Monthly Archives: May 2015

Will anonymous reviews be protected by the first amendment?

This morning’s local paper featured a story about a Tampa lawyer who is involved in legal action over an anonymous online review of her business. She claims that the reviewer was not one of her clients, and is just someone who is trying to ruin her professional reputation, by posting a false review about her on She is hoping that a Seattle court will (among other things) oblige the review site to disclose the identity of the reviewer.  This is one to keep an eye on, since the ruling on this case may have implications for other sites which allow individuals to post online reviews anonymously.

Can you get sued for posting a negative review of a business?

Apparently, yes, you can! According to this recent story in my local newspaper,  it is possible…though not very likely. (Thank goodness —  and thanks, Chris P., for keeping me updated!)

These days I’m enjoying the slower pace of summer, but still managing to keep pretty busy.  I am finally getting to work on a couple of papers about parody reviews that I’ve had in mind for about 2 years now.  Many of these texts are really funny.  This one is my current favorite  (posted under the “Delicious Women’s PhD Darling Sexy Costume”):

I wore this to my friend’s Halloween party. Everything was going fine until some jerk asked if he could see my discrete variables and if my f-value was significant. Some guy and his girlfriend asked if I’m into three – way ANOVAS. I was beyond insulted.

What can I say?…it appeals to my inner research geek.  Besides being humorous, parodies also have a critical dimension.  So from a scholarly perspective, I’m especially interested in how, with these kinds of texts, the review site becomes an arena for addressing gender politics, as well as a space for other forms of social critique.

And I’ve also recently launched the data collection phase for a very exciting new project.  This study will look at if/how/when/why local restaurants in my area respond to online reviews about their businesses.  Here’s a VERY preliminary finding: out of a semi-random sample of 50 popular local restaurants, only about 1/3 of them responded to reviews posted on 2 major sites.  My next mission is to find out why that is!