How to File a John Doe Lawsuit Over an Anonymous Review Featured Image

How to File a John Doe Lawsuit Over an Anonymous Review

Fake consumer reviews published on the Internet can cause significant damage to your business. But given the anonymity online platforms typically allow, it can be difficult to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable. In these situations, filing a John Doe lawsuit may be necessary.

A John Doe lawsuit affords a discovery process in which the plaintiff can attempt to unmask an unknown defendant. To properly file a John Doe lawsuit over an anonymous online review, you must:

  • Ascertain whether you have a valid legal claim,
  • Determine the proper jurisdiction in which to file your claim,
  • Comply with any pre-suit requirements,
  • Initiate the lawsuit by filing a complaint or petition,
  • Issue valid subpoenas to the online platforms for user data, and
  • Analyze the user data obtained and, based upon that analysis, conduct any follow up discovery necessary to identify and name the defendant.

Our team of attorneys at Minc Law has extensive experience representing professionals and businesses that have been targeted and victimized by fake online reviews. We formulate strategies for the timely removal of these reputational threats—up to and including litigation. We have proven success both inside and outside of the courtroom navigating the difficult issues presented by and mitigating the damaging effects of defamatory online reviews.

In this article, we provide effective tips on how to identify fake reviews and discuss what steps may be taken before pursuing litigation. We then explore the process of and best practices relative to pursuing a John Doe lawsuit.

The Impact of Online Reviews on Businesses & Professionals

Businesses and professionals should not underestimate the impact online reviews can have on their bottom line and livelihood. Negative reviews adversely affect trust and credibility in the marketplace, as well as the ability to hire and retain talent. Reputation has been estimated to represent 63% of a brand’s market value—and roughly 90% of consumers report that online reviews play a role in their purchasing decisions.

While it may be impossible to avoid all negative reviews, each one has the potential for disproportionate effects on your bottom line. An alarming 94% of customers have changed their minds about a purchasing decision after reading a single negative review.

And the cumulative effects of a few negative reviews are staggering; 70% of customers filter search results for businesses or products with 4-star ratings and higher. If your average rating drops below four stars, you risk not even being within the search parameters used by the majority of potential new customers online.

Online reviews (both positive and negative) are a new reality in the quickly evolving digital world where e-commerce and the need for online marketing are growing at exponential rates. Smart businesses closely monitor their reviews and take affirmative steps to zealously safeguard their ratings. To effectively do so, the response strategy for negative reviews from real customers should be different than that for fake negative reviews. Below, we discuss some tactics for separating the real reviews from the fake ones.

How Can You Spot Fake Online Reviews About Your Business?

Defamation is a false assertion of fact published to a third party that causes damage to reputation. If an online review of your business meets this description, you may have an actionable claim for defamation.

The recommended response strategy to a negative review is likely to be very different if it was published by an actual, dissatisfied customer as opposed to an individual seeking to maliciously harm your company.

When dealing with an actual customer, the recommended initial approach is usually more in line with traditional customer service methods. Even when the customer experience is misrepresented by the review, starting with a non-confrontational approach can be the best means of achieving a desired result of having the review removed or revised. There are circumstances with actual customers, of course, which require a more confrontational approach, including litigation.

But many fake reviews are the product of people masquerading as customers for nefarious purposes, such as a disgruntled ex-employee, a business competitor, or an individual with a personal grudge or other separate dispute. Unlike legitimate customers, these individuals are not interested in any meaningful dialogue to resolve their purported complaints and confrontation is the only viable option.

Being able to spot the signs of a fake review can dictate which strategy to employ. When notified of a new negative review, we recommend considering the following:

  • Review the user’s account profile. If the account was recently created and had not been used to review any other businesses before the review of your business was published, then that could be a sign that the account was created for the purpose of publishing the review;
  • Investigate the substance of the review. Red flags would include if the review either does not accurately describe the products or services you offer, or the review contains language which directly or indirectly promotes a competitor; and
  • Review your business records. Determine whether the username matches or comes close to matching the name of any customer. Also check whether the anecdotes or complaints in the review match any recorded incident or interaction with an actual customer.

