How Fake Online Reviews Can Ruin A Local Business
It is the horrendous tale of the IT consultant who discovered in April 2010 that someone called Paul had posted a Google Places review against this business stating that he had touched a child inappropriately as well as stealing the RAM from his computer.
According to the reports, Google refused to remove the offending comments and, after 18 months of repeated requests for removal, Mr Bennett from Shropshire had lost 80% of his IT customers and was about to sue Google for defamation. That’s when the BBC stepped in and, according to their news report, although they initially refused to discuss individual cases, they did then telephone the reporter and agree that it would be taken down.
According to the BBC, even the police were powerless to intervene, although they did acknowledge that he was being falsely accused.
The article in the technolog also refers to Google’s Transparency figures which show that requests to remove content from its UK pages in the first six months of 2011 has increased by 71% over the second half of 2010.
There’s no doubt about it, we Brits pride ourselves on a society which allows freedom of speech without fear of reprisal but this type of event is becoming more and more common with the big companies holding up their hands and refusing to take responsibility.
The problems with Google Places commenting – whether it be online reviews or competitors being able to mark another business as closed without anyone checking with the actual business – have been well documented by Mike Blumenthal and Linda Buquet. As a result some measures have been put in place by Google where emails are supposed to be sent out to the business owner alerting them to any changes in their listing.
Whilst we all want to know if a business does not live up to its marketing literature, allegations of this nature combined with the inability for such a business to remove such a catstrophic piece of bad press is something that really does need to be addressed within a timeframe that does not extend to months or years – effectively killing the online reputation of any business without proof.
Our British justice system has been built on innocent until proven guilty. This type of trial by online review takes us back to the dark ages of dunking witches and if they drowned they were innocent.
Another example of fake online reviews
I found another example of the online commenting anomaly from last year which was also reported on by the Beeb. The identical derogatory comment had been posted on a large number of photography sites, seemingly by the same business… but they knew nothing about it. Again, Google seemed unable or unwilling to deal effectively with the situation even though all the controls that they were supposed to have in place to weed out this type of duplicate seemed to have failed.
The online review systems is going to need a lot of work and the emphasis must be on close monitoring by individual businesses to try to be on top of such comments before they mushroom out of control. I would think that the very nature of two such polar complaints against Mr Bennett should have shown the unpleasant nature of the reviewer… but the problem is that mud sticks.
Having said that, an active campaign pointing out the iniquity of such a comment might have helped to stop the loss of some of his customers. When dealing with bad reviews, most of us think it better to ignore so that the trolls will go away but with such serious accusations, a response is imperative and this should be a firm and confident rebuttal of any allegations.
Fake online reviews can seriously damage your business and we should all be on the look out for the perpetrators.
Originally posted 2011-11-04 17:38:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Suite 1, 103 Leigh Road Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 1JL UK
firstname.lastname@example.org • 01702 476517