Speech is free only for the powerful:
“Most Americans don’t realize they can be sued for writing an online review,” says Evan Mascagni, an attorney who currently serves as Policy Director at the Public Participation Project, a nonprofit group that advocates for First Amendment rights.“With the rise of user-generated [review] content sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, we’ve really seen a shift where folks are being sued for their speech online,” Mascagni tells CNBC Make It.
Online reviews are a strange beast. It costs the consumer their own time to write a review. A favorable review costs the consumer yet adds a financial benefit to the business. Does this make sense?
A negative review might result in the consumer being sued. While the risk is low, the potential costs are high. Consequently, a negative review has a financial risk to the consumer.
Web sites like TripAdvisor were caught censoring negative reviews of travel destinations, which means the online reviews may have little value to the consumer.
Amazon’s product reviews are notoriously filled with paid (positive) and fake reviews. Some negative reviews are written by competitors.
So why write reviews?