In a decision issued on September 12, 2016, Kimzey v. Yelp! Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court’s dismissal of a Complaint against Yelp! Inc. The Complaint sought to hold Yelp responsible for negative reviews posted on http://www.Yelp.com about the plaintiff’s locksmith business. The plaintiff alleged that Yelp created and developed content, including by way of its star-rating system that assigns businesses overall star ratings based on Yelps’ user’s ratings.
While noting that the plaintiff’s contention had “superficial appeal,” the Ninth Circuit relied on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) in affirming the dismissal of the Complaint. That Act immunizes providers of interactive computer services against liability arising from content created by third parties. The Ninth Circuit rejected the contention that Yelp’s star rating system transformed Yelp into an author as the Yelp star-rating system relied on rating inputs from third party reviewers, which Yelp then simply reduced into a single, aggregate metric. The Court stated that Yelp’s star-rating system is a neutral tool operating on voluntary inputs and thus protected under the CDA.
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