Minc Law Online Review Tip: You are the foremost expert on your business and its customers. Your instincts on which reviews are real and which reviews are fake are more likely than not to be correct.

But while these signs and tips may be a good guide on whether a review is fake, do not jump to conclusions and respond aggressively if you are not certain. Other existing and potential customers are likely to see your response to the review and can make judgments on your professionalism depending on the tone and content of your response. Especially if your business is bound by confidentiality regulations (such as a medical or law practice), you should be mindful of any restrictions on your ability to respond and how specific you are allowed to be if you can respond.

For a more in-depth guide to identifying false reviews, see our article: “6 Ways Businesses Can Spot Fake Online Reviews.”

Recommended Steps to Take Before Filing a John Doe Lawsuit

Lawsuits can be costly in both time and money. No one should be overly eager to pursue a lawsuit. If you believe your business is the target of fake reviews, you should carefully consider all available non-litigation options before filing a lawsuit.

In this section, we discuss best practices for mitigating the damaging effects of fake reviews and other self-help measures.

Preserve Evidence of the Review

You should always create a separate evidentiary record of negative new reviews, which may be deleted or altered at a later date. You will want to capture each iteration of the review should the need arise to use that evidence in the future.

Preservation programs such as Page Vault are best, but you can take screenshots if you do not have access to better tools. Be sure to capture both the review and the account profile (click on the username or profile picture to navigate to their user page), as well as the URL (internet address) for each webpage.

You should also document and preserve how you found out about the new review. If Google sent you an email alert or a third party brought the review to your attention, document and keep those notifications.

Document Damages to Your Business

In addition to preserving evidence of the review itself, it is equally important to document any damages you and your business have suffered as a result of the fake review(s).

You should monitor and document any related changes in sales leads or inquiries. For example, your hotel or restaurant may see a drop in reservations following the fake review, or your doctor’s office may not be getting as many new patients.

Even existing customer behavior can be influenced by fake reviews. Your customer service department, for instance, may notice an increase in angry customer complaints from individuals whose own false notions on the service or product have been reinforced or emboldened by the fake review.

You should certainly document any mentions of the bad review from your current or prospective customers — especially if you lose any business as a result.

This evidence may be helpful as proof of how the fake review has harmed your business should the filing of a lawsuit ever be necessitated.

Report the Review to the Platform for Terms of Service Violations

Most online review platforms have Terms of Service (ToS) that users must agree to follow when posting content. Each platform has its own distinct ToS, a link to which is usually listed prominently at the bottom of its homepage.

A review does not have to be factually false to violate the ToS of many platforms. There are a variety of reasons opinion based or truthful reviews could potentially violate a platform’s rules.

Of course, even if a review violates the ToS, there is far from a guarantee the platform will remove the post. Every moderating team—and incident—is unique. Most platforms will not play judge and jury in deciding which reviews are true or false, and instead will likely direct you to seek a court order which contains a judicial finding that the review is false and defamatory.

Reviews that very clearly do not reflect a marketplace interaction are more likely to be removed by the platform’s moderators. For example, if your neighbor leaves a review of your medical practice that airs their personal grievance with your unkempt lawn, this review would clearly be a personal and off-topic attack and you can likely have this post removed by reporting it for a ToS violation.

If you believe a review violates the platform’s ToS, you can try flagging it for review by the platform’s moderators. Given the volume of reports these teams receive, be prepared to wait several days or weeks for a decision. It certainly can help to have the support of an attorney who has experience navigating these reporting procedures effectively.

For more details on how to report reviews on several popular online review platforms, see our articles discussing removal options for Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and Facebook business reviews.

Monitor Your Other Online Profiles

If you believe your business is the target of fraudulent reviews, do not assume the attack is limited to one platform. Check your other online business profiles for suspicious activity.

