Yelp Wins Another Section 230 Case–Kimzey v. Yelp
This is such an easy case, it could have only been brought pro se. The suit involves two Yelp reviews by a user named “Sarah K.” that were allegedly defamatory and otherwise tortious. The court’s substantive discussion (some citations omitted):
Wow, we don’t see arguments too often any more about the Section 230 implications of star ratings. As the court notes, that argument first failed in the Gentry ruling in 2002!
Here, plaintiff alleges that Yelp is “a nationwide Internet business directory and business reliability rating and review service.” Plaintiff also alleges that Yelp asks multiple choice questions for a reviewer to click on the number of stars, and that Yelp designed and created the star image and color, which is the rating system. Based on these allegations, the court finds that Yelp qualifies as an “interactive computer service” within the meaning of the CDA. Plaintiff also makes conclusory allegations that Yelp created and developed the libelous promotion, and caused that statement to appear on Google. The court need not take conclusory allegations that are unsupported by plausible factual allegations as true. Rather, the Yelp review itself makes clear that the individual who “created and developed” the review is a user named “Sarah K.” Thus, “Sarah K” is the information content provider of the reviews, not Yelp. Nevertheless, plaintiff alleges that Yelp designed and created the star rating system. However, “[t]he mere fact that an interactive computer service ‘classifies user characteristics does not transform [it] into a ‘developer’ of the underlying misinformation.” Fair Housing Council, 521 F.3d at 1172 (quoting Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, Inc., 339 F.3d 1119, 1124 (9th Cir. 2003)). Indeed, Yelp’s star rating program is similar to eBay’s color-coded star rating system that the Ninth Circuit analogized in holding that classifying user characteristics into discrete categories and collecting responses to specific essay questions does not transform an interactive computer service into a developer of the underlying misinformation. Carafano, 339 F.3d at 1124 (citing Gentry v. eBay, Inc., 99 Cal. App. 4th 816, 717-18 (Cal. App. 2002)).
Fortunately for the plaintiff, the court sidestepped Yelp’s anti-SLAPP motion. If the court had granted the motion (as I think it should have), the plaintiff should be writing a check for Yelp’s attorneys’ fees PLUS a $10,000 mandatory penalty under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute. Still, I trust Yelp isn’t complaining about its decisive and fairly quick ruling.
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* Dentist’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Yelp Preempted by Section 230–Braverman v. Yelp
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* Yelp Defeats Legal Challenge to Its User Review Filter
* CA Anti-SLAPP Cases Involving Consumer Reviews as Matters of Public Concern
* Yelp Gets Complete Win in Advertiser “Extortion” Case–Levitt v. Yelp
* Dentist Review on Yelp Gets Partial Anti-SLAPP Protection–Wong v. Jing
* Yelp Wins 47 USC 230 Dismissal of Dentist’s Lawsuit–Reit v. Yelp