Why it matters: Anyone who has been an active internet user for an extended period has likely dealt with criticism of some sort, but companies and business owners tend to get the worst of it. Whether openly hostile or merely critical, negative reviews for products and services are the norm, and tech companies have made it easier than ever for users to share their opinions.
However, opting to do so might just land you in hot water in some circumstances, as one anonymous Google user is about to learn. A dentist based out of Melbourne, Australia, has managed to convince a federal judge to order Google to "unmask" the individual behind a negative review left on his business' Google page.
The dentist, Matthew Kabbabe, claims the three-month-old review in question is the only negative one his business has received to date. "I believe it is extremely unfair that people are allowed to anonymously attack honest, hardworking small businesses," Kabbabe said in a statement to ABC.
The anonymous reviewer (who goes by the username "CBsm 23") could have information like his IP address, phone number, and full name divulged if Google complies with the judge's order.
Kabbabe, and his lawyer Mark Stanarevic, feel the negative review constitutes defamation. Stanarevic says his client has lost "thousands" of dollars in business due to the criticism.
For our part, we were unable to find CBsm 23's review anywhere on Dr. Kabbabe's "Asprodontics" Google page. There are 28 reviews in total, and all of them give Asprodontics a full five-star rating (though, somehow, the practice has a 4.9/5 overall score). It's possible that the individual pulled the review in response to this legal action, but we cannot say for sure.
Either way, it's somewhat difficult to believe that a single negative review (out of at least 29) would be enough to negatively impact any business -- especially an otherwise well-respected dentistry practice -- to a meaningful degree. With that said, we're not business or legal experts, so we'll leave all final judgement to the courts.