While TripAdvisor in January said it would no longer publish negative lists such as “the dirtiest hotels,” it appears it no longer has to fear hotelier retribution as a recent court ruling deemed that publishing such lists does create defamation liability.
The Grand Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which ranked among the dirtiest in 2011, had its case against TripAdvisor dismissed because the legally protected opinions of TripAdvisor users constituted a non-actionable opinion.
According to an article by Forbes this week, Grand Resort apparently didn’t challenge either the users’ opinions or objective assertions, preferring to contest its characterization using the word “dirtiest” in its rankings. The court said “neither the fact that defendant numbers its opinions one through 10, nor that it supports its opinions with data, converts its opinions to objective statements of fact.”
The implication, according to the Forbes story, is that the ruling shields user-generated content sites that compile rankings of users’ subjective views — so long as the websites makes it clear that user opinions are the source material.