Levitt v. Yelp
In this case, several businesses filed suit against Yelp, claiming that the popular review site manipulated and manufactured reviews in order to coerce businesses to advertise on the website. However, in their lawsuit, the businesses largely speculated about Yelp’s role in authoring negative reviews and complained that Yelp unfairly chose to add and remove certain third party reviews. In a friend of the court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, EFF argued that this was an attempt by disgruntled businesses to make an end-run around the federal law that protects Yelp from liability for its users’ opinions. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects online service providers from liability and lawsuits over user-generated content, except in very narrow circumstances where the providers created or developed content themselves. In its amicus brief, EFF argued that mere conjecture about contributing content – like there was in this case – is not enough to allow a lawsuit to go forward.
On September 2, 2014, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the businesses' suit on the grounds that they had failed to state a claim for extortionate practices.