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Lincoln city hotel sues TripAdvisor.com for bad review

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An anonymous user on TripAdvisor.com posted a review of a Lincoln City hotel a few weeks ago and now the hotel is suing the travel advisory site for defamation.

The Ashley Inn has filed the suit in the amount of $74,500.

The Ashley Inn is owned by the Lincoln City Lodging Limited Partnership. Once the group detected the bad review, they immediately took action to get the review taken down and prevent further posts by this user.

Reviews are allowed on the TripAdvisor.com website, to ensure consumers get a first-hand account by those who have previously used the service. In this case, the hotel was bashed as not only a bad place to stay, but as one that the employees must be high or drunk while they serve those who stay there.

On April 23, 2014, the anonymous user decided to post the review and during this time, any user interested in staying at the hotel could see the review on TripAdvisor.com. The review stated that the “breakfast was nasty, the rooms are nasty and Jen at the front desk had phone sex with someone.” The post continued to say the “laundry and housekeeping [staff] are either high or drunk.”

The reviewer also claims the “owner smokes weed.”

Trip Advisor pulled the post from their site once the lawsuit was filed and attention had been called to the review, but the hotel claims that it was seen by anyone who may have wanted to travel to Oregon during the month it was up.

This issue screams the question, "How much control can a site have over reviews written by real users of the product?"

User “12Kelly” posted the review under the anonymous user name, but lied when stating that he or she lives in Prescott, Arizona and had stayed in the hotel in March. “12Kelly” will be listed as a defendant once his or her identity has been found.

Other users posted wonderful reviews about the Lincoln City hotel and only a few had posted negative reviews. Those who wrote bad reviews about the inn definitely didn’t trash the place, so to speak. Users had what would be considered “normal” complaints about a product or service.

This past March was the first time the Oregon Court of Appeals has examined the idea of whether or not Oregon business owners can sue people for posting horrible reviews that might defame their livelihood. Oregon, like most states, are still under laws that were written before technology advances were made. Now that the Internet and social media are here, it’s time to keep up with the current day processes via these venues, by adding to or subtracting from statutes to fit these upgrades.

We all know there are nasty little trolls who travel the web waves, in search for the perfect place to create trouble by posting vile comments. The vindictive aspect of this review makes one wonder if instead of a disgruntled guest, it could be a case of a ticked off employee who was released from duties at the inn or a troll who is only out to have another trophy in his or her case.

Whatever the case may be, should business owners be allowed to sue people who post bad reviews? As a reader of some of these reviews when wanting to understand a product better, I would bypass this review due to the out-of-control verbiage and the need to bypass the truth by using obviously unwarranted material. How can a guest in a hotel know if the owner smokes weed or if Jen, the front desk clerk was having sex with someone on a phone unless the writer of the review was involved as well? If the front desk clerk were having phone sex, then what perverted sense of curiosity made you stay and listen in?

Would it be best if the hotel staff just ignore the review? Maybe write to TripAdvisor.com and ask them to remove the unproven review content?

Should it be law that the owner of a business can sue online reviewers for negative reviews or should we allow freedom of speech, even if it meant that we may lose business because of the reviews online?

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