One negative review can harm your business. Multiple bad reviews can be devastating. While public critiques have become a normal cost of doing business, there are situations where a negative review can cross the line and become legally actionable. Though businesses will likely receive a negative internet review at some point in their operations, there is a disturbing new internet trend occurring where the online review process is weaponized for the purpose of destroying a business or brand’s online reputation.
Navigating Complexities of online reviews:
Fake Review Tactics & Negative Review Campaigns
While the internet is still a wild and unregulated place, one thing is certain: the publication of fake reviews about a business on the internet is considered defamation, and a person lodging a public smear campaign against a business through an online review platform can be ordered to pay that business thousands of dollars for the resulting damages.
Types of Fake Reviews & Negative Review Campaigns
- The publication of a review by an actual customer that exaggerates an experience in an untrue manner.
- The publication of a review by an unknown person that makes false, disturbing and even criminal allegations about a business’ operations or its employees.
- The publication of a review by a person (or competitor) who never utilized the business’ services or products and otherwise had no marketplace interaction with a business.
- The publication of many fake reviews through multiple anonymous internet accounts created for the purpose of manipulating and lowering a business’ star ratings.
- A former customer who had a negative experience directing non-customers to leave bad reviews on his or her behalf.
We’re Here for you:
Don’t Let Bad Reviews Affect Your Business
The first thing many people do before utilizing a business’ services, whether that be making a restaurant reservation or scheduling an appointment with a doctor, is google that business. The publication of negative online reviews effectively memorializes a poor customer experience in perpetuity. Unfortunately, a bad review has a much more wide-spread effect on a brand’s reputation than the simple publication of a customer gripe. Bad reviews also lower a business’ star rating, which lowers that brand’s search engine ranking. This ultimately tarnishes a brand’s online image, drives away customers, and ultimately results in thousands of dollars of loss for your brand.
You don’t have to let negative reviews impact your business. Contact our Reputation Management attorneys to learn more.
How we can help:
What Sites Can KJK Help Remove Fake Reviews From?
People leave fake reviews on social networking sites, review platforms, shaming sites and other websites. Some popular platforms our clients have been defamed on include, but are not limited to:
- Google Reviews
While many review platforms and websites have measures in place to prevent users from writing fake reviews, deciphering the difference between actual and fake reviews can be next to impossible. As a result, review platforms typically don’t remove fake reviews without some type of court intervention.
More than just a law firm:
Identifying an Anonymous Reviewer
When a business or individual knows the identity of the publisher of a fake review, it can be a lot easier to seek recourse. Nevertheless, an anonymous person’s identity is not protected from being discovered. Attorneys can trace anonymous people online through a mixture of cyber-investigation tactics and court mandated discovery. A person utilizing a fake account can be unmasked and held accountable for the damage that they have caused a business.
What is an unmasking lawsuit?
Attorneys can discover the identity of an anonymous person through an unmasking lawsuit. An unmasking lawsuit is a lawsuit filed against a John Doe defendant where the plaintiff strives to identify the defendant through the discovery process. This type of lawsuit is typically filed against the fake username. The plaintiff will then subpoena the review platform and subsequently the internet service provider connected to the fake reviewer’s internet protocol (IP) address. Once the defendant’s identity is ascertained, the complaint can then be amended to include the true identity of the person leaving the fake username to defame a business.
If you want to discover the identity of an anonymous person defaming you, timing is extremely important. IP addresses and other customer data are not retained by businesses indefinitely, and the longer you wait to pursue these data points, the more likely you are to lose them.
Preserving data is also extremely important for an unmasking lawsuit. If you do not have copies of the content of the fake reviews, the uniform resource locator (URL) where the content is located and the information related to the profile of the fake reviewer, you may lose your ability to identify the person defaming you.
If your business is being attacked by harmful, fake reviews, an attorney can help. Whether your brand is being attacked by a customer, a competitor or an anonymous person, you have options to remove the reviews and cease the unlawful behavior. A reputation management attorney can help you evaluate your options, secure the removal of negative reviews and repair your reputation.
Responding to & Removing Fake Reviews Frequently Asked Questions
How do you remove a fake review from Google/ Facebook/ Yelp/ Healthgrades?
While you may be able to get a review removed as a violation of a term of use of the websites, more likely than not, you will have to work with the publisher to remove their comment. If the publisher refuses to remove their comment, you can still get the review removed if you attain a court order declaring the review to be false and mandating its removal. Removing a fake review is a lot more difficult when that review was left by an anonymous person.
Should I respond to a fake review?
While responding to a fake review is an option, it might not be your best option. A hasty or ill-drafted response can result in greater damage to your business. Additionally, it may increase the SEO or social reach of a negative review. An attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of responding to a fake review versus removing it.
Can I hide my bad reviews with positive reviews?
The publication of positive reviews will often help to push down negative reviews, and additionally will help increase your brand’s star ranking. But even if a bad review is pushed down, or sorted to a “not recommended” category, it will still be able to be found. Additionally, the publication of positive reviews will not stop an angry reviewer from targeting you and can sometimes motivate them to publish more reviews. Often, the only way to stop a fake reviewer and mitigate damages is to unmask them and hold them legally accountable.
Will Google/ Facebook/ RateMDs remove bad reviews without a court order?
Can a person hide his or her identity from discovery in a lawsuit?
Unfortunately, there are things that tech savvy individuals can do to keep their identity hidden. Using a VPN or a public internet connection when creating a fake review can make it more difficult to uncover an identity.
Does timing matter in an unmasking lawsuit?
Yes. It is vital to act quickly if you want your best chance at unmasking the user. IP addresses become harder to trace with the passage of time. This is partially because businesses only retain customer information for limited amounts of time.
How do I know if a review is fake?
Typically, a brand will know whether a review is fake by the substance of the review. If a review reports an interaction with a company that never occurred, it is likely fake. Additionally, fake reviews are often created by similar fake profiles with one or more of the following characteristics: the account name contains a pun, celebrity name or inappropriate username, the profile has only left one review for your complaint, the profile has no listed identifying information or profile picture, the account was created on the same day that it left the review, the profile left a review at the same time as other suspected fake profiles.
Can I remove a bad review that is true?
Yes. While it is more difficult to secure the removal of a poor customer review if that review is true, it is possible. Reviewers will sometimes remove their reviews after a reported issue is corrected by the company. Options for removal will depend on the unique facts of your situation.