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online reviews

As with other forms of defamation or libel, the important distinction among online reviews of restaurants, businesses, and other experiences is between subjective statements of opinion (“the food was terrible”) and objective statements of fact (“the restaurant is a front for organized crime”). A person is entitled to state an opinion that is different from other persons’ opinions, but is not entitled to misrepresent facts that can be proven to be true or false.

Laws vary from state to state, but many state legislatures have enacted laws that protect citizens against lawsuits designed to intimidate and silence critics speaking on matters of public interest. For more information on these laws, see the subtopic Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

In Texas, defamation law distinguishes between subjective opinions and objective statements of fact. Subjective opinions, such as 'the food was terrible,' are generally protected under the First Amendment and are not considered defamatory because they are personal views that cannot be proven true or false. However, objective statements of fact, such as 'the restaurant is a front for organized crime,' can be defamatory if they are false and harm the reputation of the business or individual. Texas has enacted anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation, specifically the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), which is designed to protect individuals from meritless lawsuits filed with the intent to censor, intimidate, or silence critics on matters of public concern. The TCPA allows for the early dismissal of such lawsuits and requires the plaintiff to prove by clear and specific evidence a prima facie case for each essential element of the claim in question. If the plaintiff cannot meet this burden, the court may dismiss the lawsuit and award attorney's fees and costs to the defendant.

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