Thune, Issa Push for Freedom of (Reviewer) Speech Online

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have taken to the blogosphere to call for House passage of their Consumer Review Freedom Act, which would protect the right of consumers to share online reviews without fear of non-disparagement clauses they say violate online free speech rights.

That is contract language that prevents negative online reviews. Their bill has already passed the Senate.

In a dual-byline post on The Huffington Post, the legislators said it was an American right to sound off.

"As Americans make more purchase decisions through free information gathered via the Internet, online reviews play an increasingly important role in selecting a hotel for a vacation, buying a gift, or choosing a professional contractor. But when some businesses block tough but truthful criticism, the trustworthiness of such reviews is diminished -- even for businesses that don't engage in the practice."

They say without their bill, the practice can have "far-ranging" consequences for speech. They cite a Utah family's congressional testimony about a years-long dispute over incurring a $3,500 charge for a critical review of a $20 Christmas gift.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.