A Review of Yelp Joining ALEC

Amid much controversy, Yelp! has joined ALEC, according to this report on ColorLines. Color of Change also reported on Yelp’s dealings, commenting:

Yelp!’s action is even more bizarre given that the company paid at least $10,000 to join ALEC during the opening week of George Zimmerman’s murder trial in Florida. Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of all criminal charges for fatally shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin — and will likely be immune to any civil penalty for wrongful death — thanks to the NRA-written Shoot First law that ALEC recklessly pushed out to 25 other states.

In response, Color of Change has launched a page to “Tell Yelp! No,” which you can visit if you’d like to do just that. I’m assuming that a site dedicated to allowing people to review other places will be more than amenable to some constructive criticism. So don’t be shy.

In the meantime, Joshua Brustein of Business Week disagrees (surprise!), reporting that Yelp joined ALEC simply to protect reviewers from being sued by companies who don’t like negative reviews. According to the report posted on The Daily Beast:

At an ALEC meeting in Chicago last week, Yelp’s director of public policy, Luther Lowe, delivered a presentation to ALEC’s civil justice task force urging the group to consider adopting model legislation on strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. If approved, the anti-SLAPP policy would have to be ratified by ALEC’s communications and technology task force, which includes representatives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

From this other vantage, Yelp and ALEC are just teaming up to fight injustice, with the latter doing its part by “taking more civil libertarian stances on technology issues than it has in the past.”

I, for one, am not holding my breath. Even if Yelp and ALEC have honorable goals in this case (which is not clear or likely), ask yourself why a company has to join a group like ALEC to have any shot of passing legislation in their favor. Or, ask yourself why companies have the money and power to even consider getting legislation drafted in their favor, while individuals toil away in the doldrums of the justice system.

“Is ALEC doing the right thing?” is the wrong question. “Why does ALEC exist?” is a better one. Then you can move on to “Are corporations people?” And let the critique continue to widen…

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