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Defamation Lawyers

Removing fake Trustpilot reviews

Case study: Defamation on TrustPilot

The website TrustPilot, known for hosting online reviews, is reportedly plagued with a significant number of counterfeit reviews. This situation has led to widespread distrust among businesses regarding the credibility of reviews found on TrustPilot.

The problem with TrustPilot defamation

A key concern among many of our clients, contributing to this mistrust, is the apparent lack of transparency and clarity in TrustPilot's methods and protocols for distinguishing and filtering genuine reviews from fraudulent or misleading ones. The process through which TrustPilot evaluates and categorises reviews as good, bad, or fake remains obscure, raising questions about the reliability and integrity of the review system on the platform. Moreover, TrustPilot's responsiveness to businesses suffering from defamation has been criticised as inadequate. Many clients have reported that they feel obtaining even a minimal level of service from TrustPilot often necessitates paying a monthly fee to the platform.

There have been instances where clients, after years of subscribing to a paid plan, decided to revert to the basic, free plan, only to experience a sudden influx of fake reviews while their genuine positive reviews were quarantined. This pattern has led to suspicions that TrustPilot may be using its review management practices to exert pressure on businesses to maintain paid subscriptions, although TrustPilot denies any wrongdoing. These issues have compounded the mistrust in TrustPilot, as businesses feel that the platform's prioritisation of revenue generation over the integrity of its review system undermines the reliability of the reviews displayed. This perceived bias towards paying clients, combined with the lack of clear and consistent review moderation processes, further erodes confidence in TrustPilot's ability to provide an honest and fair representation of customer feedback.

TrustPilot case study

In a case involving fake reviews on TrustPilot, the owner of a medical practice, Ms Hamid (not her real name) faced a barrage of false negative online reviews on TrustPilot.com. Ms Hamid, an entrepreneur, who works as the Medical Director at a dermatology clinic in Liverpool, found her business and personal reputation under attack through these reviews on TrustPilot. The content of the reviews was not just critical but was laced with extreme and intentionally repulsive language, specifically targeting Ms Hamid herself as well as the alleged services the clinic provided.

This kind of online behaviour underscores a significant issue with the integrity of reviews on platforms like TrustPilot. While it's generally accepted and lawful for individuals to post reviews about services they have actually used or experienced, provided the content is truthful and not defamatory, the reviews in question deviated from these acceptable guidelines.

They were misleading and seemed to be part of a coordinated, malicious campaign aimed at damaging her professional and personal reputation. These reviews crossed the line from being constructive criticism to personal attacks, demonstrating a clear abuse of the review platform and highlighting the challenges websites like TrustPilot face in maintaining the authenticity and reliability of their content.

Fake reviews by competitors

Ms Hamid was alarmed when she discovered that the negative reviews about her clinic on TrustPilot did not correspond to any actual clients she had treated. She suspected that these disparaging reviews were the handiwork of competitors aiming to inflict maximum harm on both her professional standing and the reputation of her thriving business.

The cosmetic and beauty industry is characterised by rapid growth and intense competition, which unfortunately also fosters an environment where some choose to undermine others' successes rather than focus on their own business development. As Ms Hamid's clinic gained prominence, it attracted the unwelcome attention of such competitors.

These rivals, it was believed, resorted to posting spiteful and offensive comments on TrustPilot, aiming to damage her well-earned reputation. Unwilling to let her hard work be sullied by these attacks, Ms Hamid took proactive steps to address the issue, echoing the actions of many entrepreneurs who find themselves in similar predicaments. Her first course of action was to research how other business owners had dealt with similar challenges on TrustPilot.

Her attempts to have matters resolved by communication with TrustPilot were all fruitless as they revealed a worrying reality in relation to how the platform handled complaints. She felt that the online review platform was handed disproportionate power over hardworking individuals and businesses. This imbalance struck Ms Hamid as profoundly unfair.

Guided by advice from a dentist friend who had successfully navigated similar challenges with online reviews, Ms Hamid reached out to our law firm for assistance. After an initial consultation with one of our experienced solicitors, we began, together with our client, devising a strategy to address the problem. Our focus was on removing the fraudulent reviews from TrustPilot and also on restoring and protecting the reputation of Ms Hamid and her business, a vital step in safeguarding her professional integrity in the competitive landscape of the beauty industry.

