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First Amendment News

FAN 228: Yelp vs. Google on Searches for Abortion Providers 

October 16, 2019

“Those looking for abortion providers using Google Maps are still being led to anti-choice pregnancy centers, while searches for an abortion provider using Yelp turn up consistently accurate results. Yelp made a concerted effort last summer to ensure the business review site was delivering accurate results when people turn to its platform to find abortion care. Google, meanwhile, struggles to explain why it directs those seeking abortion services to clinics that offer misinformation about abortion and don’t offer the service.” Rewire.News

This from a Yelp press release: “A reporter with Rewire.News reached out to investigate why Yelp seemed to provide the most accurate results when searching for abortion care. When our users turn to Yelp for searches that are this critical and sensitive, it is important that they find the highest quality information that truly responds to what they are looking for. This isn’t a story about building a machine learning algorithm. It’s a story about the hard work and dedication of our User Operations team who, last summer, set out to manually evaluate more than 2,000 business listings and re-categorize clinics that did not offer actual abortion services but were often Crisis Pregnancy Centers that steered people to other options.”

Full Disclosure: My son works for Yelp.

Oberlin College Hires Levine & Berlin to Appeal $31.6 Million Verdict

Lee Levine

This from an Oberlin College press release:

Oberlin College’s Board of Trustees announced today that it voted to appeal the jury verdict that held it and the college’s Dean of Students liable for a protest organized independently by students. Attorneys representing the College filed a Notice of Appeal today appealing the case to the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Akron, Ohio.

“The decision is grounded in the board’s fiduciary responsibility to the College’s long-term financial health,” said Board Chairman Chris Canavan. Left standing, the verdict could also set a troubling precedent for those institutions, like Oberlin, that are committed to respecting free speech, he said.

The College will continue to support the Oberlin business community, Canavan said.

The College has assembled an appellate legal team to take on the many dimensions of this case, he said.

The team includes First Amendment attorneys Lee Levine and Seth Berlin from the Washington, D.C., office of the national law firm Ballard Spahr and appellate attorneys Benjamin Sassé and Irene Keyse-Walker from the Cleveland office of the national law firm Tucker Ellis. These attorneys will work with trial counsel from Taft Stettinius & Hollister of Cleveland and from Wickens Herzer Panza of Avon to address the intersection of defamation law, First Amendment principles, and Ohio tort reform doctrines this case raises.

Seth Berlin

Levine has a national reputation as a leading First Amendment attorney and, during a career that spans four decades, has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, has appeared in most federal appeals courts, and has written extensively on First Amendment and defamation law.

Berlin has represented clients in First Amendment cases for more than 25 years and has argued cases in numerous federal trial and appeals courts and in state courts across the country. He is also an Adjunct Professor of First Amendment and Media Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

“The verdict and judgment in this case set a precedent that endangers free speech on campuses and for all Americans,” Levine said. “The jury was allowed to award substantial damages for speech that is protected by the Constitution. The case should absolutely be reviewed by an appellate court.” . . .

On November 9, 2016, a student was accused of shoplifting and attempting to use a fake ID to purchase alcoholic beverages at Gibson’s Bakery. A member of the Gibson family confronted the student, pursued the student out of the store into nearby Tappan Square, and engaged in a physical altercation with the student, detaining him until police arrived. Two other students also got physically involved in the incident. Several students and others in the Square witnessed the altercation.

Within 18 hours, students had organized a protest. The College took steps, consistent with its protest policy, to ensure that it was peaceful and sought to de-escalate tensions in the community.

In June 2019, a Lorain County jury awarded Gibson’s Bakery and its family $44 million in connection with the lawsuit. The judge in the case has since reduced the judgment to $31.6 million.

Knight Institute to Host Conference on Tech Giants

This November the Knight Institute will host a conference titled “The Tech Giants, Monopoly Power, and Public Discourse.” Leading legal scholars, economists, and technologists will examine the extent and nature of the technology giants’ ability to structure, shape, and distort public discourse, and consider whether anti-monopoly tools might usefully be deployed to limit, expose, or counter this power.


  • Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, 6-8 pm.
  • Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, 9 am-5 pm.


  • Columbia University, New York, NY


  • Daniel Crane (University of Michigan)
  • Evelyn Douek (Harvard Law School)
  • Ellen P. Goodman (Rutgers Law School)
  • Lina Khan (Columbia Law School)
  • Genevieve Lakier (University of Chicago Law School)
  • Andrea Prat (Columbia University)
  • K. Sabeel Rahman and Zephyr Teachout (Brooklyn Law School and Fordham University School of Law)
  • John Samples and Paul Matzko (Cato Institute)
  • Ganesh Sitaraman (Vanderbilt University Law School)
  • Tim Wu (Columbia Law School)
  • Ethan Zuckerman (MIT Media Lab)

For More Information:

2019–2020 SCOTUS Term: Free Expression & Related Cases

Pending Petitions

Pending Petitions: Free Speech Related 

Last Scheduled FAN

This article is part of First Amendment News, an editorially independent publication edited by Professor Ronald K. L. Collins and hosted by FIRE as part of our mission to educate the public about First Amendment issues. Opinions expressed are those of the article's author(s) and may not reflect the opinions of FIRE or of Professor Collins.