P.S. It also seems like most people are unhappy with both their business practice (holding "finished" rugs hostage unless an increased price is paid) AND with the quality of their work.
In the competitive NYC hotel biz, competitors and people with post-stay expenditure remorse have been posting false/fake reviews of encountering bedbugs/mice/ants, blood/semen stains, pubic hair (can it ever anything else?) and prostitutes.
Since reviewers have no obligation to prove they actually stayed at a property, they can say whatever they want. Property owners meanwhile have zero recourse other than a management response and without reservation details they can't even investigate claims.
Competitors can usually be detected by references to their own hotels as better alternatives. 'Remorsees' are trickier, but there are patterns as well. For instance, they do not address issues during their stay, as indicated in post-stay surveys, but once they read the credit card statement, they send in complaints and post negative reviews thinking the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" (spoiler: they rarely do).
I have even seen negative reviews posted which are promptly followed up on with a "settlement offer" email to the hotel ("Just give me back 50% and I will remove my review. If you don't, I will post this review on every trip review site on the planet.")
The worst thing I've seen is a claim of bedbugs crawling from the mattress (impossible, they're tempurpedic and bedbug sniffing dogs visit the rooms at least once a month) where the reviewer had uploaded an image from Wikipedia, claiming it was a bedbug he'd caught in his room... We traced that one back to a self-proclaimed journalist/blogger miffed at not getting free nights in return for an article... In this particular case, reservations for this hotel dropped by 20% overnight and we had to threaten a lawsuit for the site in question to get it removed when they remained unresponsive.
After analyzing 5+ years of customer feedback and surveys, I can tell you than a lot of visitors should have just thought twice before going on a trip...
Anonymous speech on the Internet is of enormous value, but I fail to see why the protection of anonymity should be extended to outright slander. Such permissiveness can only dilute the perceived value of anonymous speech as a whole, with potentially disastrous effects on those who cannot speak in safety otherwise.
And yes, the comments may be defamatory if there are statements of fact that are not true. I'm really shocked by the number of people in that site's comments that are comparing this to revolution in Syria or Egypt. I mean, really people? That is almost farcical to the point of Poe's law.
The summary of this whole legal shenanigans seems to be that a business got bad reviews and wants to confirm if these people leaving reviews were actual customers. I think it's hard to make an argument against this stance, especially if this can be done in a way that doesn't reveal the reviewer's identities to the carpet company--say a neutral third party mediator. It would cost a lot less than an appeal.
If you want to know why Yelp is fighting this, it's not about your civil liberties. Look at the bad precedent it would set for their business model--if that case won, any business in VA could force Yelp to respond to inquiries regarding any anonymous reviews. Sounds like a cumbersome and expensive reason to keep fighting.
Welcome to America, land of the wish-we-were-as-brave-as-them.
Now why both sides have no choice is simple, but distressing. There's no real solution.
First the real "revolutionaries". They fight because the cost of living in Syria has risen beyond their capacity and they can't leave. They are not brave, except insofar as they choose to fight now rather than wait until they're dead.
Second the "government". They are a minority religious group in a strict islamic country. To sunni muslims they are worse than the Jews. They can't fix the economy any more than Barack Obama can (or for that matter Bush, or whoever). They also cannot give up their position : sunnis will exterminate them in Syria just like they've done in Iraq, just like they're trying to do to the Jews in Israel. Sunnis are not making a secret of this. In short : they can't give in to terror, because giving in to terror escalates terror (for obvious reasons). What's weird here is that they have the support of other minority religious groups, like Syrian Druze muslims, who fight for them (just like they fight for the Jews in Israel, despite having the choice).
And thirdly you have the criminals, the "real believers" , the mujahideen ("swords of faith"), who fight to exterminate any non-wahhabi. Do NOT look at this link unless you know what you're getting into http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVLZPxCEggw . This is what saudi arabia is paying for, mostly with US oil money.
note that obviously these people don't believe. They rape, they gamble, they drink, and they know this perfectly well. Now you can try to make an argument that islam only demands you enforce islamic law on others, you don't actually have to follow it yourself. But these people do not really believe in any meaningful sense. They want to do this, and they're given the chance to get away with it. That's how they're recruited, those are the promises. (Of course you could -correctly- point out that that's the promise the paedophile prophet made to the first muslim converts : that they would get to rape, pillage and raid).
On the other, I'm not OK with Yelp the extortion racket getting advertising.
Many owners alleged that they received cold calls from Yelp about negative reviews, offering refuge in exchange for buying advertising on yelp.
Yelp didn't have much to say short of denials, but rumours of it ran pretty rampant. Here's a recent response to them by yelp: http://officialblog.yelp.com/2013/05/no-yelp-doesnt-extort-s...
Of course, business owners are alleging foul play in the black box filtering algorithm, not the deletion per say, but that's sort of how the rumour evolved anyway.
Too much shit has being thrown at yelp, and admittingly not all of it has stuck, but I wouldn't trust anything on there. I don't trust their black box.
I guess, one could argue that Google do not call companies and say: "You've had a really good website for key words "foo and bar", but the few first one at the top goes elsewhere. Pay us $299 a month and your website will be at the top".
That is not by a very long stretch of the imagination the same as what Yelp does.
Yelp offer to bury negative reviews in exchange for payment. That's the very definition of extortion.
While google is higher profile and would not keep an intentional practice secret for long, it is also not an entirely neutral party.
