by Nancy Bestor
I’m not a regular contributor to review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, but I have posted a handful of reviews, almost always when I have something positive to say. Once or twice though, I have posted a less than stellar review of an establishment, and frankly, I feel bad when I do so, even though my reviews are 100% honest. I am also a big reader of other traveler’s reviews of hotels, restaurants, tourist sites and music venues. The information is almost always helpful, although I do take everything I read with a grain of salt. The photos are equally, if not more, helpful, as a hotel’s own photos always make rooms look bigger and better than they are, right?
Thus I was disheartened to read a story in the Oregonian reporting an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that says a business owner can claim defamation if an online review has opinions as well as “factual statements” that a business owner can prove as false. This somewhat ambiguous ruling makes me worry that reviewers will be less likely to post negative reviews of establishments, for fear of being sued. I understand that reviews might not always be honest, but I feel like this works both ways. I don’t always trust bad reviews, but I don’t always trust good ones either.
Now that there might even be a legal deterrent, it appears my Mother was right again: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I guess I‘ll be keeping my negative reviews to myself from here on out.