Before there was Yelp, there was Citysearch. Founded in 1995 as an online guide for finding local businesses, Citysearch helped pave the way into an era of consumers posting online reviews. While Yelp has blown Citysearch and other competition out of the water in recent years, Citysearch is nevertheless still active and businesses are still very much vulnerable to false reviews on the website.
Citysearch does not permit “spam-y” reviews, according to the website’s About Us page, and its content moderators will remove any fraudulent postings. This includes defamatory content published by customers or other third parties, false positive reviews written by a business (or someone on its behalf) and negative reviews written by a business about a competitor.
For example, users of the website agree not to “1. Be unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, indecent, defamatory, vulgar, profane, obscene, libelous, hateful or otherwise objectionable.”
After a business submits an email concerning a potential false and defamatory review, for instance, Citysearch’s content moderators will determine whether or not the review should be deleted. The Citysearch moderators are unable to determine the reliability of a post, so any evidence demonstrating that a review is fraudulent should be included in an email.
Citysearch users do not necessarily have to register with the website to post a review (although some do register with the website via Facebook or by email). Nevertheless, if a harmed business wishes to pursue an anonymous poster, it can serve a subpoena on Citysearch’s parent company, CityGrid Media, LLC, in California via its agent, National Registered Agents, Inc.
Even though false reviews are often posted to Citysearch anonymously, without the submission of any identifying information such as email addresses, Citysearch does store and collect information about users’ computer and mobile devices. For example, it collects computer internet protocol (“IP”) addresses, unique mobile device ID numbers and mobile device geographic locations if enabled. An IP address, for instance, can be used to identify the associated internet service provider, which can then be subpoened for subscriber information.
If all else fails, and a business is unable to remove a false review on Citysearch and/or identify an anonymous poster, the potential silver lining is that Citysearch listings are often outranked on search engine results by the likes of Google reviews, Yelp listings, social media pages, company websites, news articles, and TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon listings (for restaurants) — thus, potentially mitigating the harm caused by the review.