Supreme Court Won't Consider Whether Yelp Can Be Forced To Remove Reviews

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away Dawn Hassell, a lawyer who sought to force Yelp to remove negative reviews. As is customary, the court gave no reason for its decision.

The move leaves in place a decision by the California Supreme Court, which ruled 4-3 last year that Yelp can't be required to take down reviews.

The battle over the reviews dates to 2013, when Hassell sued a former client over Yelp posts. The ex-client didn't appear in court to defend herself, and Hassell was awarded a default judgment of more than $500,000.

The trial judge also directed Yelp to take down the posts, even though Yelp wasn't a defendant in the lawsuit. After Yelp learned of the order, the company asked the judge to vacate the injunction. Yelp argued that it should have been present in court, where it could have defended its right to display the posts.

The trial judge rejected Yelp's argument, as did an appellate court. Yelp then successfully appealed to California's Supreme Court. A plurality of the judges on that court said Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- which immunizes online platforms from liability for content created by users -- also protects Yelp from takedown orders.

Hassell then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. She argued that people harmed by online material -- ranging from “revenge porn” to the posting of private addresses, to defamatory reviews -- should be able to have the content removed.

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