Fake Online Reviews and Small Business - Part IV - Proof and Removals
When bringing a lawsuit, it is important to know what the Court is looking for. In a defamation case, the Defendant will likely claim truth or opinion and the Plaintiff must establish that the Defendant has not posted information about a true interaction with the business. Proving a negative can be difficult. The first step before filing a lawsuit should be to send a cease and desist letter to the poster giving them the opportunity to retract their statement.Terms of Service
Each user who creates a profile on an online account is required to comply with the terms of service for that account. For example, Google business pages are intended for comments from those who have been customers of a business advertised on Google. Posts by those who do not fall in that category violate the terms of service.Evidence
Capture the reviews with screenshots and by copying URLs. Make sure to record the date. If you can assess damage related to the review, take notes as to the negative impact. This is not always possible or possible right away. Damages come in a variety of forms and can be physical, reputational or financial. Before filing a lawsuit, assess the strength of your claim. Just because you don’t like a post does not mean that it is defamatory. Ask yourself whether the poster could validly represent a defense of truth or opinion. In order to avoid communications that may impact your lawsuit, it is best to leave communications with the defendant to your lawyer.
Common fake review posters are competitors, disgruntled employees and third parties with a personal dispute unrelated to the business. In a small business, if the reviewer leaves comments, it is generally fairly easy to determine who the reviewer is. If the poster uses his or her true name, then that name can be matched with business records. Look at other reviews made by the poster, if any. You may be able to make associations between your business and another reviewed. Look at the timing. Are there several negative reviews in close succession or negative reviews as regular intervals? Such review practices raise suspicions about legitimacy.Request To Remove a Google Review
You can use the following procedures to request removal of a Google review. Note that there is no guarantee that Google will remove the review. Google should respond to you when you flag the review and with the decision.
- Find your business on Google Maps,
- Click on the three dot icon towards the top of the review, and
- Select the box to flag the review identifying the prefilled reason.
You will want an experienced attorney on your side for your one bite at the court apple. An experienced attorney can guide you through defamation matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating as well as by helping you with contesting defamatory postings out of court. This allows you to focus on moving forward to a better future rather than on spending your time trying to figure out the overly complex court system. Colorado Springs defamation matters are difficult to navigate alone.
Defamation actions are complex and can be difficult to prove. They are costly. Our focus is on small business and our rates are lower commensurately. Janko Family Law Solutions helps ensure that your best interests are protected and that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 or complete our online form to set up a free thirty-minute informational consultation.