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Letter to the Editor: San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate)

the Chronicle's alarmist rush to highlight the supposed risks of online
review writing they missed that a Yelp user has already won a lawsuit
challenging her right to post a negative review: Styger v. Johnson,
Superior Court of California, Case No. CGC-08-477322
. In four years and
after 4.5 million consumer reviews, we're aware of 3 business owners
actually suing a customer.

A chronology…

June 8th: The Chronicle's front page covers
a year old lawsuit pertaining to a negative Yelp review, blasting
"Negative Yelp review triggers defamation suit".

Jan 9th:
Columnist Andrew Ross takes sides in the lawsuit without knowing the
facts of the case declaring "If I'm ever looking for a furniture
designer, it won't be [the reviewer]."

Jan 13th: Chronicle highlights another lawsuit (filed a year after
the previous) with the headline "Dentist sues over negative Yelp
review". Thanks to the headline and placement, this story is
undoubtedly perceived by readers as a "trend". In this case a dentist
(Dr. Wong) doesn't even go on record as disputing the facts of the

We at Yelp stand strongly behind consumers recognizing
their right to speak truthfully about their experiences (positive or
negative). In America it's called protected speech and the editors and
columnists of the Chronicle enjoy this right daily. 85% of the reviews
on Yelp are positive (3+ stars), so the few who are brave enough to
share bad experiences with the rest of us deserve our support for the
value they provide the wider local community.

Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp CEO

Published in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle (1/18/2009)