Google ordered to lift the anonymity of people accused of posting false reviews

Google Ireland, the European headquarters of the American giant Google, was ordered by the Dijon Court of Appeal to reveal the identities of two people accused of having issued “fake reviews” on a guest house, we informed this Tuesday, July 19 with the parties.

A bed and breakfast in Étrigny

The court, acting in summary proceedings, sentenced Google Ireland on June 21 to give the identities and contact details of two people who, in 2018 for one then in 2020 for the other, had published a star rating on Google Maps, no comments (two stars out of five and one out of five) concerning the Château de Balleure, a bed and breakfast in Étrigny (Saône-et-Loire).

Google is also ordered to pay the legal costs, as well as €2,000 to the guest house, according to the judgment. However, the court did not condemn the deletion of the messages, which will be considered during a trial on the merits.

The revelation of “legitimate” identities

Reversing a judgment of first instance of the court of Chalon-sur-Saône, of July 20, 2021, the court considers that the guest house has “a legitimate reason” to obtain from Google any element allowing “the identification of the author(s) of the disputed notes” in order to be able, during a subsequent trial on the merits, to determine whether they actually came from people who were not customers of Château de Balleure.

According to the guest house, these two reviews were “false” because they were posted by people who had never found the establishment. “The most likely hypothesis of the feature called to push from Google Maps »says Raoul Salama, owner of the Château.

The “push” function asks Google Maps users passing near an accommodation or restaurant to give their “opinion”, “but without setting up the appropriate equipment to ensure that these Internet users have actually used the establishment’s services”believes Raoul Salama, who now intends to sue Google on the merits.

“In our opinion, Google has not complied with a number of legislative texts” and in particular the European directive, known as the “Omnibus”, which came into force at the end of May, which prohibits “to assert that opinions on a product are distributed by consumers who have actually used or purchased the product without having taken the necessary measures to verify it”.

Is there enough fight against fake reviews?

When questioned, Google referred to the Maps regulation which ensures that “contributions must be based on real experiences and information”.

Litigation for “false opinions” is increasing around the world. The UK Competition Authority (CMA) is currently investigating Amazon and Google over concerns that the two groups “were not enough to fight against fake reviews”.

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