In this all encompassing article and guide, we’re going to walk you through how to remove fake and negative patient reviews from RealSelf.com, why it poses a serious threat to you and your medical practice, their review and community guidelines, how to spot fake and defamatory doctor and healthcare reviews, and more!
- Being one of the highest trafficked cosmetic and aesthetic healthcare review websites and information hubs on the Internet, RealSelf.com poses a serious threat to you and your healthcare practice’s reputation should a libelous and negative review remain online for too long. To remove negative and false reviews from RealSelf.com, we recommend the following:
- Brush up on their Code of Conduct to understand what type of content is prohibited,
- Contact customer support by submitting a request via their support form,
- Dispute a fake review by lodging a complaint here or emailing RealSelf.com at [email protected],
- Working with an experienced online defamation removal attorney,
- Filing a DMCA takedown notice.
- There’s several fundamental reasons why reviews on Healthgrades.com could ultimately have a significant impact on your medical or healthcare practice, including:
- Healthcare professionals and competitors commissioning employees to post fake reviews about competing practices,
- Scope and reach of RealSelf.com (it has been referred to as a social network for persons wanting plastic surgery),
- Inadequate content vetting mechanisms.
Defamation Removal Tip: Before commencing with an online defamation takedown, we recommend preserving and documenting all relevant evidence. Screenshotting all libelous and defamatory posts/comments/reviews is an effective way to strengthen your legal claim. We also recommend having a trusted friend, colleague, or family member make copies, as this will ultimately help refute any claims by the opposing party that you’ve tampered with the evidence and reviews.
Are you a cosmetologist, plastic surgeon, doctor, or other healthcare professional who has been falsely attacked or reviewed on RealSelf.com? Reach out to the experienced Internet defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law today to discuss your legal options!
At Minc Law, we know the ins and outs of U.S. Internet defamation and libel law, and have proven success in today’s legal, online landscape. In our tenure as experienced online defamation attorneys, we’ve secured the effective and seamless removal of over 25,000 websites and piece of libelous/false content, litigated in over 22 states and 3 countries, and boast a nearly 100% online defamation removal rate. And, we conduct certain removals all for a flat, reasonable fee.
What are you waiting for? Online defamation and fake reviews are similar to a wildfire, meaning once they are left unattended to, they stand to cause potentially irreparable damage to you and your practice’s reputation. Let’s put this defamation fire out before it has time to spread.
We’re here to fight for your and your practice’s reputation.
The Basics: What is RealSelf.com?
Founded in 2006, RealSelf.com is a popular user-generated content platform and community-driven website comprised of patient reviews, ratings, and information concerning plastic surgeons and other aesthetics healthcare professionals, along with cosmetic professionals and treatments. Business Insider has likened RealSelf.com to a hybrid of both Facebook and Yelp, due to its combining of both professional review elements and community-driven framework.
Specifically, persons thinking of having a cosmetic procedure or surgery are able to use Real Self to directly ask doctors, plastic surgeons, and other cosmetic professionals about the best course of treatment, publish treatment and doctor reviews, and share photographs and other media of their experiences. The crux of Real Self’s content addresses:
- Plastic surgery and plastic surgeons,
- Aesthetics physicians,
- Dentistry, and
Since 2006, RealSelf.com has solidified itself at the forefront of cosmetic and aesthetic reviews and information on the Internet, attracting over 8 million unique visitors in 2014 alone and climbing into the ranks of an Alexa 5000 website. And, according to SEMRush, a marketing and keyword analytics and research tool, Real Self boasts over 8.2 million backlinks on other websites across the Internet, meaning this is no small-scale operation.
Besides surgeon, dentist, and physician ratings and reviews, RealSef.com also provides forumers for consumer questions and answers, where users can rate their past treatments and experiences as “Worth It” or “Not Worth It,” accompanied by detailed explanations about their experience.
While RealSelf.com does serve as a legitimate (and popular) review platform for persons seeking information and reviews on cosmetic and aesthetic treatments, it does unfortunately avail itself to malicious users and fake reviews due to its sheer size. Over the years, this user-generated content platform and review site has become a popular medium for malicious users to ultimately defame, libel, and falsely attack/accuse doctors, physicians, plastic surgeons, and other healthcare professionals.
