Fake reviews on Google and other social media platforms can be very damaging to the sales and reputation of a business. Fake Google reviews are a form of business defamation and business owners have practical options including legal options. If you have been the victim of this sort of internet defamation, you need the help of experienced defamation lawyers like the ones at Revision Legal. Here is a quick summary of how to remove fake Google reviews, including legal options.
Appeal to Google
On the practical level, business owners can “flag” a fake defamatory negative review. This option requires patience since Google personnel may take 24 to 48 hours to conduct their investigation. Flagging a fake review is particularly effective if the review contains inappropriate and/or sexually explicit language, is hateful, makes threats or urges illegal action or violence. Along the same lines, business owners can reach out to the Google support team with more direct information on why the review is false and/or defamatory. The key with this tactic is to provide as much detail and documentation as possible to the support team giving them enough information to make a determination that the fake review should be taken down. Both tactics can be successful with a reviewer that has a reputation for posting fake reviews.
Provide a Response
Another practical step is to provide a response to the fake review (if possible). Often this will be sufficient to ameliorate the adverse reputational consequences. This tends to work only if the fake review is based on allegedly inferior customer service or product deficiencies. A response should be respectful and indicate that legitimate concerns will be addressed by the business. The response might be something along these lines: “Our business always attempts to provide first class customer service and products. We have reached out to the reviewer to address their concerns.” As always, any response must be careful to maintain consumer privacy and confidentiality.
That being said, there are some downsides to this option. First, providing a response can be seen as a concession that the fake review is real. Second, responding will likely mean that the fake review will not be removed. However, as with all things, a business must weigh costs against benefits.
Seek Redress From the Negative Reviewer
Another practical option is to ask the reviewer to voluntarily remove the negative review. Given the nature of fake reviews, this is not an option that is likely to succeed. But, sometimes it is worth a try. This can go hand-in-hand with the previous option.
Bring Legal Action
If more practical solutions are unavailing, then it is advisable to bring legal action, particularly where the review is clearly false/fake and clearly intended to do nothing more than harm your business. In general, to win a defamation case involving a fake review, the business must demonstrate:
- That the review contained at least one false and/or defamatory statement concerning the business
- That the person making the fake review intended to harm the business or that the person acted with reckless disregard and
- That the fake review caused harm to the business
Note that, generally, “publication to third parties” is a legal element that must be proven in defamation cases, but that element is always satisfied with fake Google reviews.
With respect to anonymous reviews, when a lawsuit is filed, there are court procedures that allow identification of users to be obtained from internet service providers and online platforms like Google. Damages that can be recovered include out-of-pocket expenses, tangible lost business review and damage to reputation and business goodwill. Most importantly, the court can issue an order requiring the fake review be removed.
For more information, contact the trusted internet defamation lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100.