MCKINNEY, TX -- Free speech or foul business play? That’s the question surrounding a Yelp review made about a DFW based real estate company, The Rhodes Team.
Back in June of 2013, a Yelp user going by the name Lin L. posted a review calling a Rhodes team agent “the most deceitful and money greedy sales agent you would ever deal with.” Saying dealing with the team was “the worst experience” and that the agent’s “sales pitch is bogus.”
Now the Rhodes team wants Yelp to reveal the identity of this reviewer, saying that the review is entirely fraudulent and damaging.
“It’s false, totally, and Yelp knows that,” said Rhodes Team Attorney Robert Wilson. “I advised them of that over a year ago, they refused to do anything about it.”
The Rhodes Team says they suspect that Lin L. isn’t even a real person, perhaps a rival business looking to drive away customers. But Paul Levy, an attorney for the consumer rights advocate group Public Citizen, says this is an issue of free speech and anonymity.
“Yelp believes in protecting the privacy of its users at least if they’ve done nothing wrong.” said Levy.
However, Wilson counters that “You can’t use the first amendment as a shield to make false and defamatory statements about an individual, particularly in a commercial arena.”
So that’s what the case boils down to -- free speech is okay, but you better be honest.
With the online world and real world clashing more and more often, this is an issue that isn’t going anywhere.