So, what can you do if you and your cosmetic or medical practice have been defamed or falsely reviewed on RealSelf.com? Let’s take a look.
Libel Removal Tip: When confronting online defamation, it’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with your state’s respective defamation statute of limitations. Generally, slander actions are required to be brought much sooner than libel actions due to the fleeting nature of their evidence, so make sure to stay on top of how long you have to initiate your claim. If you’re unsure of your state’s respective libel and slander statutes of limitations, reach out to an experienced online defamation attorney to help assist you.
How to Remove Negative & False Reviews From RealSelf.com
Due to RealSelf.com’s sheer size and user traffic, it’s near impossible to monitor and vet every single review, rating, and piece of information posted. This ultimately poses a serious threat to both you and your medical or cosmetic practice’s reputation and future. When confronting online defamation, fake reviews, and malicious Internet attacks, the best course of action is to stay proactive about your online presence. Proactivity trumps reactivity any day of the week when it comes to Internet defamation and libel.
In this section, we’re going to take you through RealSelf’s Guidelines and Policies, how to dispute a review on RealSelf.com, and finally, how to remove a fake and negative review from RealSelf. Additionally, we’re going to walk you through several other alternative online defamation and fake review removal methods which may be employed to protect you and your medical practice’s online reputation and presence.
Let’s first start with RealSelf.com’s ‘Code of Conduct’.
RealSelf.com’s User Code of Conduct
RealSelf’s user Code of Conduct states an intention to cultivate a community where individuals and businesses feel safe sharing personal experiences, photographs, and opinions without fear of judgment.
At the very heart of RealSelf.com’s Code of Conduct is their emphasis of mutual respect and the avoidance of personal attacks. However, while these ideals are sound and noble in theory, there’s often much to be desired when it comes to the actual implementation and enforcement.
So, what type of content isn’t allowed on RealSelf?
RealSelf.com has a lengthy list of content and information that is not allowed on their website, specifically:
- Medical advice,
- Discussions of violence, self-harm, and suicide,
- Sexual content,
- Profanity and other offensive language,
- Gratuitous nudity (which is unrelated to the topic being posted about),
- Copyrighted material (photographs, videos, and other media),
- Links to web pages unrelated to RealSelf,
- Personally identifiable information and contact information,
- Spam, donation solicitations, and surgery sponsorships.
Now that you’re aware of what type of content and information isn’t allowed on RealSelf, let’s take a look at the channels provided for on RealSelf.com for users seeking to remove fake, negative, and malicious reviews/information.
How to Report Negative & Fake Patient Reviews on RealSelf.com
If you or your medical practice has been falsely or negatively reviewed on RealSelf.com, there’s several viable channels to go through in order to remove such content.
Contact Customer Support
First, if any review or piece of information/content posted on RealSelf violates the aforementioned Code of Conduct, users may report any of the above to their Customer Support team by submitting a request here.
Users will be prompted to select from a list of issues, which include everything from ‘General Support’, to ‘Comments and Feedback’, all the way to ‘GDPR Support Requests’. For example, if you select ‘General Support’, you will be required to enter a subject, your email address, and description of the issue.
Dispute a Fake Review
RealSelf states that they are only able to remove patient reviews if they violate their Terms of Service, which can be found here. If you’re a healthcare provider, doctor, plastic surgeon, or aesthetic physician and believe a review violates RealSelf’s Terms, head on over to RealSelf.com’s ‘Dispute’ page.
According to RealSelf’s review ‘Dispute’ page, reviews cannot be removed if they are:
- Based on opinions and personal experiences,
- Concerning factual disputes, and
- For purposes of mediation.
If however, the fake or negative review in question does violate RealSelf’s Terms, you can lodge a complaint/dispute at the following link – https://expert.realself.com/dispute-create.html. And, if you need to attach any private medical information and records, you can email RealSelf at [email protected].
Should you utilize the above channels for reporting and disputing malicious and fake reviews on RealSelf.com and remain unable to successfully remove such content, we recommend considering one of the below alternative removal methods.
