A Negative Google Review Puts Both the Reviewer and the Platform in Trouble

By Bill Toulas / February 17, 2020

When Matthew Kabbabe, the owner of a teeth whitening clinic in Melbourne, saw the customer review on Google he was devastated. The displeased client accused the dentist of being inexperienced, and that the procedure he paid for and then went through was a complete waste of time, as it was not done correctly. Finally, he warned others of staying away from that particular clinic, damaging the business significantly. Google reviews under business results are critical nowadays, as everyone has a look online before deciding which service to choose.

Feeling that the review was unfair, Kabbabe asked Google to reveal the identification details of the poster who used the pseudonym “CBsm 23”. Kabbabe thought that the man could very quickly be a competitor. Thus Google should maybe remove that review based on “conflict of interest.” However, Google refused to hand over any data and rejected the man’s request to review it. Hence, the negative comment stayed online, propelling a negative impact on the clinic every day. When Kabbabe emailed them for a second time, Google answered: “We do not have any means to investigate where and when the ID was created.”

So the man decided to move forward and sue Google LLC in the Federal Court of Australia in November 2019. After allowing Google ample time to respond, he received the above, which he shared with the court. Based on that, Judge Murphy J. decided to order Google to hand over the reviewer’s identification details, including the following:

This is obviously not reflecting the tech giant’s claim of being unable to figure out the reviewer's identity. The Judge also points out that the plaintiff has done enough to prove that he has valid grounds on his request and that Google should have responded accordingly.

To make things worse for Google, Kabbabe’s lawyer has launched a class-action lawsuit, calling all companies who feel that they have been mistreated on invalid grounds to join. He also provides the interested parties a way to get IDs of users who might abuse the review section of Google businesses. This new take on reviews puts Google into a weird position, as people shouldn’t be afraid to write reviews about a business when they had a negative experience with it. However, there are still cases of conflict of interest, or straight-out defaming efforts, so some form of a reviewing system needs to be implemented after all.

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