Recently Goodreads clarified their Reviews Policy to spell out what authors and readers could and could not do when rating and reviewing books. They did not do this to be mean or censor your right to talk about books with your friends. They did this because some people have been breaking the law and, if they don't fix the problem, the government might come in and shut them down. That would stink, wouldn’t it? Where would we go to chat about the next great book?
See what I just did there? I made a derogatory statement about Abercrombie, but I included a link to a traditional, credible media source that I trust as backup (not a private blog). Reposting links to something somebody else said does not insulate you from telling the truth. I also included a link back to the uscourts.gov official website. Do you know why I did that? Because my right to free speech does not include the right to say something which is not true, especially when it could cause someone economic harm. If I make a statement which I cannot later back up, Abercrombie could sue me, and they could sue Goodreads as well if somebody points it out to them and they don't remove the comment.
And here's why Goodreads had to revise their policy ... if they have reason to believe something somebody says is not the truth, or is said maliciously, or bullying, or harmful, they could get sued too. It's already happened with fake hotel and restaurant reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor and YELP, and now the government is aiming their gunscopes at other websites that make their money publishing customer reviews of products.
Under the law, the burden is on them to prove they know you are telling the truth when you leave your review. Yup ... they have to vouch for you. If challenged, they have to stand up and say 'I trust this person was telling the truth' (just like when I cited that article from the Huffington Post about the Abercrombie CEO). The best way to do that is to have a flagging system and clear written policies in place so that Goodreads can swear they looked into it when somebody accused a Goodreads member of leaving a false review and know you are telling the truth. The new guidelines were written to protect you, the potential reader, from being influenced by sockpuppets, astroturfers, carpetbombers, and trolls.
Here is where you can learn more about consumer protection law. It's a cool little 4-minute video by the Federal Trade Commission which applies to a lot more stuff than just Goodreads: http://www.business.ftc.gov/multimedia/videos/ftc-endorsement-guides