Three Alternative Ways to Remove Fake Reviews From RealSelf.com
RealSelf.com’s Terms of Service acknowledges their near-blanket immunity granted to them under a landmark piece of Internet legislation, known as the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Simply put, just as telephone companies are not held liable for the criminal acts orchestrated over their telephone lines, Internet service providers and user-generated content platforms will not be held liable for information, reviews, and content posted and edited by third-parties. ReaSelf.com’s Terms of Service reads:
“RealSelf does not have any responsibility, including editorial control, of any content posted by other RealSelf community members, healthcare providers or other third party content providers on the Site…RealSelf does not make any representations or warranties about the accuracy or reliability of the content, including the opinions, statements or information posted by the RealSelf community members, healthcare providers or other third party content providers on the Site.”
Section 230 of the the CDA has been met with considerable criticism due to this near blanket immunity granted to websites and ISPs, and has significantly increased the barriers for online defamation and libel victims seeking to remove libelous and false content from the web. As fake patient review removals from RealSelf.com and other medical review websites can be an arduous and difficult task, it’s important to consider alternative methods of removal when approaching online defamation.
Contact an Experienced Online Defamation Removal Lawyer
If you and your medical practice has been falsely reviewed by a patient or competitor on RealSelf, it’s imperative you reach out to an experienced online defamation removal lawyer as soon as possible. Doing so will not only help save you future headache and hassle, but time as well.
The defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law have built up an arsenal of powerful legal tactics over the years to secure quick and painless defamation removals from medical review websites, consumer advocacy bulletin boards, and scam reporting platforms (along with countless other categories of websites).
Reach out today to schedule your free, initial no-obligation defamation removal consultation with the Ohio-based defamation attorneys of Minc Law by calling us at (216) 373-7706 or by filling out our contact form online.
File a DMCA Takedown Notice
Photographs and other media are commonly posted in conjunction with a user’s review and posts on RealSelf.com, which gives rise to a potential claim of copyright infringement – should the photograph or media be used without the original copyright holder’s consent or license.
If you believe that your personal information and likeness has been posted on RealSelf in a way that constitutes copyright infringement or other intellectual property rights, users may first notify RealSelf by emailing them at [email protected] or by sending a letter to Copyright Agent, RealSelf, Inc., 83 South King Street, Suite 800, Seattle, WA 98104.
RealSelf requires the following when submitting a claim for copyright infringement:
- Identification of the copyrighted work,
- Identification of the material and copyrighted work with sufficient detail to locate the material,
- A good faith statement of belief that the material is not authorized by copyright,
- A statement declaring that the notification is accurate and made under penalty of perjury,
- Information reasonably sufficient to contact you (address, telephone number, email address), and
- Electronic signature.
When sending a DMCA takedown or copyright removal request to RealSelf, it’s extremely important to be thorough and specific with your description of the content and its location, otherwise you may risk having it remain online. We generally recommend reaching out to an experienced Internet attorney before sending a DMCA takedown or copyright removal request to increase your chances of removal.
If you’re wondering whether you should hire an attorney to send a DMCA takedown notice, check out our comprehensive blog post and article detailing what exactly can go wrong should you fail to tick all of the proper boxes.
Determine Whether the Review Violates HIPAA
Medical professionals and healthcare providers are bound and regulated by strict standards. Most notably, they are governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a landmark piece of legislation signed into effect by Bill Clinton in 1996.
Specifically, HIPAA was created to standardize and regulate the preservation, maintenance, and flow of personally identifiable information of patients, establishing a framework for how healthcare providers and medical professionals should handle such.
When navigating online patient reviews and posts on RealSelf.com and other medical review websites, if a medical professional or doctor has responded to a review or comment which breaches privacy laws and regulations governing a patient’s personal and identifiable information, then there is likely grounds for immediate removal. Personal health information (PHI) which is protected under HIPAA includes any information concerning an individual’s health status, healthcare payment, or service of healthcare which can be used to identify an individual.