Popular online business directories and review platforms include:

  • Google
  • Yelp
  • Facebook Business
  • Angi (formerly Angie’s List)
  • Trustpilot
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Capterra

For larger businesses or those with a significant online presence, it is wise to purchase a monitoring service that tracks and notifies you of online mentions. Or you can create a free Google Alert to monitor specific keywords (such as your name and your business’s name) and be able to promptly respond to any negative contributions.

When Litigation is Necessary

If the self-help options above are not sufficient, you may want to consult with an attorney experienced in pursuing internet related claims who can advise you of your potential legal recourses.

A qualified attorney can determine whether the circumstances give rise to a valid claim for defamation or any available alternative claim for relief. When considering whether a lawsuit is the best strategy, and when you should file, your attorney should advise you of the applicable statute of limitations and discuss important factors such as expense, expected timeline, and available relief.

If the informed decision is made to file a claim, it can be initiated as a John Doe lawsuit when the identity of the defendant is not known. We discuss the definition and general process of a John Doe lawsuit below.

Can You File a Lawsuit Against the Online Review Platform?

If false statements posted by an anonymous internet user on an online platform harm your business, and the platform can remove the post but refuses to do so, it is natural to want to hold the platform accountable for the continuing damages.

However, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act grants near absolute immunity for liability arising out of the publication and display of user generated content to all websites which fit the definition of an interactive computer service. This would include any online review platforms which display user-generated content.

If a lawsuit is necessary, your only option is to file it against the individual(s) responsible for the publications of the defamatory or otherwise actionable review.

Internet Defamation lawyer Checklist

Considerations to Keep in Mind Before Filing a John Doe Suit

In this section, we discuss exactly what a John Doe lawsuit is and how it differs from most lawsuits at the time of initial filing. We then provide a few key considerations to keep in mind when utilizing the legal process to attempt to unmask an anonymous internet speaker.

What is a John Doe Lawsuit?

A John Doe lawsuit (also known as an “unknown defendant” or “fictitious defendant” lawsuit) is a lawsuit in which the plaintiff does not know the identity of the defendant or defendants. Given the increasing amount of anonymous or pseudonymous online activity, the Internet age has seen a sharp rise in the number of these lawsuits.

The statute of limitations on speech related claims, such as defamation, can be shockingly short. Many jurisdictions limit the available window to file your claim to one year from the date the actionable speech was published. Worse yet, some of those jurisdictions also require the plaintiff to identify and specifically name the defendant before the statute expires. Therefore, John Doe lawsuits cannot always be viewed as a placeholder which will preserve your claim beyond the statute of limitations.

A few jurisdictions have either statutorily authorized or judicially recognized equitable reasons for tolling the limitations period in these circumstances, but best practices always dictate seeking to avoid any need to rely upon an argument for tolling. Failure to timely commence an action has too often proven to be fatal to an otherwise meritorious claim.

While caution is of course advisable, speed can be critical for several reasons. If nothing else, the filing of a John Doe lawsuit enables the plaintiff to utilize the discovery process to identify and name the defendant before the limitations period runs on the claim. Moreover, the traceability of the user data necessary to identify the defendant, which can be obtained via subpoena only after the lawsuit is filed, may be very time sensitive.

Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the more difficult and expensive it will be to accomplish your goals. If you wait too long, the prospects of success may be placed out of reach.

What Considerations Should You Keep in Mind Before Filing a John Doe Suit?

Before filing a John Doe lawsuit, it is crucial to understand both which jurisdiction you should or must file your claim and the pre-filing requirements in that jurisdiction. Depending on the situation, there may be more than one option for proper jurisdiction.

We explore these considerations below.

Retraction Demands

There are statutes or rules in slightly more than half of the states which require plaintiffs to demand retraction, correction, or clarification as a prerequisite to pursuing a claim for defamation. The general purpose of such a requirement is to afford the defendant an opportunity to mitigate the plaintiff’s damages.

