to keep such reviews off its site, even if (as the present case illustrates) it is not always successful in its quest.”
In a footnote, the court says Roommates.com actually helps Yelp because Yelp is like the free-form comment boxes that Roommates.com said qualified for Section 230.
The court distinguishes the old Anthony v. Yahoo ruling because, in that case, the plaintiffs alleged Yahoo created fake dating profiles, while Albert didn’t allege Yelp created the fake content.
The court boils it down: