In December, The Wealthy Dentist reported on a story that first appeared in the New York Daily News which told the story of Virginia contractor, Christopher Dietz, who was suing his former customer, Jane Perez, for negative online reviews she wrote on Yelp and Angie’s list.
At the time, a judge had granted Dietz a temporary injunction against Perez and ordered the ex-client to change her online reviews, especially the part where she accused Dietz of stealing jewelry.
It seemed reasonable and encouraging to many small business owners and most especially dentists, who have been dealing with questionable tactics by some negative online reviewers for several years now.
Then Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in. Late in December they filed a 21-page petition calling the judges prior decision “censorship.” What followed was a quick decision by the Virginia Supreme Court to reverse the injunction against Perez.
All is not lost, the ruling only specifically addresses whether a judge can order a revision or censorship of online speech while a lawsuit is pending. The ruling says no, and the libel lawsuit is moving forward. A jury trial will decide if there are damages.
The Wealthy Dentist has advised dentists to not sue in these cases but instead use the money to initiate an aggressive Internet dental marketing campaign to counter the review. Immediately addressing the review in a calm manner can also help quickly counter what the reviewer has said.
Typically, the general public does not search past page two of online search results and this is where a dental practice’s online engagement can help bury a negative review. Facebook Pages, Twitter pages, YouTube videos, and Pinterest pages all show up high in search.
If a dental practice has taken the time to develop an Internet dental marketing plan for their online presence (using the dentist’s name and the dental practice name) they can fill the first page of Google with their own social media presence.
The Wealthy Dentist continues to argue that no business should have to deal with slanderous, vindictive online reviews and believe that eventually online review sites will have to find ways to deal with the libelous reviews, regardless of anti-SLAPP. Eventually a business owner will win big over a slanderous review and online review sites will be forced to set stricter review guidelines. In the meantime, everyone is watching how the Dietz- Perez will play out.
What are your thoughts on this latest ruling in favor of keeping the review as it was written until the libel case is settled?
For more on this story see: VA Supreme Court: Judge Can’t Force Yelp User To Redact Review