PORTLAND -- A ruling by three appellate court judges in Oregon could cast a chill over people who post reviews of companies and services on social media.
Nearly all the big social media sites allow us to share our consumer experience with the world. From Yelp to Angie's List, Facebook and more, you never have to walk into a business blind again.
Stephen Henderson, a freshman at Portland State uses them.
“I've definitely gone places based on other people's reviews,” he said.
Bobbi Butz uses them too.
“I think it’s pretty important,” she said.
Bobbi loves getting fancy nail work done. Like a lot of consumers, if she's not happy with the result she'll post a review.
“If I really think it’s gonna be, it’s gonna effect other customers on what they're paying because nails are not cheap then I think yeah, I will do that sometimes,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals allowed a company to sue a man who made a negative post about them. He'd gone to a wedding in Eugene at the Dancing Deer Mountain and called it a disaster and worse.
The court case is still pending.
So what can we safely post? First amendment attorney Duane Bosworth said stick to your opinions.
“Obviously in regard to whether you thought it tasted good or it was attractive or any of those matters, those can't be proven true or false and you're absolutely free to say what you want,” said Bosworth.
The legal expert said despite the court ruling, opinion is still protected.
“If you're saying things that you believe are correct you should continue to have a right to say those,” said Bosworth.
But if you say something you know is factually false, look out.
That’s part of the dispute in the Eugene case. The online post made statements about the owners and their honesty. The judges ruled that those statements were not opinions but factual statements or implied facts.
Negative posts can hurt business. But managers like Samantha Lindsay, who manages a clothing shop on Northwest 23rd in Portland called Ipnosi, said posts are important for both sides.
“It’s a mix for me. I do think there should be more caution in how far they take the negativity but at the same time it’s important to know what’s good and what’s bad," Lindsay said.