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The legal implications of publishing reviews on websites

 
 
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paul
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 5:49 pm    Post subject: The legal implications of publishing reviews on websites Reply with quote

We are currently considering allowing visitors to some of our websites to post reviews of establishments they use (hotels, restaurants, etc.)

The plan would be to moderate these reviews and not allow through comments that are overly-positive (and seemingly from the establishment owner or a friend) or those that are overly-negative (perhaps from a competitor or someone with an axe to grind).

Instead, we would be looking for reviews with a degree of balance. Ones that maybe say a restaurant was, for the most part, really good but the sauce on a steak was a little overpowering (or whatever).

My question is... what are the legal implications?

If the restaurant owner complains about such a review and demands that such a review is taken down because they insist they would never serve overpowering sauces on their steaks, would it be wise to comply?

If you instead opted to refuse, where would you stand? Is it up to the restaurant owner to prove whatever is stated is wrong (in this example, I think it would be difficult) or is it up to the website owner to prove that it's a valid personal opinion/review?

My thinking is that the restaurant owner would have be the one proving the case if it went to court and, where subjective opinion like this is involved, it'd be very difficult indeed for him to win the case (in which case, I'd hope they would see this and wouldn't bother trying in the first place!).

Comments welcomed, whether you're a lawyer or not.
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Mark Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My opinion on this is no restaurant owner can compel you, legally or otherwise, to remove opinion/reviews. Unless it's an obvious slander (admittedly problematic to define), it's all protected speech in my view.
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Kay
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an interesting question. As with all reviews, I guess you just have in your disclaimer that content on the site is provided for educational and informational purposes only and you are not responsible for any decisions the reader might make based on the content you've published.

I've given some places scathing reviews on Not Delia. The only time I ever had to deal with any comeback was when the manager of the place gave a total refund to compensate for our bad experience.

I do think it's only fair to give a right of reply, though. But I don't see how it can be libel to describe a bad experience.

Edit - sorry, I forgot, it's happened twice. The first time was a refund and the second was an offer of a free meal.
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