Yelp Reviews Under Government Spotlight

People seem to either love or hate Yelp. I know business owners that get major website traffic from Yelp, and others that wish it would just go away already. Many are convinced that the whole system is rigged like a virtual extortion scheme whose sole purpose is to get you to spend money advertising on Yelp. Some business owners have even gone so far as to sue Yelp reviewers over bad reviews.

Last month, a Yelp reviewer was ordered to pay a business $1000 after leaving bad reviews on Yelp and another local website. The court says the comments went beyond free speech and into defamation.

Yelp responded by  adding “We frequently find that a better course of action, rather than suing your customers, is publicly responding to a critical review in the same forum.”

Do SLAPP lawsuits like these stifle free speech? Congress has decided to look into it further. This last week, a special Senate committee was held to discuss “How Gagging Honest Reviews harms Consumers and the Economy” and the Consumer Review Freedom Act.

What do you think? What should businesses do when people leave them bad reviews? What if the reviews aren’t accurate?