Judge Lets Yelp Off the Hook on Extortion Claims ... For Now

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A federal judge in San Francisco has granted Yelp's motion to dismiss a case filed against the company over all those "pay-to-play" extortion claims. (To recap: Business owners said that positive reviews were removed and negative reviews bumped up after they refused to buy ads on the site.) Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said there wasn't enough evidence of threats and clear consequences brought by the plaintiffs. But law blogger Eric Goldman points out that's kind of a Catch-22.

Says Goldman: "Judge Patel wants the plaintiffs to provide a better causation story, but much of the evidence that might support the causation story is likely to be obtained only through discovery — which the plaintiffs won't get if they can't get past the ... motion to dismiss."

The judge did allow for an amended complaint to be filed within 30 days, so this thing isn't quite over. But barring some whistle-blower at Yelp turning over damning e-mails or offering to testify, it sounds like the case is close to dead.

Judge tosses out Yelp suit [SF Business Times]
Yelp Beats "Implied Extortion"/ "Pay-to-Play" Lawsuit [Eric Goldman]
Earlier: Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0 [East Bay Express]