UPDATE: The company that threatened to sue the negative reviewer just lost its Amazon account.
The next time you write an online review, be careful. You might get sued.
That’s what could happen to a Florida man who left a negative review about an Internet router he purchased. According to his Tuesday post on Reddit, where he’s asking for legal advice, he received a letter from a law firm in Philadelphia threatening to sue him for an “illegal campaign to damage, discredit, defame, and libel” the company that makes the router.
“Your statements are false, defamatory, libelous, and slanderous, constitute trade libel and place Mediabridge and its products in a false light,” the verbose letter from the law firm reads in part.
In his review, which has since been edited, the man made several allegations, including that many of the positive reviews about the product on Amazon might be fake and that the router itself was “identical” to a router from a different company.
If the man doesn’t take down his review within three days, cease all Internet conversation about the product, and agrees to never buy the company’s products again, the law firm will sue him, according to the letter. But by going to Reddit and not keeping quiet, the man might have already sealed his fate.
Companies, it turns out, have every right to sue people who write reviews on websites that they may feel are libelous or defamatory.
While there is a level of legal protection that third-party websites (in this case, Amazon) have from being sued, which come from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the same section that protects websites that show revenge porn — the authors of those reviews are not protected.
Neither the letter nor the user can be confirmed. Still, this isn’t the first time that someone has taken legal heat for online reviews.
In 2012, a Virginia court sided with a contractor who received a negative review from a woman on Yelp, claiming defamation. The woman who wrote the review said the service was poor and accused the contractor of stealing her jewelry. She was sued for $750,000.
In 2011, a book author sued a man, though unsuccessfully, who wrote negative reviews about his book on Amazon. And in 2006, a woman in Florida won $11.3 million in a lawsuit resulting from defamatory remarks on an Internet message board.
While the Internet allows users a certain amount of anonymity behind reviews on Amazon or Yelp — where a negative or positive review can determine a company’s success — there is still a danger that companies will take legal action against these reviews. For this Florida man, his gripes with this company will only grow.