It’s a small business’s worst nightmare: someone leaves a review on a popular site trashing your company, and they do it anonymously. That’s what happened to Mark Kabbabe, who runs a tooth whitening business in Melbourne, Australia. Last week, a court forced Google to reveal the details of an anonymous poster who published a bad review of his business.
According to the court judgement, the anonymous poster used the pseudonym CBsm 23 to publish a review on Google about a procedure they had undergone at Kabbabe’s clinic. The review said that the dentist made the whole experience “extremely awkward and uncomfortable”, claiming that the procedure was a “complete waste of time” and was not “done properly”. It seemed like Kabbabe “had never done this before”, said the review, adding that other patients had “been warned!” and should “STAY AWAY”. Ouch.
Kabbabe contacted Google in November 2019, according to the court order, asking it to take down the review, but Google refused. He mailed again on 5 February, asking for information about the poster, but Google replied that:
We do not have any means to investigate where and when the ID was created.
This was enough for Justice Murphy, presiding over the case, who has ordered that Google hand over the anonymous poster’s details. In his court ruling, he said:
Dr Kabbabe is not required to make inquiries that will be fruitless and in my view he has done enough.
…notwithstanding Google’s response, I consider that Google is likely to have or have had control of a document or thing that would help ascertain that description of the prospective respondent CBsm 23…
Google could possibly surface the offending poster’s subscriber information and related IP addresses and phone numbers, along with location metadata, the judge said. It could also probably provide any other Google accounts, including their full name, email address and identifying details, originating from the same IP address around the same time that CBsm 23 posted their negative review.
Things seem to have progressed while Kabbabe pursued his case against Google. First, the search and advertising giant has removed the link on the business’s maps page that reveals all the 28 reviews for that business. Now, only a review summary is available showing three reviews, all of which are positive.
Second, Kabbabe’s lawyer, Mark Stanarevic of Matrix Legal, has launched a class action lawsuit against Google, aimed at helping companies suffering from anonymous bad reviews. It offers plaintiffs the chance to “fast track the process of finding out identifiable information”.
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9 comments on “Google forced to reveal anonymous reviewer’s details”
What’s the point of leaving honest reviews if all the bad ones can be removed, and the “bad” reviewer hunted down and sued for defamation?
It would seem here that the problem is that the review was anonymous and thus no way for the business to either refute a fake review, or to try to work with the reviewer to correct the problem if the review was honest.
An anonymous bad review that’s false would be a form of defamation, for which the business should have some kind of recourse.
I mostly disagree with Jeff’s comment. An anonymous review can be refuted simply based on the statement that were made. If on the other hand the business owner want to refute that the person making the review never came to their establishment then of course their identity would be necessary. However, the business owner can simply state that as a reply to the review. Nevertheless, I do agree there should be a recourse for false reviews. Whether they are anonymous or not is irrelevant. There should simply be a way for business owners through an independent and unbiased third party to challenge the fact of a review, for that purpose Google could provide such services while keeping the identity of the reviewer anonymous. In this way, everyone need’s should be satisfied.
You nailed it. WOrst of all, it’s really as sham to force the removal of the last traces of anonymity on the internet. The white house has a vested interest in this, as manifested by their statement about the promulgation of public facial recognition befiore legislation exist to regulate it. It’s part of a multifaceted plot to make it impossible to have a voice, without being a monitored, and managead part of the system. This means that unless you are part of Google’s survaillance system, you can’t say anything. If that isn’t a violation of human rights, what is anymore?
To prevent a competitor from sinking your company by making things up
Reviews all need checks and balances, and accountability for both sides – particularly validity and reliability of someone making a negative comment such as this. No one should have to go through this.
“Bad” review or “False” review? If a restaurant is being “false” reviewed that has an employee who has COVID-19, certainly this restaurant will end of business long before this “false” declaration proved to be “false”.
I think this is a good start. Too many trolls will leave false bad reviews and some people are too quick to leave a bad review without first talking to the seller/business to get an issue resolved. Clearly some bad reviews are completely legitimate and consumers need to be able to post/read them to make informed choice but businesses should be able to challenge where appropriate.
Too many vindictive people out there who own businesses and think they are God. Anyone, using a pen name, should be allowed to tell the truth without repercussion. This world is getting to childish and vindictive.