Employees of the online review site Yelp at the East Coast headquarters of the tech company in New York City
Employees of the online review site Yelp at the East Coast headquarters of the tech company in New York City - 

Negative, anonymous reviews on websites like Yelp can hurt small businesses.

A carpet cleaner in Virginia says false and malicious reviews on Yelp drove customers away, forcing the company to lay off employees.

Joe Hadeed wants the Virginia Supreme Court to force Yelp to reveal the identities of the people who wrote the negative reviews.

But Virginia law is unusual. In the rest of the country, most judges have protected anonymous online reviews to ensure reviewers are safe from retaliation.

Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto says the company vets its reviews. “We actually use an algorithm to recommend the most valuable and reliable content. So Yelp only recommends about 75 percent of the content it receives.”

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace