This morning, Paul Alan Levy and I blogged about the dozens of suspicious court cases aimed at getting Web pages taken down or deindexed; it took a lot of digging, but we dug them up. I’m still digging; expect more stories in the coming months, though dealing with subtly different schemes.
But I wouldn’t have noticed any of this if it weren’t for Matthew Chan, the target of Patel v. Chan. Longtime readers of the blog may remember Chan as the defendant in Ellis v. Chan, the Georgia Supreme Court case in which I had the pleasure of arguing on behalf of amici supporting the free-speech rights of Chan and the users of his site.
Chan, as you can tell from that case, isn’t someone who accepts speech restrictions without a fight. Recall that this all started when Yelp told Chan that it was removing his review of a local dentist, because the dentist had supposedly gotten a court order stating that the review was libelous. The easiest thing in the world when you get a note like that is just to say, “Fine, I don’t have the time to argue.” It’s just a months-old customer review; why spend any time defending it?
But Chan didn’t give in. Instead, he pushed back; he saw that there was something fishy; he let me know; Paul and I blogged about it; and when Chan, representing himself, asked the court to reopen the case and vacate the injunction, the ostensible plaintiff agreed — and also publicly identified Profile Defenders as the reputation management company that seems likely to have been involved.
So there it is: This massive, nationwide scheme has been made visible because one guy wouldn’t let his Yelp review get taken down. Nicely done, Matthew!