Law­suit tar­gets on­line re­view

Gut­ter King case raises is­sues of pri­vacy, defama­tion in posts.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Gary Dinges gdinges@states­ Re­view

When it comes to re­view­ing busi­nesses on sites such as Google Places, Trip Ad­vi­sor and Yelp, be truth­ful, at­tor­neys say, or it could cost you.

Though many who post on­line be­lieve their true iden­ti­ties are se­cret, a law­suit filed this month in Travis County — one of many pop­ping up across the coun­try — is an on­go­ing ex­am­ple that anonymity could go away when some­one is ac­cused of mak­ing false or po­ten­tially li­belous state­ments.

The owner of Austin Gut­ter King says his gut­ter in­stal­la­tion busi­ness was de­famed — and po­ten­tial cus­tomers may have been driven away — by a bo­gus Google Places post.

The suit in­di­cates that the post, which has been re­moved, came from some­one con­nected to an­other lo­cal gut­ter com­pany, Austin Gut­ter­man.

Austin Gut­ter­man did not re­spond to an email mes­sage from the Amer­i­can-States­man. Reached by tele­phone, an em­ployee said the busi­ness de­clined to com­ment.

A per­son with the user­name “Norma Lee” wrote the post, claim­ing to be af­fil­i­ated with a “small firm that con­ducts re­search into fraud­u­lent cus­tomer re­views posted by shady busi­nesses.” It ac­cused Austin Gut­ter King of writ­ing “fal­si­fied pos­i­tive re­views,” the suit says.

“While re­search­ing the source of numer­ous on­line posts re­lated to this mer­chant we found that a high per­cent­age of the post­ings source back to the same block of net­work ad­dresses,” Norma Lee wrote. “It is HIGHLY un­likely

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