Report: Suspicious legal cases lead to takedown notices for negative reviews

This might be a bit in the weeds for the average blogger, but Eugene Volokh and Paul Alan Levy, legal-issues bloggers on the Washington Post website, have uncovered an interesting little scam that works like this.

1) A company or individual takes issue with an author’s negative review on Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.
2) The “offended” company or individual files a defamation lawsuit against a fictitious defendant (not the actual author!) in a jurisdiction far from where the actual author lives.
3) The fictitious defendant pleads guilty, agreeing that “their” remarks were defamatory.
4) The “offended” company then presents Yelp, or Google, or whoever with a takedown notice backed by a judges order.

Here are two key paragraphs from Volokh and Levy’s article

Fascinating story. Certainly seems to be an abuse of the legal process to artificially suppress negative but truthful online statements. At this point Volokh and Levy are careful not to call such antics potentially or actually criminal, and so neither shall I.

But they do name names, and does seem like more (journalistic if not criminal) investigation is warranted.

Definitely worth following the link if you’re interested in how businesses are working to police legal public speech.


David Innes,

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...