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Tech Companies Urged To Help Small Businesses Remove Fake Online Reviews

Sydney, Australia - September 6, 2011: Close up of an Apple Ipad and on a desk showing the Google search engine home screen. There is also a keyboard and some documents on the desk, the documents show charts and graphs. This scene depicts ipad in a working environment.
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The small business ombudsman has insisted that tech platforms afford small businesses the power to remove harmful fake reviews that so often proliferate on their platforms.

As reported by Guardian Australia, small business ombudsman, Bruce Billson recommended that the matter of online fake reviews be considered in the Government’s ongoing social media inquiry.

In his submission, Billson warned that “These reviews damage business reputations and cause significant distress to staff and business owners.”

Guardian Australia previously reported how little recourse businesses can have when disgruntled customers, and even competitors.

However, increasingly businesses have launched defamation suits against big tech companies to unmask anonymous reviewers.

Last year, a woman who wrote multiple negative reviews about a Victorian periodontist was ordered to pay $170,000 dollars in damages plus costs, for what the judge described as a “vendetta” against the specialist.

In another similar case, during 2020, Google and Optus were also made to hand over information that revealed the identity of an anonymous negative reviewer after a Melbourne dentist took legal action.

In an effort to protect small businesses, Billson prescribes that “digital platforms build out tools that prevent fake reviews as well as create a more accessible and transparent review system.”

“This should include giving small businesses more transparency on the evidence they need to provide a digital platform to have a fake review reviewed and removed,” he said.

For several months social media policy has been a high priority for the Australian Federal Government.

As seen in B&T, the Australian Government has already taken an extremely tough position against anonymous perpetrators of online harm, with regards to trolling.

Though it’s yet to be seen if Billson’s submission will be included in the social media and online safety inquiry that’s set to present its final report on or before the 15th of February 2022.

This inquiry will review “the range of online harms that may be faced by Australian’s on social media and other online platforms, including harmful content or harmful conduct.”

Items under investigation include algorithmic impacts, identity verification policies, online safety for children and data collection.

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