Abusing reviews for personal vendettas

by | Apr 12, 2022

Online reviews are to meant give guidance to our peers based on our experiences and subjective opinions. Unfortunately, if allowed to be, they can also be used to damage the reputations of businesses when absolutely no service was provided or product purchased. When used in this way, especially when reviews of this type are published, they serve no purpose whatsoever, except for the nefarious intentions of the ‘reviewer’. They become just another extension of the social disharmony best illustrated on social media.

NoCowboys takes reputations seriously and our platform has safeguards and protocols to ensure that only legitimate customers can post reviews – other platforms do not. Why? Because reviews are worthless if those who read them do not trust them and more and more we are seeing examples of other review platforms and social media sites promoting false and damaging feedback allowing people to grind axes and inflict as much damage as possible.

Here’s a very recent example in little old Aotearoa that prove the point. As reported in The Spinoff Dunedin bar owner, Dudley Benson battled fake reviewers on Facebook and Google after his bar, Woof, received a swathe of one star reviews when he decided to continue the practice of asking for proof of vaccination as an entry requirement to the establishment.

“It was announced last week that despite the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Woof! would continue to require vaccine passes for entry. That led to a wave of negative reviews and homophobic abuse online.vaccination pass

“The bar’s co-owner Dudley Benson, who last week attempted to track down some of the online harassers, said the negative reviews have continued to pour in. As for the negative reviews, Benson said Google was removing them “every day or so” and thanked the bar’s followers for flagging them. (Source: “Dunedin bar celebrates ‘biggest week’ of the year after keeping vax passes,” by Stewart Sowman-Lund,).

Most tellingly, these were not reviews left by legitimate customers but people who objected to the vaccine pass requirement. “He [Benson] blamed most of the online abuse on overseas trolls, claiming people in New Zealand had been largely supportive but that the homophobia ‘ramped up’ once a viral tweet reached the United States. ‘Many seemed threatened by my nail polish,’ he said.” (Source: “Dunedin bar celebrates ‘biggest week’ of the year after keeping vax passes,” by Stewart Sowman-Lund,).

Two of the ‘reviews left on Woof’s facebook page

While it is mildly comforting that Benson has slowly been able to have the reviews removed, the sad thing is that they were allowed to be published in the first place. That they are now being dealt with will only be down to Benson’s dedication and industry, while his, and his business’ reputation has been tarnished. The platforms themselves allowed them to be published with little oversight and some still remain.

Out of interest I decided to see if other reviews platforms had fallen for the scam and lo and behold Tripadvisor had swallowed it whole. Not only had they allowed the following reviews to stand, they were for a bar with the same name, in a different country – in this case, Dunedin, Florida, in the United States!!

Even at NoCowboys we see the worst attempts to smear businesses with false bad reviews, of course we do. The difference is, that our protocols and systems prevent them being published in the first place. Google is notoriously easy to leave fake reviews and incredibly difficult to communicate with to have them removed. Facebook allows fake profiles to comment with malicious intent with few restrictions. That’s why I personally do not read Google or Facebook reviews, simply because I do not trust their voracity. If I can’t trust them then they are worth very little indeed.

If I were a business owner I would not trust them either and I’d be promoting my brand through the reviews of my customers on a site like ours, with rigid controls that actually understand the importance and value of reputations.


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