A recent story in the New Zealand Herald highlighted the huge pitfalls in the US owned search engine monopoly’s review practices. Google reviews are not monitored, they are not screened, and they are difficult to remove if manipulated. This can lead to huge harm to a businesses’ good reputation and it can also enhance the reputations of terrible companies – thus tricking consumers and leading to countless frauds and misrepresentations.

What does one need to leave a Google review? Prove custom or evidence of work, if required? Nope, all you need is a Gmail account – it takes about five minutes to set one up and then the world of fake reviews is at your fingertips – doing untold damage to a legitimate and desired practice that consumers readily rely on – online reviews.

“Google is a behemoth with little accountability. It has become a colossus that dominates our online lives and contributes little in the way of tax dollars for the billions of dollars it accumulates annually.”

It seems strange that the search engine monopoly promotes itself as the harbinger of up to the minute information to produce the most accurate results, when it’s review platform is as leaky as the starboard side of the Titanic. Oh, and if you want to question fake Google reviews? Then good luck to you mate, because that process is as easy to follow as a passport application for Mars. It’s no wonder that the monopoly include third party reviews in its local searches – as its own reviews system is so utterly weak and readily manipulated.

As reported in The New Zealand Herald a few days ago by Ben Leahy: “Internet trolls have targeted two Auckland businesses with a co-ordinated wave of fake reviews. The business owners say the dozens of reviews are damaging their brands and raised questions about who is orchestrating them. Police, private investigators and online safety group Netsafe are all looking into the cases.

“Aucklander Lorraine Wilson said her business called House Dressings was recently hit with a flood of 1 star Google reviews, as she was called “ignorant arrogant and unprofessional” by reviewers who had never met her.” (Source: “One star reviews: Auckland businesses’ Google ratings attacked by trolls”, NZ Herald, 28th June, 2020).

Think on that – “reviewers who had never met her,” – that’s how much store the US owned company actually puts into companies’ most valuable asset – their reputation. That’s how robust and well thought out their review system actually is.

“Wilson . . . suspected she was targeted because of a falling out with a relative, who threatened her family. They ‘told me they would destroy my business’, she said. And while fake news and hate speech might not be new problems on social media, Wilson said the bad reviews couldn’t have come at a worse time. Her home-staging business helped people sell their houses by furnishing and preparing them for viewings by prospective buyers. Yet the economic downturn had led to a sharp drop-off in home sales. ‘Since the lockdown, I’ve had very little work,’ she said. ‘I don’t need anything to make life worse for me because I could go completely under and I’d be out of business.'” (Source: “One star reviews: Auckland businesses’ Google ratings attacked by trolls”, NZ Herald, 28th June, 2020).

Wilson goes on to say that she hired a private investigator and subsequently found out that the reviews were coming from fake Google accounts. According to The NZ Herald, “Police are looking into the case and a police spokesperson said: “We can imagine it is frustrating for businesses if people put fake reviews but these matters are in general of a civil nature. We recommend they contact the appropriate company (Facebook, Google etc) and asked to have them removed and the person blocked.” (Source: “One star reviews: Auckland businesses’ Google ratings attacked by trolls”, NZ Herald, 28th June, 2020).

Good luck with that . . .

We continually hear from businesses about their frustrations of damaging reviews on Google or of businesses that shamelessly create falsified ones to advance their reputations. There’s little we can do about it. Google is a behemoth with little accountability. It has become a colossus that dominates our online lives and contributes little in the way of tax dollars for the billions of dollars it accumulates annually.

We have worked incredibly hard for many years to create and to continually improve our review platform so that it is not only fair and transparent, but it upholds two cornerstones – consumer trust and businesses’ reputations. It’s a shame that a foreign owned monopoly with billions of dollars under its belt, can’t be bothered doing the same.