Gagging Negative Reviews Online Impedes Commerce and Free Speech

For most of human history, if a person wanted to find out if the new downtown restaurant was worth visiting for date night, whether a remodeling contractor was legitimate, or whether a vacation destination hotel was clean or full of bedbugs, they would have to ask around. Friends, family, or casual contacts may have been harangued for their opinions about various businesses. Online reviews have improved that system, and made our lives easier. Online reviews tend to be across a wide number of people and represent a great variety of situations, rather than just one opinion which may have been based on one incidence of bad service.

The last few years have shown a steady increase in the number of people turning to online reviews as an enhancement or replacement to personal recommendations, and for good reason. Such sites exist for virtually anything – hotels, restaurants, a broad array of services, and even traffic lights. However, some see online reviews as a threat and would rather stifle free speech than risk a bad review. Those being reviewed would have never dreamed of taking legal action to shut down the talk of neighbors but now try to do so online. The chosen tool for curtailing opinions? Non-disparagement clauses, or so called “gag clauses.”

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Cleland, Bartlett. (2016, March 18). Gagging negative reviews online impedes commerce and free speech. The Hill. Retrieved from