When it comes to social media, many bar disciplinary bodies have expressed reservations about testimonials.  Some states permit lawyers to post testimonials on their websites only with prominent disclaimers, while others impose a duty on lawyers to monitor third-party sites like Avvo or LinkedIn where testimonials might crop up.

Though testimonials can potentially be deceptive or fraudulent, the constitutionally compliant antidote to client speech isn’t suppression but rather, more narrowly tailored means that weed out the fraud while allowing bonafide commentary to stand. Thus, as I’ve previously written, algorithms that identify “false positives” are one potential way to improve the accuracy and reliability of review sites. But seems that Yelp  has an even more intriguing solution:

a combination of sting operation and e-shaming designed to humiliate those companies that purchase positive reviews.  As the New York Times reports:

Like every Web site that depends on consumer critiques, Yelp has a problem with companies trying to manipulate their results. So it set up a sting operation to catch them. The first eight businesses — including a moving company, two repair shops and a concern that organizes treasure hunts — will find themselves exposed on Thursday.

For the next three months, their Yelp profile pages will feature a “consumer alert” that says: “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business.”

Potential customers will see the incriminating e-mails trying to hire a reviewer.

Of course, here in the legal profession, we’ve got our own posse of href=”http://www.blog.simplejustice.us/”>Greenfield and Tannebaum who do their share of outing. But is e-shaming something that bar regulators should institutionalize on a broader scale to curb lawyers who buy fraudulent reviews, or pressure clients to provide favorable feedback? I’m not comfortable with empowering regulators that way (plus, there are due process concerns). But on the other hand, isn’t sunlight always the best disinfectant for ne’er do wells?