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Negative Online Reviews: Freedom of Speech or Libel?

A dentist has sued two people for posting negative reviews on the online review site Yelp, accusing them of libel. The reviewer stated that her son felt "light headed" after a visit thanks to laughing gas, and was given fillings that contained mercury. While the dentist agrees that the fillings were mercury, she says that the parents should have read the disclosure form they signed. The dentist is now suing because she doesn't want "lies to be posted on the website" about her.

This isn't the first time someone has been sued for something they posted on the Internet. Last week another Yelp user was sued by a doctor, and a model recently sued Google for negative comments posted on a Blogger-hosted blog. Considering the often casual nature of online reviews, I can't help but think suing someone for something they posted would be like suing a person for casually telling a friend that a hairdresser gave them a bad haircut. Then again, a one-star review could really hurt a person's ability to make a living.

Under US law, websites that publish third-party reviews cannot be sued for that content. Should the law protect the reviewers, too?


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