The power of online review platforms such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook and Google cannot be underestimated. Online reviews can generate a lot of buzz for businesses and appeal to a broader customer base. Customers also now look to online reviews in deciding whether to use a service or not. However, the internet is also a medium where people can publish their opinions anonymously. Inevitably, this has led to disgruntled customers or internet trolls leaving false and negative reviews. The effect that false reviews can have on businesses is significant and can permanently damage a business’s reputation.

This article will discuss whether platforms such as Google are legally required to remove false reviews and how it can be done.

Requesting the publisher to take the review down

If you see that a false review has been published about your business, it is always worth asking the publisher to take it down before taking further action. By recognising the name or identity of the publisher you can contact them directly. If the publisher refuses or does not respond to your request, you can issue them with a cease and desist letter.

However, if the reviewer posted under an alias then the problem becomes more difficult.  As uncovering the identity of someone is an entirely different process. This will require you to contact the platform directly to ask for the reviewer’s identity. Google is unlikely to reveal the identity of their users. Unless they are ordered by the Court to do so.

Removing False Reviews through Legal Action

Review platforms can face fines under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) for failing to remove a review they know to be false. Although proving that the review platform knew the review is fake can be difficult. This is  especially so with large companies such as Google which manage thousands of posts each day. However, if you take legal action against the review by making a claim for defamation. The Court may make an order which requires the platform to remove the review. In order to enforce this order you will need to lodge a form with Google to  have the review removed. However, Google does not guarantee that they will take down the review.

Reviews that Breach Google’s Content Policies

If someone has left a review you believe to be in breach of Google’s content policy you may “flag it”. Some common examples of these breaches include reviews that are offensive and derogatory. After you report this, Google will investigate the review to determine whether it has breached their policies. If you’re unsure whether you have sufficient grounds to take action over a false or derogatory review, a defamation lawyer can review your case and advise you of your options.

Unsure where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Adam Lewis

Adam is a Legal Intern at LawPath working with the content team. With an interest in consumer and commercial law he is currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in International Business as well as a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University.