The company behind a legal threat to TripAdvisor over alleged defamatory reviews on the site says it has a “Pandora’s Box” of a potential case on its hands.
UK-based Kwikchex, which unveiled plans for a possible class action against the user review giant in September 2010, has been quiet of late, prompting to some to wonder if the threat had faded away after the resulting publicity and question marks over whether the case would even get aired in the US.
But CEO Chris Emmins, who has masterminded the action, says the issue is at delicate point and still evolving, despite assurances in the campaign’s initial phase that TripAdvisor would be contacted about the supposedly defamatory reviews.
For its part, TripAdvisor says this week that it has still not had any contact at all from Kwikchex.
Emmins says the “scale, the severity and the consequences of the current situation concerning anonymous and unverified feedback comments are so great that we know we have to consider broader actions”.
The Kwikchex boss describes how the saga has developed in recent weeks:
- Individual cases are being evaluated to create primary list – ones which include the most serious allegations of criminality by property owners or negligence of standards. Such businesses must be willing to give evidence in court if necessary, Emmins says.
- A second set of cases has been assembled where there is allegedly “reasonable evidence” of criminal deception on the part of the author of the comment. This includes posting fake reviews (positive or negative).
Emmins says, however, the scale of comments that fall outside of those two areas but “unquestionably violate” guidelines of user review sites.
“In many cases the statements being made about the standards applied and the effectiveness of filters, screening etc. are quite simply a fallacy and are, we feel knowingly false and misleading.”
Kwikchex says it is intending to highlight such cases to a “far greater degree” that it previously considered.
It is also restricting its original terms by allowing non-Kwikchex members to participate in any such legal process.
“Our members, of course will always take priority and will exclusively have the resources to confirm, build, promote and protect their reputation. We are addressing the exact methodology of how we open it up to all – but it will certainly include advice and a check that will enable people to understand the laws, ethics and principles involved.”
As an aside, an interesting point to note in the latest exchange with Emmins is the use of word TripAdvisor – in fact, it doesn’t appear at all in the correspondence.
But, ironically, in a month dominated by the outpouring of information from the Wikileaks organisation, Emmins stresses:
“What we are talking about is protecting freedom of speech, but not allowing the enabling of freedom of deceit on the scale that is currently taking place.”