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Scant praise for Unvarnished, a website for reviewing people

Unvarnished, a controversial new 'people review site,' allows users to anonymously publish critiques of others' workplace performances. Critics cite concerns about defamation and libel.

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There are online reviews of movies, cars, computers, and now... people? Unvarnished, a controversial new “people review site,” which began its latest round of testing Monday, is allowing invited users to anonymously publish reviews and comments about others' workplace performances.

Users who connect to the site via Facebook can create a profile about someone else and post reviews of that person's workplace performance. The subjects of such reviews can, if they choose, “claim” their profiles and manage them to a degree, but they will not be able to delete negative reviews. After testing, the site is expected to be open to the public.

Unvarnished is already raising ethical and legal concerns related to privacy and protection from defamation, with many questions focusing on the fact that the critiques are anonymous. Reviewers have overwhelmingly panned the website.

Unvarnished "essentially encourages defamation because it guarantees a forum for venting…. This forum is designed, in essence, for taking swipes at folks you don't like. And it's smartly leveraging Facebook's very popular format to do so,” lawyer Kristen Dumont told the Los Angeles Times.

Unvarnished is “a clean, well-lighted place for defamation,” writes Evelyn Rusli at the website TechCrunch.

Unvarnished cofounder Peter Kazanjy told CNET’s Molly Wood that he believes site users will police themselves. While users often use pseudonyms for usernames, he notes, their usernames follow them across the site. Reviewers will get “trustworthiness” ratings over time if they deliver reasonable reviews supported by others. Mr. Kazanjy hopes features like these will support a moderate, fair tone in reviews.

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