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Going Public on the Web

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Amin Sabet, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I Googled myself not long ago and found that the third result for my name was a site where anyone can review doctors. To my shock/horror/embarrassment, there was a 1 out of 5 star rating next to my name in that Google preview. I clicked on the link and found that someone had left a really awful review.

    It was left by someone with a name I had never seen, and the awful comment was totally nonspecific, so I don't even know if it was left by someone who had ever seen me as a patient or, for that matter, intended as a comment about me. The site where the review was left does not require any verification, so anyone can post whatever they like about any doctor.

    As far as I was concerned, the comment made was libel (it was false, stated as fact, and potentially damaging), so I contacted the site (Vitals.com) and asked them to delete it. They refused. I thought about taking legal action to protect my name, but after giving it some thought, I don't have the time or money to go that route.

    In thinking about what I could do about this issue, though, my brother had a good suggestion:
    I've decided to go that route. The most effective way to fight the bad stuff may well be to let the good stuff drown it out. I'm also thinking of letting more of my patients know about these doctor review sites. If I'm going to be rated/reviewed, I'd prefer that it comes from actual patients of mine, not some anonymous mean person who may never have even seen me as a patient.

    Anyway, so that is why I've changed my user name on this site and will be doing so on my other web content. I'm going public on the web.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  2. BillN

    BillN Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    SW France
    the other way to look at it is that if you use a very common user name, like Fred or Bill, there are so many that no-one really knows who is who
     
  3. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    If it's any minor consolation, I would never put my faith in those "doctor review" sites. That said, if you can do something helpful and worthwhile by "going public" then by all means do so. I'll look forward to it, Amin. :smile:
     
  4. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Welcome to my world Amin... just don't upset any bunny boilers - or they'll make it their mission to assassinate your character :wink:

    Cheers

    Brian
     
  5. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Amin,
    If you were the doctor who rides a Harley,
    this would not have happened.

    Can't you at least get the ISP of the poster?
    The site should provide that.....
     
  6. BillN

    BillN Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    SW France
    Don, send the Harley boys around to pay a visit
     
  7. cosinaphile

    cosinaphile Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    new york city
    character assassination, along with political assassination is one of the misused tools of these , our dark times . i say find out who the _____ is and ............
     
  8. BillN

    BillN Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    SW France
    now, now, we live in a democratic world, don't we

    Amin, just find out who he is and "operate" on him
     
  9. Ian_Holmes

    Ian_Holmes Mu-43 Regular

    37
    Mar 27, 2010
    Minnesota
    Interestingly I already share my name with TWO other professional photographers

    Actually make that FOUR
     
  10. spark

    spark Mu-43 Regular

    28
    Feb 8, 2010
    Toronto
    Find them and sell their kidneys on eBay! :biggrin:
     
  11. MHLN

    MHLN New to Mu-43

    4
    Apr 26, 2010
    just dont use paypal!
     
  12. GaryCh

    GaryCh Mu-43 Regular

    88
    Apr 14, 2010
    There's always reciprocation...

    Start a site where doctors can review their patients, www.patientssuck.com is free : )

    Name : Jean T Baker
    Location : Middleton
    General health : [​IMG]
    Sexual health : [​IMG]
    Paranoia : [​IMG]
    Hypochondria : [​IMG]
    Life expectancy : [​IMG]
    click here view/leave personal observations

    Heh, okay... maybe not : )


    -Gary

    edit: The name above was generated randomly by myself, if this DOES happen to be your name/location then I probably mean the OTHER Jean T Baker from the OTHER Middleton ; )
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. vincechu

    vincechu Mu-43 Regular

    Hi Amin,

    Thanks for sharing. I kind of know how you feel, my family runs a long-established Chinese restaurant, which has been doing good honest business for 20 years. Recently one of our staff told us that someone had anonymously left a review on a restaurant review website. The review completely ignores mentioning our service or what our food tastes like and only says that we "re-use" food unfinished by customers and re-serve it (which is totally untrue and very off putting and probably against some kind of health and safety regulation). Anyone could have written it and perhaps they have something against us for example racism or perhaps they're one of our competitors?

    Until now we've pretty much ignored that review, but your entry here has inspired me to act - I think your idea of letting the good stuff drown out the bad's brilliant and I'll ask our real customers to review us.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  14. GaryCh

    GaryCh Mu-43 Regular

    88
    Apr 14, 2010
    @VinceChu

    IANALB...

    Unlike Amins case, your review is not mere opinion but rather an alleged statement of fact. Not only that, but it is almost certainly libellous and clearly damaging.

    I would suggest contacting the review site and demanding (politely but firmly) that they take it down or at least suspend it immediately as it does not constitute opinion and that all the time it remains it is causing your company quantifiable damages.

    Further state that if they refuse to take down or suspend the review you shall have no alternative but to assume that they have an identifiable source to demonstate their own lack of liability. In such case you will refer the matter to your legal counsel with a view to entering a subpoena against themselves for records, and a further john doe subpoena against such records in order to identify the reviewer and establish culpability.

    If no identifiable source exists the review publishing site could be held responsible for the damages.

    Further, due to the nature of the review (being an unsubstantiated damaging statement of fact rather than a reviewers opinion) they may even be liable for damages as a result of a failure to suspend or remove the unsubstantiated and offending review within a reasonable time after notification.

    Then, just to punctuate things, finish with a clear formal notification of the issue.

