How libel chill is quashing negative online reviews

Oct 23, 14

The aggressive action taken by some businesses against those who post negative reviews online about their product or service is having a chilling effect on some reviewers who fear being sued, observers say.

“It’s a tremendous issue. We’re running into that all over. It’s cheap to threaten and expensive to defend,” said Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer who specializes in free speech issues related to the internet for the Washington, D.C.- based Public Citizen Litigation Group.

“So yes, many people become very quiet when they’re faced with the realistic possibility that they’re going to have to defend against a libel claim even if what they said is true. Because it’s all very well to defend, but if it costs $10,000 to defend a true comment, well you’re out $10,000. How much is it worth?”

“Certainly businesses are counting on the fear reaction,” Levy said.

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