Seaton v. TripAdvisor

SEATON v. TRIPADVISOR  |  Docket No. 12-6122  |  6th Cir. February 27, 2013 |  The Cyberlaw Clinic filed this amicus curiae brief (pdf) on behalf of the Digital Media Law Project, asking the Sixth Circuit to make clear that website operators that aggregate citizen reports and rely on that data to draw conclusions cannot be liable for defamation based on those conclusions. The case concerns TripAdvisor’s 2011 “Dirtiest Hotels in America” list, which was based on travelers’ ratings for cleanliness on TripAdvisor. The proprietor of the hotel identified as the dirtiest in America sued TripAdvisor for defamation and false light, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee granted TripAdvisor’s motion to dismiss the claim. In support of TripAdvisor on appeal, the DMLP argued that opinions based on disclosed facts are not defamation under Tennessee law and that protecting such opinions is consistent with the goals of the First Amendment. By disclosing the reviews on which it relied, TripAdvisor enabled its readers to independently assess the rankings, subjecting its conclusions to the marketplace of ideas rather than the courts.

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