Most business owners are aware of the importance online reviews play in expanding and maintaining one’s clients and business relationships. While positive Google reviews stand to catapult a business or company’s revenue, profits, and publicity to uncharted levels, negative, defamatory, and fake Google reviews stand to sink a business even more quickly.
The most devastating of defamatory and fake online reviews? Google reviews.
Google reviews encompass everything about a business or company, including its:
- Business practices,
- Employee behavior,
- Facility or office appearance, &
- Countless other facets.
One negative mention of any of the above, and it could mean not only a declining bottom line and bad publicity, but having to shut one’s doors down altogether.
In this comprehensive blog post, we’re going to address why false and defamatory Google reviews pose a serious threat to your business, how to work with Google directly to remove unsavory and fake reviews, how to identify malicious online posters and trolls, and common consequences for businesses brought upon by such reviews.
Defamation Law Fact: Online defamation is like a wildfire. The longer you let it sit and embed itself into the corners of the Internet, the more damage it’s going to do. Proactivity is essential, so take a step in the right direction and reach out to an experienced defamation removal attorney today.
If you’ve stumbled upon fake or defamatory online reviews about your business, reach out to the defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law today! At Minc Law, we’ve litigated in over 19 states and 3 countries, and have secured hundreds of swift online defamation removals and takedowns.
Ohio defamation lawyer Aaron Minc and his team of nationally recognized defamation attorneys know who to work with in order to secure seamless removals. Aaron and his team have worked tirelessly with countless website administrators, content managers, and third-party arbitration firms, so rest assured, you’re in good hands.
At Minc Law, we’re here to protect your reputation.
False & Defamatory Google Reviews Pose a Serious Threat to Your Business
Technology has advanced at rapid pace, to the point where information and anything you’d want to know about a business is only a click of a mouse away. Consumers are known for doing their due diligence as well, with over 91% of people estimated to read online business and product reviews before purchasing or frequenting an establishment.
And if you think online reviews stand little-to-no chance of affecting a consumer’s perception about your business or product, you’d be dead wrong. Over 84% of all consumers who conduct online research about a company or product trust such reviews, and 68% form their final opinion about a product or business after just one to six reviews.
That’s right, online reviews pose a serious threat to you and your business’s reputation.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to trust everything we read online, however, that’s not the reality of the Internet and consumer advocacy and review platforms. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurrence for aggrieved and angry customers to lash out at businesses and companies online, posting false and libelous reviews, and other baseless personal attacks. Furthermore, the Internet has become a tool to gain a competitive edge against others looking to take your market share or customer base, and has been used in countless cases to deflate or sabotage a company’s reputation and livelihood.
You’d think with recent high-profile lawsuits aiming to curb and eliminate the posting of false online reviews, such as the fake online review crackdown by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2013, that malicious trolls and posters would have slowed down. However, they haven’t. They’re just beginning.
It’s extremely important for businesses to stay vigilant of their online presence and respond appropriately to any attacks or offensive online reviews. Now is not the time to cower in fear due to aggressive and false online accusations and reviews. Now is the time to take a calculated and proactive approach towards ensuring any negative reviews are suppressed in Google’s search results, or removed altogether.
Let’s take a look at several methods of removing fake and defamatory Google reviews by working directly with Google.
Defamation Law Tip: Due to a longstanding enforcement of the United States Constitution and the First Amendment, the United States is typically considered a pro-defendant jurisdiction. On the other hand, European and other Commonwealth countries are typically considered pro-plaintiff when it comes to libel and slander claims.
Removal of Fake Google Reviews by Working Directly with Google
Google has a well-established and thorough outline for reporting and removing false and defamatory online reviews. They claim that they will remove any content that has been flagged and is in violation of the standards set forth under their removal guidelines. Such potential grounds for removal include:
- Advertising: Some business owners may try and gain an upper hand in the marketplace by placing advertisements for their own business in reviews for your company. Rival business owners who post phone numbers or URLs are also considered in violation of such policy.
