We live in an age where the denizens of the internet can be quick to react – and a business that falls on the wrong side of someone’s sensibilities can find itself “canceled” through strings of negative reviews from online social justice warriors.
Can a business fight back? If you get unfair and unwarranted reviews that are damaging your business, can you sue the perpetrators? If you leave a negative review that you believe is justified, could you be sued? Here’s what you need to know:
Anti-SLAPP laws offer only incomplete protection
Florida is one of the 34 states that offer some kind of anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) protection for consumers that choose to publicly express their unhappiness with a business and its products or services.
However, those protections are not absolute. People cannot leave a review that makes blatantly false statements. Typically, that would involve defamatory “facts” like “The business isn’t even licensed,” not negative opinions like, “The service was slow and the owner was unprofessional.”
That being said, defamation could also involve negative comments and reviews from people who have never been customers there. For example, one couple left negative reviews for a roofer and found themselves sued because they were never the roofer’s customers. As renters, they weren’t actually entitled to the information that they wanted, and the company sued over the unwarranted criticism on Yelp. They felt that the couple was purposefully being manipulative and punitive with their remarks.
Defamation suits over online reviews can be complicated, and they’re often emotional to both sides. When compromise isn’t an option, make sure that you have experienced legal assistance in your corner.