Often when we experience bad service, our first inclination is to leave a negative review for the company on a website such as Amazon, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. However, recently some companies have begun threatening to bring suits for defamation against customers who leave negative reviews about their businesses.

What is even more concerning is that a Virginia court recently ordered Yelp to turn over the names of seven people who left negative reviews for a carpet cleaning company. One of the main reasons people feel comfortable speaking openly online is that their identities are protected by user names, which is now compromised by rulings such as this one.

So what is the best way to protect yourself? You must act in good faith and not lie in your review. Truth is a defense against libel (the defamation of a party in written form). To prove a case of libel in court, a plaintiff (here, the company) must prove that the defendant (here, the individual) made a statement that the defendant knew to be false, injurious, and unprivileged. In basic non-legal terms, this means that, as long as you tell the truth in your review, you are probably safe.

David Lilenfeld