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The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider a lawsuit that Yelp.com warns could lead to the removal of negative reviews on the popular website.

The seven-member court voted unanimously Wednesday to take up an appeal by Yelp of a lower court ruling upholding an order requiring Yelp to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm.

Yelp wants the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, saying that if it's allowed to stand, it will open the door for businesses to force the company to remove critical reviews.

Dawn Hassell, the law firm's managing attorney, says the business review website is exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. She says it aims only to remove from Yelp lies by a former client that a judge determined were defamatory, not just negative.

Hassell referred comment Wednesday to her attorney, Monique Olivier, who said in a statement she was not surprised the Supreme Court has taken up the case given the "amount of attention" it has received.

"This case is not one of a 'bad review' " she said. "It is a case where a court adjudicated statements to be defamatory after receiving and reviewing evidence about the falsity of those statements."

Aaron Schur, Yelp's senior director of litigation, said the company looked forward to explaining to the court "how the lower court's decision is ripe for abuse, contradicts longstanding legal principles, and restricts the ability of websites to provide a balanced spectrum of views online."

Though its impact is in dispute, the case is getting attention from some of the biggest internet companies in the world, which say a ruling against Yelp could stifle free speech online and effectively gut other websites whose main function is offering consumers reviews of services and businesses.

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