New bill aims to stop businesses from suing you for bad online reviews

Your Yelp reviews could stand to be a little safer from the threat of lawsuit.


Kevin Collier


Published May 14, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 8:15 pm CDT

Two members of Congress have introduced a bill to further protect free speech nationwide with a bill called the Speak Free Act.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), is an example of what’s called anti-SLAPP legislation. Short for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation, a SLAPP is a frivolous lawsuit—usually defamation—brought to intentionally intimidate a person who may not have easy access to adequate legal counsel into staying quiet.

There is no federal anti-SLAPP law yet on the books, but about half the states, including California and Texas, have one in place, according to data from the Public Participation Project. 

In his statement introducing the law, Farenthold touted the bill as inspired by his state’s version on the subject, adding, “This is about protecting the First Amendment—and it’s about protecting the modern information economy that thrives as our public discourse thrives.”

Eshoo specifically referenced the often comical but still terrifying practice of companies suing, or at least threatening to sue, people who disparage their business online. “When an Internet user chooses to review a product or service online, they should not have to fear being sued by that company just because they offer a review that isn’t a glowing one,” Eshoo said.

You can read the entire bill here.

H/T Techdirt | Photos by US Congress/Wikipedia (PD) | US House of Representatives/Wikipedia (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: May 14, 2015, 1:59 pm CDT