The defendant’s compliance with a retraction demand does not extinguish the plaintiff’s claim, but it can have varying effects on the types and amounts of available damages should the plaintiff choose to proceed. However, plaintiff’s failure to demand retraction when such a demand is required can have much more serious consequences, up to and including dismissal of the claim. It is therefore critical to ensure full compliance with whatever requirements are imposed by the jurisdiction in which you file your claim.

Several states, such as Ohio, impose no burden on the plaintiff to demand retraction prior to filing a lawsuit alleging defamation as a cause of action. But many do. Florida, for instance, requires “service of written demand upon the defendant [five days before instituting suit] specifying the article or broadcast and the statements therein” alleged to be false. Florida’s statute, as written, only applies to media publications. But judicial decisions continue to expand its application to various forms of online publications. Since it is rarely, if ever, harmful to demand retraction, we recommend you err on the side of caution by always demanding retraction whenever possible.

Texas requires “a timely request for correction, clarification or retraction” from the defendant within 90 days of publication and if the plaintiff fails to issue such demand then available damages are significantly limited.

Michigan requires “reasonable efforts to provide [an] anonymous commenter with reasonable notice” and the opportunity to retract.

These requirements present a particular conundrum for plaintiffs when the identity of the defendant is not known. Certainly, retraction should be demanded once the defendant is identified. But it is perhaps advisable to at least utilize “reasonable efforts” to demand retraction even prior to identification. This can sometimes be accomplished through a response/reply to the published review, or potentially through a direct message to the anonymous user account if the online platform allows for that option.

Where to File a John Doe Lawsuit

Prior to determining the unknown defendant’s identity, choosing the proper jurisdiction and venue for your lawsuit can be challenging. A host of complex legal questions are presented.

Jurisdiction is almost always proper where the defendant resides or where the defendant engaged in the activities giving rise to the claims. But a plaintiff seeking to file a John Doe lawsuit in response to a false and defamatory anonymous online review typically does not have the information necessary to know where the defendant resides or where the defendant was located at the time the review was published.

Regardless of where the defendant may reside or where the defendant was located at the relevant time, other relevant jurisdictional considerations can include:

  • the location of any specifically targeted audience; or
  • the place where the brunt of the harm to the plaintiff has occurred.

Commonly, the answer to both of those inquiries is the same; that being where the plaintiff resides. That jurisdiction, therefore, is the most frequent starting point for the type of John Doe lawsuits discussed in this article.

To the extent the facts allow for any forum shopping. you should carefully consider how the laws and procedures of each available jurisdiction might benefit or hinder your efforts. Obviously, to the extent possible, avoiding jurisdictions with Anti-SLAPP statutes may remove a possible serious impediment to your case.

Perhaps less obviously, some states require judicial authorization prior to engaging in discovery, while others grant discovery power to litigants immediately upon filing a lawsuit. When required, such authorization can usually be obtained expeditiously, but those efforts add to the expense and inevitably extend the timeline to some degree.

The reality is that the evolving jurisprudence on personal jurisdiction (the power of a court to exercise its authority over a party being sued) in internet defamation cases can be difficult to fully comprehend even for the most experienced litigators. That analysis only becomes more complicated when the identity of the defendant is not known. We therefore recommend two separate jurisdictional analyses, the first at the time of filing and the other at the time of identification.

  • Jurisdictional considerations at the time of filing often focus on the plaintiff, specifically where the plaintiff resides and where the plaintiff has experienced the brunt of the harm.
  • Jurisdictional considerations at the time of unmasking may shift more to the residence and location of the defendant, although the location of the targeted audience and other relevant factors could provide support for the exercise of jurisdiction in alternative forums, including where the plaintiff resides.

How to File a John Doe Lawsuit in Response to a Anonymous Online Review

A John Doe lawsuit requires many of the same components as any other civil claim. We recommend reading our comprehensive resource explaining how to file a defamation lawsuit for a more complete overview.

