Google has been ordered to hand over the contact details of accounts linked to fake reviews that attacked a Dutch nursery.
The nursery, which was not named in the proceedings, won a court order against Google to reveal details on who was responsible for a series of fake reviews alleging child abuse using the company’s Google+ social network.
The reviews were visible through searches and Google Maps, tarnishing the reputation of the nursery for more than six months. One of the fake reviewers took on the identity of a dead woman from the US.
Google refused to take down the fake reviews at the request of the nursery, saying that they fell under freedom of speech protections, forcing the nursery to take Google to court. The search company was then ordered to remove them by the court, a process that has happened in the past in the Netherlands for other fake reviews not connected with the nursery.
Google was also ordered to pay fees and divulge the IP addresses of the users posting the fake reviews, which it has been ordered to do by the Dutch civil courts in past cases dating back to a Supreme Court ruling in 2005. Google was given two weeks to comply in the order handed down on 1 March.
A Google spokesperson said: “We’ve received the ruling and are currently reviewing it.”
Representing the nursery, Paul Tjiam of Simmons & Simmons told TechCrunch: “The judge balanced the interests of privacy against the interest of reputation (of this nursery). However, it considers the interests of protecting the reputation more important than the interests of Google to the interest of privacy of the Google Reviewers.”
The nursery is considering legal action against the fake reviewers.
Fake reviews are an increasing problem across online platforms such as Google, and retail sites, where they are used to either artificially boost reputation or attack competitors.
Travel site TripAdvisor, for instance, has a team of people dedicated to identifying and removing fake reviews from its listings, while Cornell University has been working on technology designed to weed out fake hotel reviews using machine learning.
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