- Off-Topic Reviews: If a user or entity posts reviews that aren’t based on their personal experiences at the location in question, then they may be removed for being inauthentic and off-topic. Furthermore, Google Maps and reviews are not meant to be a forum for persons to push their own personal rants, agendas, or commentary about unrelated topics.
- Profane & Abusive Language: Google outlaws the use of profanity and abusive language when posting reviews and comments. Additionally, personal attacks are not allowed. Specifically, Google states, “We will remove content that contains obscene, profane, or offensive language or gestures.” This is a relatively broad criteria, so if you’re unsure of what constitutes obscene, profane, or offensive language, we suggest you reach out to an experienced online defamation lawyer today.
- Conflict of Interest: Individuals who have been paid, provided free items and services, or otherwise compensated by a competitor in order to write false, negative, and defamatory reviews have an impermissible conflict of interest, and such reviews violate Google’s guidelines.
- Impersonation: The Internet is ripe for impersonation and persons masquerading as someone they aren’t. Reviews which were written by competitors or others who aren’t who they truly say they are, may be removed. Furthermore, persons who attribute content to companies or organizations will also have found to be in violation of such guidelines.
- Hate Speech: Reviews and posts that target a company or business due to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or other sensitive grounds are not permitted under Google’s content guidelines. For example, attacks against a business which associates itself with a particular religion would not be permitted.
It’s important to understand when confronting online defamation and false Google reviews, evidence is considered your best friend. When submitting your request for removal to Google, it’s highly likely they will require you to provide or submit supporting evidence of the review or post.
Moreover, when removing online defamation and fake reviews from Google, time is of the essence. However, you must balance that with the fact that you must not act emotionally or irrationally in responding to fake reviews. Remember, the Internet has evolved into such a complex and far-reaching tool, that one small-step in the wrong direction, could carry global or long lasting consequences.
Defamation Law Fact: Parties who commit defamation are often referred to as (1) libelers, (2) slanderers, (3) defamers, and (4) famacide. Furthermore, defamation may also be called (1) vilification, (2) character assassination, (3) traducement, and (4) Disparagement.
Now, if you’re having trouble removing reviews from Google, there’s several easy and effective alternative steps you can take to help protect you and your business’s online reputation.
Alternative Removal Methods
While most of these “removal” methods do not actually remove negative and false Google reviews and posts in their entirety, they are an effective way to suppress and bury any potentially offensive or malicious material that might have an adverse effect on your business.
- Create & Maintain a Blog: Google’s search algorithm rewards positive content and those who create it. If you and your business are consistently pushing out positive and constructive content which is leading to a more-informed consumer, such results will likely be appearing before any negative or defamatory posts.
- Respond to Negative & Fake Reviews: As mentioned above, time is of the essence, so if you’d like to dull the effect while waiting on the removal process, responding to malicious and false reviews in a calculated and professional manner is an effective alternative. This allows you to craft your narrative and address any false statements in the post or review. Careful to not let emotion get the best of you.
- Overhaul Your Social Media Presence: Social media might be the biggest medium of all for reviewing businesses and products online. Making sure to keep an active and informative social media account is an effective way to further solidify your online presence. Doing so also allows you to respond to customers in real-time. In order to create a comprehensive online presence, make sure to link between all your various social media channels.
Although most companies and businesses view negative and defamatory online reviews as a problem, you can start viewing them as an opportunity – an opportunity to build your brand, customer support, and communication.
Subpoenaing Google to Identify Online Abusers & Other Legal Options
Google is a billion dollar company, and at times, may be non-responsive to your removal requests. If this happens, you may need to take legal action in order to expedite the removal of baseless and fake online content. In some cases, the most effective method for expediting the removal process may including subpoenaing Google to uncover the identity of the malicious online poster. Note that Google maintains information about users from when they first register and create their Google account.
It should offer you some level of assurance and comfort that Google is active in combating illegal online content and fake reviews, unlike the majority of websites we deal with (user-generated content platforms).
