Q4 2014 & Q1 2015 Quick Links Part 7 (Consumer Reviews, RTBF, Defamation, Censorship, Sec. 230)

Photo credit: 3D Quick Link Crossword // ShutterStock

Photo credit: 3D Quick Link Crossword // ShutterStock

International Censorship

* WaPo: This was the Internet’s worst, best year ever

* Wired: Russia’s Creeping Descent Into Internet Censorship

* Washington Post: Russia just made a ton of Internet memes illegal

* NY Times: Hungary Drops Internet Tax Plan After Public Outcry. The Hungarian SOPA.

* WSJ: Whatsapp’s Near-Suspension in Brazil Highlights Legal Concerns for Web Firms

* NY Times: Turkey Blocks YouTube and, Briefly, Twitter Over Hostage Photo. Techdirt: Turkish Censorship Order Targets Single Blog Post, Ends Up Blocking Access To 60 Million WordPress Sites

Right to Be Forgotten

* Google’s transparency report for RTBF removals. As of April 17, 2015, nearly a quarter-million takedown requests to date.

Article 29 Data Protection Working Party // Guidelines On The Implementation Of The Court Of Justice Of The European Union Judgment On “Google Spain And Inc V. Agencia Española De Protección De Datos (Aepd) And Mario Costeja González” C-131/12 Adopted On 26 November 2014

* Report of Google’s Advisory Council on the Right to Be Forgotten. Luciano Floridi, a member of Google’s Right to Be Forgotten advisory council, spoke at Santa Clara University. Video of his talk.

* Washington Post: Pianist asks The Washington Post to remove a concert review under the E.U.’s ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

* NY Times: A Question Over the Reach of Europe’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

* In Israel, “Google will not be required to delete defamatory results”

* Search Engine Land: Media Companies Republishing Google Right-To-Be-Forgotten Links

* Bloomberg: EU Seeks to Curb Google Control of Right to Be Forgotten

* New York Law Journal: Judge Floats ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ as Libel Remedy

* ABA Journal: New app helps people expunge their criminal records

* Zwillgen: CA Digital Eraser Law’s Unresolved Ambiguities Make Compliance Tricky. Prior blog posts 1 and 2.

Consumer Reviews and Ratings

* Yelp: FTC Closes Investigation of Yelp, Takes No Action

the FTC recently concluded a deep inquiry into our business practices and informed us that it will not be taking any action against Yelp. The FTC looked into our recommendation software, what we say to businesses about it, what our salespeople say about our advertising programs, and how we ensure that our employees are not able to manipulate the ratings and reviews that we display on our platform. After nearly a year of scrutiny, the FTC decided to close its investigation without taking further action. This marked the second time that the FTC had looked at our advertising practices and ended its inquiry without further action.

* Now the FTC’s position is that offering consumers a discount if they leave a review is deceptive?

According to the FTC’s complaint, AmeriFreight and its owner, Marius Lehmann, violated Section 5 of the FTC Act by failing to disclose that they compensated consumers for their online reviews. Specifically, according to the complaint, the respondents:

– Provided consumers with a discount of $50 off the cost of AmeriFreight’s services if consumers agreed to review the company’s services online, and increased the cost by $50 if consumers did not agree to write a review;
– Provided consumers with “Conditions for receiving a discount on reviews,” which said that if they leave an online review, they will be automatically entered into a $100 per month “Best Monthly Review Award” for the most creative subject title and “informative content”;
– Contacted consumers after their cars had been shipped to remind them of their obligation to complete a review to receive the “online review discount,” and qualify for the $100 award;
– Failed to disclose the material connection between the company and their consumer endorsers — namely, that AmeriFreight compensated consumers to post online reviews;
– Deceptively represented that its favorable reviews were based on the unbiased reviews of customers.

* Ars Technica: One apartment complex’s rule: You write a bad review, we fine you $10k. Followup: Apartment complex with “no bad reviews” rule gets pummeled on review sites.

* Lee v. Makhvenich resulted in an uncollectible default judgment. Prior blog post.

* Harsh TripAdvisor reviewer’s anonymity is protected: Oregon Coast hotel drops $74,999 defamation suit

* Gerling v. Consumer Opinion Corp. (Fl. Cir. Ct. Dec. 11, 2014). No temporary injunction based on consumer review, and tweet promoting it, violating Florida’s publicity rights statute.

* Ars Technica: Amazon drops the hammer on website that sells 5-star reviews

* TechCrunch: Japanese Court Orders Google To Delete Critical Reviews From Google Maps

* Pham v. Lee, 2014 WL 6992251 (Cal. App. Ct. Dec. 11, 2014): Opthamologist defeats anti-SLAPP motion over online reviews by patients.

* The Guardian discusses whether driver ratings on Uber and Lyft are based on discriminatory characteristics. Related from Wired: The Big Hidden Problem With Uber? Insincere 5-Star Ratings

* Slate: Best Way for Professors to Get Good Student Evaluations? Be Male

* Money: Why Angie’s List Keeps Getting Mixed Reviews

* Business Insider: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust The Pictures On Hotel Websites

* NY Times: Hotels Use Online Reviews as Blueprint for Renovations. The marketplace’s invisible hand FTW!

Section 230

* California SB 1027, Purporting to make mugshot websites illegal.

* The Texas Supreme Court denied certiorari in the Toups v. GoDaddy lawsuit. Prior blog post.

* Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability:

– Intermediaries should be shielded by law from liability for third-party content.
– Content must not be required to be restricted without an order by a judicial authority.
– Requests for restrictions of content must be clear, be unambiguous, and follow due process.
– Laws and content restriction orders and practices must comply with the tests of necessity and proportionality.
– Laws and content restriction policies and practices must respect due process.
– Transparency and accountability must be built in to laws and content restriction policies and practices.


* Restis v. American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc.. 2014 WL 5089413 (SDNY Sept. 30, 2014)  (cites omitted):

Defendants claim that any defamation claim predicated on the defamatory Facebook posts or comments of third persons must be dismissed….Plaintiffs state in response that the Facebook comments of third parties are included in the pleadings as only examples of the damage caused by UANI’s defamatory statements, and clarify that they seek to hold Defendants accountable only for their defamatory comments, not those of others. Accordingly, Defendants will not be held to account for the Facebook posts of third parties. Cf. Hammer v. Amazon.com, 392 F.Supp.2d 423, 431 (E.D.N.Y.2005) (dismissing defamation claim against Amazon.com based on book reviews posted on the website by a third party).

* Rogatkin ex rel. Rogatkin v. Raleigh America, Inc., 2014 WL 6638163 (D. Mass. Nov. 24, 2014):

The publication of Rogatkin’s age (12) and characterizing him as a “kid” in a biography is no more susceptible to a defamatory meaning than biographical references to Ambassador Shirley Temple as a child actor or as “America’s Little Darling.” A defamatory statement must be false. There is no dispute that Rogatkin’s biographical details were accurate when initially published (Rogatkin supplied Raleigh with the biography). The publication of true but historical facts (even if outdated) about a person cannot be defamatory as a matter of law. A biography, like a photograph, is a faithful snapshot of a person taken at a particular time in his or her life. Although Raleigh did not update Rogatkin’s biography with the march of time (the court knows of no duty the law imposes to do as much), it published Rogatkin’s accurate date of birth on the same page—a reasonable assurance that the public would never confuse Rogatkin with, say, Peter Pan or Benjamin Button.