A typical defamation lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint (referred to as a petition in some states) which identifies the parties, contains relevant factual allegations, asserts causes of actions which arise out of those factual allegations, and requests relief afforded through the causes of action asserted. The complaint is then served upon the defendant along with a summons to respond within a prescribed time period or risk being held in default.

States have varying rules on how and when a complaint must be served. Failure to comply with service requirements is possibly fatal to a claim. Therefore, knowing the applicable rules is essential. Depending on the jurisdiction, the service deadline can be as short as 60 days and as long as one year.

In a John Doe lawsuit, traditional service requirements may be impossible, at least at the outset. Deadlines, which can normally be extended with leave of court, should be closely monitored and alternative service options, which require leave (permission) of court, should always be explored.

Considerations in the Unmasking Process

Every case is unique, and the discovery process can vary depending on your jurisdiction and unique situation. However, always consider the following when preparing to file a John Doe lawsuit seeking to unmask an anonymous internet speaker:

  • Speed is critical due to data retention concerns. Online platforms only retain user data for so long and that user data is typically only traceable for some limited period of time. For example, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses can be traced to a subscriber only during the period of time the subscriber’s internet service provider retains that data.
  • Judicial authorization for pre-service discovery may or may not be required in your jurisdiction or case. However, if time allows, best practices may suggest obtaining court authorization for discovery intended to unmask the defendant even when such authorization is not technically required by the applicable procedural rules.
  • Unmasking subpoenas commonly need to be domesticated in the jurisdiction where the online platform is located. Taking this step is not too difficult or expensive, but failure to do so may either cause the platform to not acknowledge the subpoena or object to and force you to re-issue the subpoena.

What to Expect Following the Issuance and Service of a Subpoena

After serving a subpoena on an online review platform for identifying information on the anonymous poster, the platform is likely to send you a letter or other document advising of several objections. Most of these objections can easily be resolved through a meet and confer with the platform’s legal counsel.

Agreeing to reasonably cooperate with the platform on issues such as extending the response period to allow for user notice, and not requiring the disclosure of responsive data to include anything that would violate federal law (such as stored communications), can minimize expense and help accomplish your goals quicker. Failure to cooperate may elicit a motion to quash the subpoena from the platforms, many of which have exponentially more massive resources than any individual litigant.

Upon receipt of the subpoena, the platform will typically issue “user notice” to the defendant, advising of the lawsuit and subpoena. A John Doe defendant is allowed to file a motion to quash the subpoena without revealing his/her identity. If presented with such a motion, the court must decide whether the speech at issue is protected. If it is protected speech, then the court will allow the defendant to maintain anonymity. If no sufficient showing has been made that the speech is protected, then the motion will be denied and the defendant will be ordered unmasked.

In states which have Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) statutes, a motion to quash may invoke some aspects of those laws, including the penalties. Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to protect free speech by penalizing litigants who file lawsuits which have the effect of chilling free speech.

If the platform refuses to comply with the subpoena, the only way to force compliance is through a motion to compel filed with the court. If that motion is granted, the court will order the platform to produce the requested user data. If it is denied, then the subpoena will have no force and effect.

While most cooperate, some online review platforms, such as Glassdoor and Indeed, never voluntarily comply with a subpoena for user data. Any budgeting for a lawsuit involving a review on either of those platforms should include a forecast of expense for litigating a motion to compel which will be vigorously contested.

Analyzing the User Data Obtained

When you obtain user data in response to a subpoena, it must be carefully analyzed to determine whether you are able to identify the defendant based on what can be discerned from that production.

The user data provided may include an email address used for verification at the time of account creation or an SMS number entered for password recovery purposes. Those types of data points, if available, can allow for identification of the defendant without any further subpoenas.

The Cable Privacy Act & ISPs

Traceable user data obtained from online platforms is not uncommonly limited to internet protocol (IP) addresses which the platform captured when the user created an account and each time the user logged in or out of the account.