    Consider this your notification:

    The review you have published is incorrect, unsubstantiated and, we assert, constitutes a deliberately false and damaging statement. Our restaurant maintains high standards in the preparation and storage of food and obeys all laws and regulations including regular health and safety visits. Indeed, passing such inspections is a strict requirement of our license to prepare food for public consumption.

    We therefore strongly recommend that you immediately remove or suspend this review until such time as the claims can be independently substantiated by yourselves -or- the reviewer can be legally identified and called to account. It is our understanding that failure to do so may render yourselves liable for further damages as publisher.

    Please note that we understand the value of public review and are not against the honest public review of our establishment regardless of whether the reviewers impressions are positive or negative. Indeed, a poor review is valuable to us as we take great pains to identify areas where we can improve our already outstanding service. However, we feel that, in this case, the offending item hardly constitutes a fair and unbiased review or even a clients opinion but rather libellous falsehoods presented as statements of fact and issued with clear intent to cause damage.

    As a valued and professional industry reviewer we call for your co-operation in an expedient resolution to this matter, and remove the item pending substantiation.


    Insert the proprietors name, business contact number, address, etc.

    Then... Follow up immediately. Contact them by telephone (check the Domain Name Registrar for Registrant Information) politely recap and ask for their legal contact. Keep it friendly and upbeat. They may not have a legal department but it is sufficiently worrying to them that you have taken this beyond mere email correspondence and may be preparing the ground for a possible legal action. In this call confirm receipt of the email, and confirm their correspondence address is as listed in the domains registration info. You may wish to send a registered letter to them containing the email text exactly, again, this establishes that may be positioning to take the matter to court should it become necessary (by formalising your correspondence). The letter can be important because some sites will not act without hardcopy, so get it sent.

    I can pretty much garauntee that the offending review will be quickly pulled... probably before they even get the hard copy of the complaint.


    Cost? Typically half an hour of your time and one registered envelope ; )


    -Gary

    PS If they refuse to take it down and say the review will stand unless you take the matter to court for records and act against the reviewer - don't fret. There is a free and rather sneaky little trick which pretty much forces them to take down the item as it throws the liability squarely into their hands. In fact, it is virtually garaunteed that they will act on their own initiative and no lawyers are required... PM me about this if you like.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  15. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Gary, I don't think any public review site can be held accountable for failure to moderate libelous reviews unless their policy is to moderate all reviews and they let a libelous one go through. If their policy is to allow reviews to be posted without a preceding moderation step, then they are legally obligated to deal with libel only once it is pointed out to them.

    Either way, I agree that Vince's case meets all criteria for actionable libel, at least in US law, and that a strongly worded message to the review site should be all that it takes. If not, a cease and desist letter would be the next step.

    I also consider a portion of the bad review about me to have been stated as fact, although I know it's less clear in my case, and unlikely to be seen as actionable libel in court.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  16. mabelsound

    mabelsound Guest

    Amin, I wouldn't worry too much about that one review. People can usually tell useful advice from terrible advice. But I like your idea of flooding the internet with your real name, and of asking patients to review you.

    You could do as GaryCh suggests, and you'd be morall/ethically justified in doing so. But I suspect you would be wasting time and emotional energy that you could otherwise dedicate to your patients...and your photography!

    EDIT: I found that review. It's nothing, forget it. It's obvious some random troll, and your response to the comment completely exonerates you. I really wouldn't give this another thought. Plus, you have to click through all kinds of crap to get to it!
     
  17. Bokeh Diem

    Bokeh Diem Mu-43 Top Veteran

    655
    Mar 14, 2010
    Toronto
    Well, just be thankful your name isn't John Holmes.

    Bokeh D
     
  18. mabelsound

    mabelsound Guest

    I would happily entrust my glands to you, Amin.
     
  19. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Thanks, John, that's good to hear :smile:.
     
  20. GaryCh

    GaryCh Mu-43 Regular

    88
    Apr 14, 2010
    I agree, it is unlikely to work in Amin's case. But 'emotional energy' ? You don't have to fume and rant while typing, nor cry down the phone at them. Emotional cost is only ever what you make it.

    Complaints do work though, particularly in an increasingly litagous world... I've used cut and paste DMCA takedown notices and less solidly founded complaints in other circumstances and most of the time they don't want the hassle... though to seperate it from the general email noise you really need to follow up by phone to confirm receipt, ask for a legal contact and confirm registration contact addresses.

    It's a hassle for them too... to find out their exact legal footing in this particular circumstance and justify standing by it... especially since they have no obligation to publish individual comments anyway.

    Path of least cost/resistance/uncertainty? Easy, pull the item. They have nothing invested in keeping it.


    Regardless, there are other ways (even if they refuse) which are time efficient, more direct, don't present you as antagonist and pretty much force their action. All without getting het up or emotional.

    But, always try a firm knock on their door first, most people are reasonable and when they see a genuine cause for complaint will fall on the side of common sense.


    Another approach, answer the charge publicly... Let's say the reviewer is "Mr Jones"...

    I'm Mr. Chu of Mr. Chu's restaurant. Sometimes restaurants cannot compete with us on cost and quality so they resort to dirty tricks. It is unfortunate but it does mean that we must be doing something right. Whilst we cannot be 100% sure the above review is from a competitor we're happy our customers just keep coming back. So, to celebrate - anyone coming to Chu's restuarant before 16th June will get a free starter with their order if they say "Mr Jones recommended me" when booking : ) Why? Well, we think quality food speaks for itself.

    ... and turn it into a promotion! Yay!


    -Gary
     
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