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Woman won't have to edit Yelp review before defamation trial, says Virginia Supreme Court

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Virginia's Supreme Court has overturned a judge's order for a woman to edit an angry Yelp review before the issue goes to trial. As part of a $750,000 lawsuit, Dietz Development asked for a preliminary injunction that would require Yelp and Angie's List user Jane Perez to edit what it claimed was a defamatory review — among other things, Perez accused Dietz workmen of stealing items from her home. Initially, a judge agreed, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision both because no dates were specified and because it was "not justified."

The case itself is still going, and if Dietz wins, it's asking for the court to make Perez edit the review and refrain from future defamatory statements, as well as pay damages against its now-tarnished reputation. Likewise, the Yelp review has already apparently been hidden, possibly as part of heavy page moderation. As defense attorney Paul Allen Levy argues, though, this win has larger repercussions for free speech. "If plaintiffs think all they have to do to get something shut down about them is run to court and ask for it, a lot more are going to do that," he tells Ars Technica. "It shouldn’t be easy to shut down speech, it should be hard. The win in the Virginia Supreme Court restores that balance. Defamation law is to protect people who are being truly defamed."