The data necessary to trace an IP address to an end user is within the possession of the user’s internet service provider (ISP). Which ISP is assigned an IP address can normally be determined through various online tools and databases. The American Registry of Internet Numbers provides a useful database of information on U.S. based IP addresses. Several other less authoritative, but useful, resources are available online which allow you to determine the ISP and general geolocation for an IP address.

An ISP will not disclose the subscriber’s identity without a proper subpoena. In fact, it is legally prohibited from making such disclosures without a judicially authorized subpoena. Since ISPs have been determined to be within the contemplation of cable providers under the Cable Communications Policy Act, any subpoena to an ISP for subscriber information must be accompanied by a court order specifically authorizing the subpoena.

To obtain that court order, a motion to authorize must be filed by the plaintiff and granted by the court. Once any subpoena authorized by the court is served on the ISP, the ISP will then be required to notify its subscriber and withhold response to the subpoena for a period of time (usually 28 days) to allow the subscriber an opportunity to file a motion to quash or otherwise object to the disclosure required by the subpoena.

Landmark Unmasking Decisions

The main tension affecting John Doe lawsuits is the right to anonymity in speech vs. the right of a plaintiff to pursue relief for defamatory statements published anonymously. Varying tests have been developed over the years by the court to determine, on a case by case basis, which right should prevail.

These tests are commonly utilized when a court is asked to decide the motions to quash, motions to compel, and motions for authorization discussed above.

Several landmark cases in recent years have shaped how courts approach unmasking:

Dendrite Intern., Inc. v. Doe (NJ 2001)

In Dendrite Intern., Inc. v. Doe, the New Jersey court held that a plaintiff seeking to unmask an anonymous defendant must:

  1. Undertake efforts to notify the anonymous speaker and allow for the opportunity to object;
  2. Identify exact statements claimed to be defamatory; and
  3. Establish a prima facie case of defamation.

The court then must balance the defendant’s First Amendment right of anonymous speech against the strength of the prima facie case presented.

Doe No. 1 v. Cahill (DE 2005)

The Delaware court in Doe No. 1 v. Cahill modified the Dendrite standard, requiring only steps one and three.

In re Does 1-10 (TX 2007)

In this case, the Texas court ruled that the plaintiff must produce evidence sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment before disclosure of identity can be ordered. However, the court observed that the plaintiff normally does not need to provide evidence for the elements of the claim that are impossible to show without knowing identity (such as fault).

Mobilisa, Inc., v. Doe (AZ 2007)

In Mobilisa, Inc., v. Doe, the Arizona court decided similar to Dendrite, requiring the plaintiff to:

  • Establish a prima facie case; and
  • Provide notice and an opportunity to object for the defendant.

The court must then balance the competing interests of the defendant’s right to anonymity against the strength of the plaintiff’s claim.

Krinsky v. Doe (CA 2008)

Perhaps the most influential of these decisions was issued by a court in California, where the vast majority of online platforms are located. The Krinsky v. Doe court reasoned as follows:

  • The defendant’s right to anonymity must be weighed against the plaintiff’s interests in identifying the speakers;
  • The Dendrite standard requires too much of plaintiffs;
  • Cahill’s notice requirement should be rejected; and
  • The plaintiff must produce evidence sufficient to support each element of the plaintiff’s claims.

What Are the Chances of Unmasking an Anonymous Poster?

As with all legal matters, there is no guarantee that you will achieve your desired outcome. The court may not agree with the basis for your claims. Or the platform may no longer possess traceable data, or never did. Unfortunately, there is not much opportunity to “peak behind the curtain” before filing a John Doe lawsuit

Another possibility is that everything goes right and you are able to obtain useful data and identify the defendant, but it ends up being someone who may not be worth pursuing. For example, say Dr. A initiates a lawsuit over a defamatory review against an anonymous poster Dr. A believes to be Dr. B, a competitor.

