Which 5-Star Resort Wants to Censor Your Comments?

[See 9/2/11 Update at bottom of post]
A strange encounter with a somewhat hostile innkeeper in the wilds of Nova Scotia has focused me on the escalating war that more and more businesses are waging against their customers' free speech rights online.

It all began as my wife Ellen and I tried to check in at Trout Point Lodge in the remote Nova Scotia woods. We had reserved lodging for four nights, but at the front desk we were told we would not be allowed to check in unless we signed a legalistic "Registration Card" that gave up our right to publish (or, perhaps, even talk about) our own opinions or accounts of the place.

Can customer reviews be trusted?

Can Customer Reviews Be Trusted?

This post originally appeared in our July issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

They're but one of hundreds of sites that allow anyone to publish their review of a business, product or service to the world, but on July 15, 6-year-old Yelp celebrated passing the 20 million review mark.

By any calculations, that’s an incredibly impressive number, especially considering all of those reviews are volunteer contributions by uninvested everyday people like you and me.