Congress Moves to Protect Critical Social Media Reviews

CNN Money
September 13, 2016

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which is intended to prohibit businesses from suing individuals for posting honest, but negative, online reviews. This bill makes a provision of a form contract void from the inception if it is used in the course of selling or leasing goods or services to: (1) prohibit or restrict an individual who is a party to such a contract from engaging in written, oral, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments or analyses of, including by electronic means, the goods, services, or conduct of a person that is also a party to the contract; (2) impose penalties or fees against individuals who engage in such communications; or (3) transfer or require the individual to transfer intellectual property rights in review or feedback content (with the exception of a nonexclusive license to use the content) in any otherwise lawful communications about such person or the goods or services provided by such person.

The legislation goes on to make clear that it does not apply to employment contracts, nor is it meant to prohibit other common terms of use provisions, such as those against harassment or defamatory speech.

The intent of this law is laudable. It will be interesting to see how the final language comes together and, if signed into law, how it is applied.

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