After filing a John Doe suit and subpoenaing the relevant review platform, Dr. A discovers that the reviewer is not Dr. B at all—but a patient. This discovery does nothing to change the substantive facts of the case; Dr. A has still suffered substantial damages as a result of the defamation. But while Dr. B runs a highly successful practice, the patient who really posted the review is far from well-off. Is the lawsuit still worth pursuing after discovering that the defendant is not collectible?

Dr. A may also consider the optics of suing his own patient. This scenario looks much different than if the defendant is a competitor, disgruntled ex-employee, or just an individual with a petty dispute posing as a patient.

Additional Considerations to Keep in Mind If Your Business Receives a Fake Anonymous Review

While it is tempting to take immediate legal action when your business is being attacked online with malicious falsities, remember that lawsuits may be costly and time-consuming. Generally, they should be viewed as a last resort.

In this section, we provide a few considerations (and litigation alternatives) to keep in mind if you are dealing with fake or negative reviews.

When Should You Avoid Suing for an Anonymous Online Review?

Not all negative reviews are defamatory. For instance, a negative review that is either substantially true or a matter of opinion cannot be considered defamatory, no matter how harmful.

Larger businesses with thousands of reviews may not suffer the same damage from a single negative review as a small business. In fact, some marketing experts would argue that the absence of any negative reviews can be a red flag for consumers. Before pursuing a claim, one must always ask “is the juice worth the squeeze?”

When deciding whether to sue for defamation, consider your desired outcome and the reason for suing. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the review significantly (and demonstrably) impaired your income or ability to do business?
  • Is it worth your time and money to file a lawsuit to have the review taken down?
  • Is it worth potentially drawing more unwanted attention to the review by filing a claim?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is a strong “No”, then you may want to consider an alternative to litigation.

What Alternatives Are There Instead of Filing a John Doe Suit?

If you are reasonably certain who published the review—and they are a real customer—you may be able to resolve the situation through a more traditional customer service approach.

Many dissatisfied customers simply want to feel heard. Try reaching out to them privately, displaying compassion, and giving them a chance to express themselves—even if you feel their complaint is unwarranted. You might be surprised by the results. The customer most likely maintains full editorial control over the review. Your goal is to convince the customer to make a subjective and discretionary decision which will benefit you and your business. Keep that in mind when making the pitch.

As discussed above, the review platform may take down a review if you flag it for a ToS violation. These platforms are not always cooperative or responsive in a timely manner, but if their moderation team decides in your favor, this solution is of course much easier and more efficient than a lawsuit.

Finally, online reputation management (ORM) services can mitigate the damage of fake reviews. Instead of focusing on removing harmful online content, ORM services use a combination of marketing, public relations, and SEO strategies to suppress negative content and promote a positive image of your company.

We Can Help File a John Doe Lawsuit Over Fake Online Reviews

Many factors at play in a John Doe lawsuit can significantly change your strategy and the case’s possible outcomes. An attorney experienced with pursuing such claims can explain your legal options and suggest the best course of action for your situation.

At Minc Law, our team of attorneys has extensive experience filing John Doe lawsuits in response to anonymous online reviews, issuing subpoenas for user data, analyzing the user data receiving, and identifying the defendant. Once that identification is made, we are able to more completely evaluate the merits of your lawsuit and what success will look like if you choose to proceed. We decide together with our clients whether a more direct lawsuit is worth the investment.

“Obtaining this legal representation saved our buisness. Minc Law represented and defended us against defamation so our customers didn’t have to. Minc Law gave us a voice and Daniel Powell made sure we were heard and considered in each part of the process. He also provided practical advice that helped us avoid a snowball effect, and added a human element while dealing with social media organizations.”

April 12, 2022

To schedule your initial no-obligation legal consultation with an intake specialist, reach out to us by calling (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.

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This page has been peer-reviewed, fact-checked, and edited by qualified attorneys to ensure substantive accuracy and coverage.

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