Legal action in relation to Defamation on Trustpilot

In addressing the issue of fraudulent online reviews on TrustPilot for Ms Hamid, our legal approach involved direct and strategic communication with TrustPilot. We began by drafting a detailed solicitor's letter to TrustPilot, laying out compelling reasons to believe that the reviews in question were not genuine but rather a deliberate attempt to tarnish Ms Hamid's reputation. In our correspondence, we demanded that TrustPilot relay our message to the reviewers, whose identities were initially protected by the platform. We firmly stated our intention to initiate legal proceedings against both TrustPilot and the anonymous reviewers if the fraudulent reviews were not promptly removed.

In this letter, we also extended an opportunity for the reviewers to voluntarily retract their comments before we escalated the matter through legal channels, including disclosure proceedings.

Our assertive stance yielded results; shortly after our communication, the majority of the fake reviews were removed from TrustPilot. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) played a crucial role in addressing the issue of the defamatory reviews. While most of the problematic reviews were successfully removed, a few persisted.

To tackle these, we initially sought TrustPilot's cooperation by requesting their consent to a Norwich Pharmacal Order. This legal order would mandate TrustPilot to disclose identifiable information about the authors of these remaining reviews.

At the same time, we also deployed our in-house OSINT team to independently uncover the identities of these reviewers. Our OSINT team, composed of experts in cyber intelligence and digital forensics, utilised a range of specialised tools designed for advanced data analysis and internet research. These tools included social media analysis platforms, public records databases, and advanced search algorithms, which allowed us to delve deeply into the digital footprints left by the reviewers. Our team conducted a meticulous investigation, systematically examining open sources and large datasets to piece together the puzzle. This involved analysing metadata, scrutinising social media profiles, and cross-referencing information across various online platforms.

The process was highly detailed, involving the identification of common aliases, email addresses, IP addresses, and other digital markers that could be traced back to the individuals in question. Through this comprehensive approach, we were able to identify patterns and traces that pointed to the true identities of the reviewers. For instance, by tracking the online activities associated with certain usernames or email addresses, we could correlate these with specific geographical locations and other personal details.

This methodical cross-referencing enabled us to build a detailed profile of each reviewer, uncovering their real identities despite their attempts to remain anonymous. The insights gained from our OSINT efforts were instrumental in proving that some of the lingering reviews were posted from locations outside the UK, significantly bolstering our argument that they were fabricated. This evidence was pivotal in persuading TrustPilot to remove the remaining deceptive reviews from their site.

What to do if your business becomes a victim of TrustPilot defamation

If your business falls victim to defamatory reviews on TrustPilot, it can be a distressing and challenging experience. However, it's important to remember that you have options and can take steps to address the situation effectively. Start by documenting the reviews. Take screenshots and save any relevant information about the defamatory content, as this documentation can be crucial for any future legal actions or communications with TrustPilot.

Next, report the reviews to TrustPilot using their reporting tools. Provide as much evidence as possible to support your claim that the reviews are fake or misleading. Seeking legal advice is another important step. Consulting with a solicitor who specialises in defamation and online reputation management can guide you on the best legal actions to take. This might include drafting a formal letter to TrustPilot, demanding the removal of the defamatory content and laying out the reasons why the reviews are not genuine.

Additionally, consider deploying Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) techniques to independently uncover the identities of the reviewers. This approach, which proved effective in our case study, involves using specialised tools and extensive internet research to trace digital footprints and identify patterns that point to the true identities of the reviewers.

By leveraging these techniques, you can gather evidence that may compel TrustPilot to act on your behalf. Also, remember that you are not alone in this situation. Many businesses have faced similar challenges and have successfully navigated through them. Taking proactive steps, seeking professional help, and using all available resources can help restore your reputation and ensure that defamatory reviews are addressed effectively. While the process may seem daunting, it is possible to combat and overcome the impact of fake reviews on your business.

Get in touch today for more information, advice and support.

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