Many times, especially with accounts that are created specifically for the purpose of attacking a business or person and defaming them, the user will have provided fake information. However, most people who register an account, have not hid their IP address or addresses associated with the account. Furthermore, most people provide a cell phone number and secondary email address for security verification purposes when first registering an account in case they’re ever locked out or forget their password. The point is, Google will likely have a method of identifying or contacting the malicious poster – all they need is the nudge (subpoena) to do so.
So, what happens after a malicious poster’s IP address is subpoenaed?
After receiving the IP address from Google (post-subpoena), it’s not too hard to associate the relevant IP address with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Through a subsequent subpoena to the ISP, it’s possible to identify the customer associated with such IP address. Think of it as a two-step subpoena process. And, once the identity of the poster is uncovered, the defamed and afflicted business may then hold the malicious individual and poster accountable for their actions and defamatory postings.
In cases where a user has provided their telephone number or secondary email address when signing up, it’s possible to subpoena both companies in order to obtain a user’s identity.
Finally, it’s also possible for a defamed or injured party to request all information regarding any other Google accounts or products that are linked to the Google account in question. Associated accounts may provide further information, such as:
- Additional email addresses,
- Photographs and other media,
- Social media accounts,
- Other phone numbers, &
- Related IP addresses.
It’s not unheard of to then discover the account was opened by a competing business. So discovering associated Google accounts may open up a whole can of defamation worms.
Google will honor court ordered removals as well. To read up further on whether you need a court order to remove content from Google, check out our comprehensive article here.
Libel Removal Fact: Documenting everything is extremely important when confronting online libel and defamation. Make sure you screenshot all relevant defamatory posts, comments, and photographs in order to strengthen your libel claim. Additionally, having a friend or family member screenshot the offending material will add credibility to your claim and eliminate any opposing argument that you tampered with the evidence.
Common Consequences of Fake & Libelous Google Reviews
Fake Google reviews not only stand to affect your professional life and business, but your personal life as well.
Below are just some of the potential consequences your personal and professional reputation may suffer should you let online defamation and false reviews sit and go unremoved for too long.
|Mental anguish, anxiety, & depression||Bad publicity & heighted criticism by the media & community|
|Physical symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, & insomnia||Loss of partnerships, sponsorships, & advertising|
|Strained or ruined family & personal relationships||Loss of customers, business, & overall market share|
|Ostracization from one’s community||Denial of employment opportunities or promotions|
|Low self-esteem & humiliation||Having to shut your business or company down for good|
brand & Reputation Management Fact: Not only is establishing a budget for online and reputation management essential for combatting online defamation, it’s also crucial for identifying online users who are infringing upon your intellectual property rights.
Work With Online Defamation Attorneys to Remove Fake & Defamatory Google Reviews
If your business have been targeted by fake, malicious, and defamatory Google reviews, reach out to the Internet defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law today. At Minc Law, we’re here to fight for you and your business’s reputation, and have secured hundreds of defamatory posts, and all for a flat, reasonable fee.
At Minc Law, we always make sure to discuss your removal options and goals in great length, and will help formulate an effective libel and defamation takedown plan, specifically tailored to your circumstances.
- Respect & Courtesy: At Minc Law, we understand how stressful and overwhelming the defamation removal process can be, therefore, all clients should take solace in knowing that Aaron and his team are always on your side. Your goals are our goals.
- Open Communication & Dialogue: We pride ourselves on open communication and dialogue during the defamation removal process, and will keep you updated with important details surrounding your case and takedown.
- We Get Results: Aaron and his team have secured hundreds of takedowns and litigated in over 19 states and 3 countries. The defamation lawyers of Minc Law know which websites to work with and how to work with them in order to secure swift and permanent defamation removals.
If you or your business has been targeted by fake and malicious defamatory Google reviews, the Internet defamation lawyers of Minc Law are here to fight to remove such damaging and defamatory information.
At Minc Law, we want to fight for your reputation.