If you’re unsure of what constitutes protected personal health information under HIPAA or other privacy laws, we recommend reaching out to an experienced Internet attorney to discuss your legal options.
U.S. Defamation Law Fact: The United States is generally referred to as a “defendant-friendly” defamation jurisdiction due to a longstanding enforcement of the First Amendment and free speech, while other Common Law legal jurisdictions (ex. Australia, Canada, United Kingdom) and European countries are typically considered pro-plaintiff defamation and libel jurisdictions.
Why Fake Reviews on RealSelf.com Pose a Serious Threat to Your Medical Practice
As we mentioned above, RealSelf.com and other popular medical review and rating websites enjoy high degrees of legal protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, meaning libeous, malicious, and fake patient reviews may remain online indefinitely if there is no action on your behalf. And, due to RealSelf.com’s popularity and high user-traffic, it is no stranger to fake and libelous reviews being posted almost daily. While a good percentage of reviews are properly taken care of and removed by RealSelf’s vetting process, some do slip through the cracks.
Furthermore, there have been several lawsuits that RealSelf.com has been involved in which brought to light the unsavory and malicious tactics utilized by certain cosmetic and medical practices against their competition.
Lifestyle Lift & The Commission of Fake Patient Reviews
After being sued for copyright infringement by national facial cosmetic surgery practice Lifestyle Lift in 2008 for copyright infringement, RealSelf initiated a countersuit. Most notably, RealSelf’s countersuit alleged that Lifestyle Lift has commissioned numerous employees to write fake reviews on the website, which ultimately lead to an agreed settlement and Lifestyle Lift being fined $300,000 by the state of New York for doing so.
Competitors looking to gain an advantage in their respective industry will often stop at nothing to do so, making the commission and posting of fake patient reviews a common practice in today’s online review landscape.
Below, we’re going to walk you through how to identify fake patient reviews in order to help you better combat online defamation and libel.
Social Network For Persons Wanting Plastic Surgery
Business Insider has labeled RealSelf.com as a “social network for persons wanting plastic surgery,” as it has evolved into much more than a platform for users to post plastic surgery, medical, and cosmetic reviews, but one for users to interact socially and publicly with one other.
While social networks and social media websites have been integral for open discussion, debate, and comment in today’s online ecosystem, they do possess several traits which ultimately jeopardize a person or practice’s reputation (should they be used in a malicious manner).
Specifically, social networks enable the mass dissemination of information and ideas, which stands to spread a libelous and fake review to all corners of the globe. An individual’s private information and likeness now has the potential to go “viral,” which then gives rise to the “whack-a-mole” effect – where defamation continuously keeps popping up (even after removals).
Inadequate Content Filtering & Vetting Mechanism
As we noted above, RealSelf (along with most other medical review websites) enjoys high degrees of protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As a result, such patient review websites often take a hands off approach when it comes to vetting, filtering, and monitoring content posted by third-party users/creators.
RealSelf.com’s Terms of Service reads:
“RealSelf reserves the right to review and monitor Submissions but is under no obligation to do so. In addition, RealSelf is not responsible for screening, monitoring or editing submissions.”
With millions of users per month, it’s also not practical for RealSelf to be actively monitoring every single post and review left by a patient or medical professional. This is why it’s extremely important to stay proactive about your online reputation and presence. If the websites and platforms which harbor your information aren’t going to do anything to protect you, it’s up to you to take a stand.
Online Reputation Management Tip: Proactivity is essential when it comes to monitoring you and your medical practice’s online reputation and presence. We recommend establishing an online reputation management and monitoring budget to stay on top of your online reputation. Doing so is not only a great way to gauge how your patients and the general public view your medical and healthcare practice, but it’s also a great way to identify online defamation and libelous reviews as they appear.
How to Spot Fake Reviews on RealSelf.com & Medical Review Websites
When it comes to spotting fake reviews on RealSelf.com and other medical review websites, there are generally several telltale signs and giveaways. Familiarizing yourself with several of the most common traits associated with fake and defamatory online reviews and posts is extremely effective towards combating online defamation, as it’s extremely important to choose your battles carefully.
