Angie’s list is a popular consumer-driven organization that collects customer satisfaction ratings on local service companies for more than 720 categories. This website which has gained notoriety among its users provides an exclusive list of these companies based on feedback from local consumers and users.
This website differs from other sites because Angie’s list is a subscription-based review site that boasts and claims that they have more accurate and trustworthy information than other comparable sites. The site lists a membership bill of rights that states their members have the right to share their honest opinions at any time. Angie’s list states that they try to ensure users are confident in the accuracy of the information, specifically the website reads:
“Before they’re posted, all reviews are checked in order to guard against providers and companies that try to report on themselves or their competitors. This process was reviewed and approved during a 2012 audit by BPA Worldwide.”
However, even with this supposed review process, negative Angie’s list reviews can be very damaging to a company or a person.
Removing Defamatory Content From Internet Sites Like Angie’s list
There is a belief that once something is posted on the Internet that it is impossible to remove it. Some sites claim that they cannot be sued for what they post, and some may claim that it is their First Amendment right to post content on the Internet, however, that is not always true. Someone who has been defamed on the Internet has a host of remedies they may be able to use and there are proven legal tactics that can be employed to remove such content.
Despite the broad website protections afforded by the Community Decency Act (CDA), the following are several notable exceptions that provide for website liability and can be used to compel a website to remove content, even when the content has been provided by a third-party:
- Intellectual Property Claims — Websites and service providers are not absolutely immune from being sued even under the broad protections of the CDA. Claims for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and other intellectually property related claims generally are not covered by CDA immunity. Websites and service providers that are put on proper notice of intellectual property violations, like copyright infringement, should and often will promptly remove allegedly infringing materials.
- Criminal Law Violations – There are very few instances anywhere in the law where a person or entity including website can escape criminal liability for their actions. There are many federal, state, and perhaps local criminal laws that may apply to the particular website and will allow a person to have content removed from the Internet.
- Editing Content That Materially Alters Its Meaning – There are certain actions and editorial functions that a website may take when they are reviewing content that has been posted. One way to impose liability and perhaps have your information removed from a website is when a website edits content that was created by a third-party and then makes content that was otherwise not defamatory or illegal, into a statement that can be construed as defamatory.
- Promissory Estoppel – A website can, by explicit contract or promise, waive or be estopped from asserting CDA immunity. Which means that if they sign a contract in which they state that they will not be protected by the CDA, then they will not be able to use this law as a sort of shield to protect them in the event that they are sued for posting false and defamatory content. Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc., 570 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2009); Scott P. v. Craigslist, Inc., CGC-10-496687 (Cal. Superior Ct. June 2, 2010).
- Encouragement to Post Content – If a website encourages users to post illegal content to their website, then they will not be able to claim that they are protected by the CDA. Two separate federal appeals courts have upheld this and found that a website should be entitled to use the protections of the CDA when they specifically encourage users to post illegal content.
- Voluntary Removal by the Website – One way that a business or a company can potentially have their information removed from a site is simply to contact the website itself and point to some clause or part of their user agreement that is being violated by the statements. However, even if you send a letter or email to these sites it does not mean that they will necessarily listen. Sometimes websites state they have a policy that they will not remove a post no matter what. However, websites will often voluntarily remove information that violates their policies when appropriately alerted to the problem.
- Court Ordered Removal from Search Engine Indices – Even if a website touts that they will not remove any content, comments, or reviews on their site, there are still ways where you can compel them to do so. One of these methods that is not often employed, but is very effective, is to obtain a court order that requires a specific website’s URL be removed from search engine results.
Defamation Defense Attorneys Can Remove False and Embarrassing Posts from Angie’s List.
While sites like Angie’s list and other user-generated sites attempt to avoid removing posts from their site, there are ways for attorneys experience in the field of Internet defamation to remove content. Aaron Minc at Meyers Roman Friedberg and Lewis LPA understands how damaging negative reviews can be to a business. We guarantee the removal of the offending post from the site or your money will be refunded. To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation call (216) 373-7706 or schedule a meeting online.