Yelp! Wins Dismissal of Claims for New York Deceptive Acts and Practices and Defamation Based upon Alleged Manipulation of User Reviews


In Reit v. Yelp, Inc., Index No. 600555/10, — N.Y.S.2d —, 2010 WL 3490167 (Sup Ct, NY County, Sept. 2, 2010) ("Reit"), Plaintiff Reit, a dentist, sued Yelp!, Inc. ("Yelp") and Michael S., an anonymous poster, for defamation, and Yelp alone for deceptive acts and practices under New York‘s General Business Law ("NYGBL") §§ 349 and 350. Justice Jane S. Solomon vacated a prior entry of a TRO and held that (i) plaintiff‘s defamation claim against Yelp is barred by the Federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 USC § 230 (the "CDA"), and (ii) plaintiff‘s claims under NYGBL §§ 349 and 350 must also be dismissed because Yelp‘s alleged manipulation of reviews was business conduct and not addressed to consumers and, thus, was not a deceptive act or practice.

The Court followed a line of cases holding that the CDA shields interactive computer service providers, like Yelp, from defamation claims. However, under New York‘s deceptive acts or practices laws, the CDA does not shield Yelp‘s use of speech as leverage in its business model. If an interactive computer service provider directed more of its alleged misconduct at consumers, as opposed to the business-directed communications here, a plaintiff may be able to state a claim under New York law.

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