It may sound crazy, but a Texas man was sentenced to 97 months in prison for bad Yelp reviews. However, there’s far more to this story than you think.
Back in 2016, William Stanley started posting negative reviews on the popular online review site, Yelp. His posts targeted a financial advisory firm called Generation Equity, which parted ways with him earlier because he allegedly operated outside of their interests. Stanley, who ran his own SEO company, felt wronged by the firm and wanted revenge. However, he took things too far—demanding they pay him $30,000 or suffer an all-out smear campaign. This is how he landed in hot water. Threatening Generation Equity and demanding money to avoid it is, by definition, extortion. Stanley ended up getting sentenced to 37 months in prison.
The Bad Yelp Reviewer Didn’t Learn His Lesson
Within a few weeks of his release, Stanley relaunched his Yelp attack on the company. This time from a halfway house. Investigators discovered that Stanley had smuggled a smartphone into the halfway house—which was not allowed. They traced 67 different links from a WordPress blog that connected to a Yelp review. That negative review was posted the same day as another from a “former employee” of Generation Equity. All linked to Stanley. He was indicted for writing “false and derogatory comments and reviews online” about Generational Equity and sentenced an additional 97 months in prison.
Stanley argued that he didn’t do anything wrong when the FBI confiscated his phone and arrested him. He stated that Generation Equity owed him money. However, the court found that Stanley violated 18 U.S. Code § 1513. This code “criminalizes retaliation against a witness, victim, or informant who provides truthful information to a law enforcement officer about the commission or possible commission of a federal offense.”
The White House And Bad Yelp Reviews
A very similar incident with bad-mouthing and code violations happened with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She was recently asked to leave a restaurant that didn’t like the current administration’s morals and ethics. She retaliated by negatively tweeting about the restaurant from her official White House Twitter account. This, according to numerous legal analysts is a violation of the very same code Stanley violated. It’s also something that Donald Trump does on a daily basis. But I digress.
Or do I? Once Trump got wind of the incident, he took to his personal Twitter account himself, saying,” the Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”
The Ugly Side Of Yelp And Social Media Use
These tweets by two top government officials have prompted Trump supporters to start waging a Yelp war of their own. The Red Hen has now received a wave of bad reviews on the Yelp website—as well as death and bomb threats.
How the rest of White House VS. Red Hen Restaurant battle plays out is anyone’s guess. As for Stanley VS. Generational Equity, it’s clear Stanley has lost. However, Generational Equity claims that Stanley’s online attack cost them two sales worth about $75,000 and about $50,000 a day thereafter. This goes to prove that no one really wins in war.