For example, changing it's algorithms to move businesses lower than other sites (review, blog, forum, etc) may make sense from the user perspective to a degree. But taking that even further works against both the customer and businesses to google's monetary benefit. Then the businesses must purchase SEM from google for searches that were directed at finding the business.
Dropping organic list algorithm changes whenever they hurt SEM profit combined with A/B testing to raise conversion rates/revenue on the advertising could end up with an effective extortion racket simply because that is optimal when you have a monopoly.
There is a ethically a world of difference between:
a.) Having the option of paying to appear higher in the rankings (IIRC Yahoo used to do this way back when) and...
b.) Getting a call from Yelp informing you of some "anonymous" negative review posted about your business, with the offer of "making it go away" in exchange for cash.
I can't think of a way to weed out the false ones, though, other than to reveal their names and allow them to be sued.
Of course, that might risk revealing the existence of any positive non-customer reviews, and with a company of the sort this one seems to be, I'm not willing to bet that's the empty set.
If the lawyers see that the reviewers were actually customers, and so a defamation suit against them is not justified on the available evidence, the lawyers would have an obligation under Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to not proceed.
Rule 11(b) says:
Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper—whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it—an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
(3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.
Lawyers take great care to follow 11(b).
A judge has been asked to prove that seven commentators are actually clients of the service — otherwise, said comments were slander. He or she can't ignore that; more importantly, that accusation is almost systematic from service providers who accuse Yelp of slandering them, presumably with non-existant users, and then racketing them to dismiss said comment (in actually, pay to chose which comment to put first). Having the receipt might help clear common issues: the user got the name of the restaurant wrong, the interaction happened before the owner changed, it happened ‘that night’, etc.
This is far from an isolated case: all services from the distributed economy (eBay, AirBnB, Blablacar, etc.) have to handle trust and find appropriate mechanism. There has been cases of good-grade racketing on eBay; AirBnB has proven fairly good so far; BlablaCar name itself is a great example of a non-binary rating. Hence the discussion.
If users of that service want to get their good back, a small claims court seems more appropriate than a Hacker News thread.
Of course, this requires so many additional layers of complexity (e.g. unique codes, local Yelp POS software, etc)that Yelp would never actually use it--it simply increases the barriers for writing a review. I guess the trick is in implementation. Maybe verifying purchases through transaction clearinghouses?
It sounds like you're not OK with anonymous reviews, even true ones, because you support stripping the reviewers anonymity even in the absence of any evidence that the claims are false. If all I need to get your identity is a bald and unsupported claim that you defamed me, then your review doesn't have a right to anonymity whether it's true or not.
The reverse of this is that by being anonymous, I can make any claim I want in an online review (he touched me in inappropriate ways!) and there are no consequences. Are there?
This article specifically talks about the fact that in most states it would be required for them to demonstrate falsity or damages, which they didn't have to do under Virginia law. Without this check such practice can be used to suppress negative reviews since most people wouldn't risk legislation.
And then article says that it's most likely unconstitutional and this is why this case is appealed in Virginia Supreme Court.
Past that, i'm not sure why yelp continues the jurisdictional argument (that VA has no jurisdiction over them).
They have a registered agent in VA, yet claim this does not give VA jurisdiction over them. While there is a split of authority over this across states (with most federal courts holding the states can do this), this is unlikely to be one of the close cases these splits represent.
Yet they continue to press the jurisdictional argument, pissing off every court along the way, while they have 0% chance of winning a jurisdictional challenge at any level (even if the registered agent issue was resolved in their favor, the court would still have jurisdiction over them under other tests).
I have serious trouble understanding this strategy. All it does is make you seem unreasonable, which, for better or worse, increases your chances of losing on the real argument.
Additionally, the US justice system is not like a playground: your legal tactics on one case, no matter how distasteful, will have no bearing on the decision of another case. Judges don't think, "hmm, they did some tricky hot-shot lawyering on that other case, time to take 'em down a notch or two!".
False. On both counts. Parties press completely frivolous claism all the time. Pressing frivolous claims does not make you a good lawyer, or competent, nor is it malpractice to avoid making frivolous arguments.
"Additionally, the US justice system is not like a playground: your legal tactics on one case, no matter how distasteful, will have no bearing on the decision of another case. Judges don't think, "hmm, they did some tricky hot-shot lawyering on that other case, time to take 'em down a notch or two!"."
First, both of these are in the same case. Maybe you should read the appeals court decision?
Second, please don't lecture me about the US justice system condescendingly. I'm not sure where you practiced law in the US, but my experience as a US lawyer for many years now tells me this is 100% completely and totally inaccurate, as much as one would like it to not be. Certainly in the federal court system, things tend to be better, but at a state and local level? Please. Judges are not completely objective robotic automatons. If you really think behavior has no impact on decisions, i urge you to rethink this stance.
The Prenda Law debacle seems to contradict this, but then again, their WHOLE law firm was based on distasteful tactics, lies, etc.
Include here a ton of CSI-based scenarii on people using chat-room and web-cafés to communicate convoluted plot via dry-cleaner reviews, over-zelaous investigators and tech wizz using the ‘enhance’ button and green lines bouncing around the globe to trace the actual IP.
These users should not defame that shop, if it does not deserve that kind of remarks, but the solution is not to get a paper-pushing cunt along with his brutal idiots to terrorize the entire situation. We need a decentralized legal system, not one that centralizes its corruption under the custody of a bunch of depraved politicians who have long learned how to game the election system, which is now fully broken. The broken and backdoored election system no longer justifies anything at all, if it ever has.