Tuesday, April 6, 2010
As an internet defamation lawyer, I was very interested in Tech Crunch's recent post regarding new social networking website GetUnvarnished.com. Ratings sites have been driving internet growth the last 2 years and Unvarnished takes it to the next level. Rather than rate businesses as Yelp invites users to do, Unvarnished allows users to rate each other. The defamation possibilities are endless and no doubt lawsuits will abound (interestingly, the site bills itself as "unvarnished" but apparently cannot and has not obtained the domain address www.unvarnished.com which hosts a blog by someone named Travis Smith).
For the most part, Section 230 protects sites like Unvarnished but that may begin to crack. Yelp has been exposed for essentially running an extortion ring according to a slew of recent lawsuits. Unvarnished may run into challenges based upon similar claims. Also, these ratings sites are getting more and more aggressive in an effort to populate their site with content. Unvarnished may or may not catch on, but it illustrates a larger legal and social issue as we head into the next decade of internet development.