Below are three ways to spot fake patient reviews on RealSelf.com and other popular medical review websites.
At its most obvious, medical and patient reviews which lack any specific detail about a consultation, surgery, treatment, or doctor should be approach with caution. Malicious and false online reviewers/posters generally have never had any real-life interaction with the medical practice, plastic surgeon, aesthetic physician, or other healthcare professional which they are intent on defaming.
Legitimate reviews will often use concrete language to describe their experience and consultation. For example, a legitimate review is much more likely to describe a medical practice’s waiting room, the respective prices, and the exact language used by a doctor/medical professional.
Reviews which lack any relevant detail and use “generic language” more often than not are fake, and commissioned by a competing healthcare practice, marketing firm, or disgruntled online troll.
Lack of Posting History
Users and reviewers with a lack of posting history and prior engagement with the platform are a tell-tale sign of an individual (or bot) who is posting for one reason, and one reason only – to defame or attack a medical practice or other individual.
A key giveaway is to look to a reviewers avatar or picture. Oftentimes, fake patient reviews will be accompanied by a stolen photograph from the web (which can be reverse image searched) or no avatar at all. Timing of online reviews is key as well. So it’s important to actively monitor and identify when the reviews were posted.
If a user has zero previous reviews or posts, ask yourself, “Why now?”
Excessive Hyperbolic Language
The average person doesn’t generally use hyperbolic and highly exaggerated language when writing a review. A common trait amongst fake online reviewers and posters is their excessive use of verbage, exclamation points, and first person pronouns.
Legitimate online patient reviews tend to approach an encounter, consultation, or surgery with a bare minimum level of reason and logic, and do not make outrageous claims about a doctor’s skills or expertise. Repetition is also frequently used by malicious and fake online patients.
We recommend looking to middle-of-the-pack medical reviews as a standard to compare future reviews against, as they are not only honest, but insightful about both positive and negative experiences. Reviews which heavily lean in favor of one or the other are generally the types of reviews you should keep an eye out for.
Defamation Law Fact: Defamation Per Se is a legal principle and doctrine which recognizes specific types of statements as so inherently defamatory and inflammatory, that a defamation plaintiff need not prove damages. Most U.S. states recognize four types of statements as falling under this ‘Per Se’ doctrine: (1) Statements accusing a person of having committed a crime, (2) Statements imputing a loathsome disease on a third-party, such as a sexually transmitted disease or leprosy, (3) Statements imputing unchastity on a person (sexual promiscuity), (4) Statements which adversely affect a party in the course of their profession, work, or trade.
Work With Experienced Defamation Attorneys Today!
Are you a doctor, aesthetics physician, or other healthcare professional who has been the victim of fake and negative reviews on RealSelf.com? Reach out to the nationally recognized Internet defamation removal attorneys of Minc Law today to discuss your removal (and legal) options now!
Rest assured you’re in good hands when working with the Cleveland-based defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law. We have proven results in today’s online defamation arena, and have worked tirelessly with countless website administrators, online content managers, and third-party arbitration firms to secure the effective removal of over 25,000 websites and fake/false reviews/pieces of content. Furthermore, we’ve litigated in over 22 states and 3 countries, and boast a nearly 100% online defamation takedown rate.
We also provide guaranteed defamation removals for specific types of websites and online platforms, which can be found over at our “Services” page.
Curious as to what you can expect when working with the experienced defamation attorneys of Minc Law?
- Proven Defamation Removal Results: Websites and businesses respond to Minc Law. We have the results to prove it, and have built up an effective and comprehensive suite of legal tactics over the years to secure effective and permanent removals from online review websites and platforms.
- Utmost Respect & Courtesy: We understand just how stressful and invasive online defamation and false patient reviews can be, so know that we are always on your side, and here to make the removal process as smooth as possible. We treat all clients with the utmost respect and courtesy. After all, your goals are our goals.
- Open Dialogue & Communication: Some Internet defamation removal attorneys will go missing once the defamation takedown process has begun. Not Minc Law. We pride ourselves on keeping all of our clients in the loop and informed about all important updates concerning their case and removal.
Let’s get started today!