In an instance that really makes your shake your head in wonderment or disgust, the BBC reported that Google finally removed a review claiming that a shopkeeper had fondled his 9 year-old child. The review in whole was not just about the fondling – but also an allegation that the customer was cheated on a hardware fix. The Review read:

“Robbed My RAM and Touched 9 Year Old What a scam artist, he stole RAM from my computer and replaced it with smaller chips hoping I wouldnt notice and also I later found out touched my 9 year old inappropriately. A Violator and a rogue trader. DO NOT DO TRADE WITH THIS MAN!”

The review was posted 18 months ago. Since then, the shopkeeper has been trying any which way he could to contact the reviewer to try to rectify the situation – to no avail – and he has also been asking Google to remove it since not being able to contact the less-than-ethical poster.  Toni Bennett, the unfortunately targeted shopkeeper maintains that he lost 80% of his business due to the post. 

It is sad that people would resort to making such a claim on review sites – even if the allegation were true, as there are other channels through which to settle claims.  But its even more unfathomable that Google would have hidden for so long behind their statement that “we’re not in a position to arbitrate disputes.”  It seemed that the damning part of the review was not about a dispute, but the intensely defamatory allegation of inappropriate touching.  Without a doubt, the person who posted the entry should have some responsibility, but Google should have stepped up and removed this offending review a long time ago.

Yes.  A thing of beauty about the internet, social media and the ability to post reviews with ease is beautiful until it is mis-used.  For Google to imply that business owners have the ability to counter or resolve any claim in the reviews only deals with part of the equation. Yet most business owners don’t know how to respond well to negative reviews – and those that do would be hard pressed to come up with a solid face-saving response to claims of pedophilia.

Reviews are an even larger part of Google’s business – with both the acquisition of Zagat and the introduction of more opportunities to post reviews in Places, Maps and more.  There’s got to be a better way to be able to respond to downright inflammatory reviews like the one referred to above. Sadly, there is no real responsibility placed on those reviewers who do not follow guidelines of honesty or ethics.  Real harm can be done to innocent and honest businesses if they were to come under fire from reviewers with malicious intent.  The sites, including Google, must take responsibility to enable quick resolution of these unfortunate postings.

With the ability for anonymous people to post questionable reviews that can really have an adverse effect on businesses, individuals and even the sites that allow those postings with no form of accountability, something’s gotta give.