Virginia justices hear online anonymity case

LARRY O’DELL
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A closely watched Internet free speech case is in the hands of the Virginia Supreme Court.

The justices heard arguments Tuesday in a carpet cleaner’s attempt to obtain the names of seven people who anonymously criticized the business on Yelp, an online customer review site.

The owner of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in Alexandria suspects the critics aren’t real customers. A judge held Yelp in contempt for failing to comply with Hadeed’s subpoena for identifying information about the reviewers.

A lawyer for Yelp told the justices that Hadeed must provide evidence that the reviews are bogus, not just a suspicion, to trump the critics’ First Amendment rights. An attorney for Hadeed said his client only had to demonstrate that he acted in good faith.

A decision is likely in January.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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