Service Provider’s Intent in Removing Positive Reviews Irrelevant in Assessing Availability of CDA Section 230 Protection

21 05 2012

A lawsuit against consumer review site Yelp! has yielded an opinion that demonstrates the breadth of the protection afforded interactive service providers under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In Levitt v. Yelp! Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124082 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2011), a group of putative class action plaintiffs filed an action against the site under Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code, claiming that the site manipulated its consumer review functionality to extort advertising revenues from the plaintiff businesses. . . .

In an opinion rendered last spring, Judge Marilyn Patel rejected most of the business owners’ claims of “implied extortion” that were based upon allegations that Yelp! manipulated reviews in order to coerce businesses into purchasing advertising on the site, but granted leave to amend the complaint. Levitt v. Yelp! Inc, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99372 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2011). A Third Amended Complaint was filed and Yelp! renewed its motion to dismiss. Judge Edward Chen, now assigned to the case, concluded that the Third Amended Complaint failed to cure the pleading and substantive defects identified by Judge Patel and finally dismissed the complaint without leave to amend.


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