Publishing our opinions on the Internet is as much an expectation these days as a convenience. But what happens if your comments attract the wrong kind of attention – can you be sued for your online opinions?
If you have ever left an online review of a business, commented on a blog post or written an online article, then you have more than likely posted your opinions online.
While in general we understand this to be our freedom of speech, some people or businesses could consider your opinions libel or slander and take action against them. But just because they choose to pursue legal action does not mean you are going to be sued for posting opinions online.
There seems to be a certain amount of grey area where it concerns fact and opinion. Courts may have to determine if online comments are being positioned as fact or opinion before they allow a case to go through court.
One thing we know for sure, however, is that American law protects statements of opinion more than ever before in our history.
In 2014, California’s “Yelp Bill” prohibited businesses from including the following in their contracts: “a provision waiving the consumer’s right to make any statement regarding the seller or lessor or its employees or agents, or concerning the goods or services.” The Consumer Review Freedom Act, which was recently introduced to Congress, would enable consumers to post reviews and opinions for businesses online without the fear of penalties.
In conclusion, if you publish your opinions online, then you are generally protected against libel and slander. However, there are no guarantees, and cases that are brought against consumers are generally analyzed on a case-by-case basis.