Friday, March 27, 2009

Is Yelp Suppressing Free Speech?

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 11:43 AM

A reader e-mailed me this morning to inform me that a lot of people have been protesting Uhuru Furniture on Yelp.com. They've been leaving negative, one-star reviews (in addition to staging protests outside the Grand Avenue store) regarding the organization's involvement in a rally Wednesday for Lovelle Mixon, who killed four Oakland police officers last weekend. But Yelp has been taking the reviews down.

The negative reviews appear for both the Uhuru House and its furniture store. One Yelper wrote: "I feel betrayed by you Uhuru. Though i always knew of your slightly-left-of-radical- political involvement, I always gave you the benefit of the doubt that you *WERE* doing some good in helping this community we love and call home. I never thought my hard earned dollars would support hate mongering, fragmentation and worse of all, justification for murder." But Yelp has been taking down the reviews, perhaps for violating their Terms of Service that prohibits advocating harassment of another person. (Reviewers have gotten savvy though, and are now posting negative reviews without mentioning the support of Mixon.)

Yelp reserves the right to post or take down whatever information it wants, contrary to how it advertises itself as an open forum for people to "find, review, and talk about what's great - and not so great - in your area." But isn't knowing if a local store supports a certain cause (as long as it's not false or defamatory) useful information for a consumer?

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