The Hassell v. Bird decision in California stands to rock the internet and threaten online speech by demanding that Yelp take down a critical review of a lawyer.
Earlier, a former client of Dawn Hassell, a San Francisco attorney, left a bad review of her services on the popular online review site. In retaliation, Hassell filed a defamation case against her former client, Bird, and won a default judgement and damages because Bird did not defend himself.
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If the Hassell decision is upheld, it could set a dangerous precedent. It would mean that businesses owners or affected parties of negative reviews could sue individuals to have the review removed from a 3rd party website without the 3rd party’s notification. With many individuals unable to afford legal help to fight off defamation cases, aggressive business owners could sue their way to a good Yelp score which ultimately defeats the purpose of the site.
Greg Stirling provides an in-depth analysis of the nature of the case and its legal implications. Give it a look.