Protecting Free Speech On Review Platforms

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User-driven business review services like Yelp and TripAdvisor help millions of people find the right restaurant, doctor, hotel and more. But some businesses, hoping to avoid negative reviews, began hiding non-disparagement clauses in their terms and services agreements—exposing unsuspecting users to potential lawsuits. This questionable legal tactic began to scare off users core to the success of these sites. We counseled the companies’ public policy and government affairs teams on this fundamental First Amendment issue.



To expose how non-disparagement—a.k.a. gag—clauses hurt not only the sites themselves and the users at risk of litigation, but all customers not being shown honest reviews.  


We went to work crafting and executing a robust communications plan and third party strategy to expose the consequences of these unfair legal practices. By putting together a compelling fact sheets and educational materials, securing media coverage for victims targeted with lawsuits, sharing consumers’ horror stories through Op-Eds in national and Beltway publications, and by building a robust coalition of advocates, we were able to show policymakers and the press just how serious an impediment to Free Speech these clauses are.


Thanks to our robust media strategy, we saw coverage in The Washington Post, NPR, Christian Science Monitor, The Hill, Quartz, Salon, Engadget and Buzzfeed, among others. And all of this culminated into the passage of the Consumer Review Fairness Act, a bill that outlaws non-disparagement clauses signed into law by President Obama in 2016.


Press hits


Third parties



Bill passed

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