November 30, 2021


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1 star rating without text and under a pseudonym - often Google & Co.  obligated to delete

1 star rating without text and under a pseudonym – often Google & Co. obligated to delete

A maximum negative rating of one star or a score of 6.0 pulls the value of the company’s average rating on Google, jameda, Amazon, eBay, kununu and Co. so far.

If competing entrepreneurs do not adequately calibrate their moral compass, one of them may come up with the following glorious idea:

Now I will go through the relevant profiles of my competitors and distribute different 1 star ratings under a lot of aliases. Whoosh, my business is the undisputed top dog based on significant reviews. Because of his anonymity, no one can tell me anything. And because I don’t have to type any text, it works really fast. What a smart fox I am! “

Spoiler: Not you! And reputable competitors are by no means defenseless…

Exploded – then it was a clear legal starting point

If such dishonest practices—more appropriately: antisocial—can be demonstrated to the aforementioned rival entrepreneur, the legal consequences are pretty clear: the appraisal must be immediately deleted and the assessed company can compel the evaluator to cease and desist by issuing a warning. If necessary, he can also file a claim against all damages (sales) that can be traced back to the unjustified negative evaluation.

If the corresponding evidence is not so easy, then the fundamental question that arises is: to what extent does law and jurisprudence allow the opening of the above violations by competitors and other hostile third parties?

In fact, the actual starting point is mostly vague

Indeed, from the point of view of an unjustifiably classified person, this is usually an unfavorable initial situation.

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In general, it should be noted first that according to the current legal situation, anonymous evaluation on the Internet – in individual cases even without a text – is covered by freedom of expression and is therefore essentially permissible.

If no text is added to the star award or scores and the rating is written under a pseudonym, then of course there is no possibility to verify the person being evaluated.

Oftentimes, however, there are at least valid enough indications that the evaluation is not honest. This is the case, for example, if negative reviews are not received over a long period of time and then more or less simultaneously over a short period of time.

Sometimes, “dummy reviewers” aren’t as smart foxes as they think they are: by choosing a pseudonym or a neglected legacy on their (fake) profile, they may provide valuable information about their true identity.

Entrepreneurs who maintain a “client” or patient profile (such as doctors and lawyers) are often able to assess whether a patient or (former) client qualifies even for such a negative assessment.

The Federal Court of Justice closes the door to arbitrariness…

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) – unlike seemingly individual courts – simply recognized the intolerable risks of abuse described above and closed the “door and gate” accordingly as much as possible.

It follows from BGH’s jameda II decision that providers such as Google, jameda and Co. They are essentially obligated to review the evaluation if the person being evaluated specifically explains why the evaluation is not justified.

However, in the local context, the word “concrete” should be understood to mean that it should not be enough to claim in the summary – completely “in the dark” – the inadmissibility of the corresponding assessment against Google and Co.

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Unfortunately, even individual courts seem to misunderstand the concept of ‘tangible’ and require evaluators to provide a detailed and detailed account of the facts in order to refute the admissibility of the evaluation beyond a reasonable doubt.

The problem is that the person being evaluated will not be able to provide this evidence. In the above-mentioned cornerstone decision on Internet ratings, BGH asserted “to the extent” that the corresponding assumption is sufficient and does not require further substantiation. The person being evaluated is not in a position to do more at the moment.

Perhaps the lower courts mentioned above should be credited with the fact that the term “concrete” in the BGH decision was not entirely successful and that misunderstanding was evident as a result.

… and rating portals are required to review them

If the rated person is “guessed in specific terms”, Google and Co. They are obligated to check the review. In order not to assume the same liability, the portal operator must confront the assessor with a “concrete assumption” of the assessor and give the auditor the opportunity to comment.

Experience has shown that the reviewer often does not give any comments. In these cases, the label should be deleted. The same is true if the opinion only provides additional arguments for the inadmissibility of the assessment.

If – at least initially – a sufficient statement has been made, the person being evaluated must again be given the opportunity to make a statement. Therefore, Google and Associates are obligated to forward it to the designated person – anonymously if necessary.

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For the first time, the assessed person is in a position to respond “really specifically” to any claims. And it’s better to invalidate this in such a way that delete is the only result allowed here as well.

In the end there is an evaluation by the judge

If after their examination Google, jameda, Amazon and Co come to the conclusion that evaluation is permitted, legal recourse is still open. Google’s algorithms are often great. However, the German state cannot trust that they have their own legal decision-making power. The courts are still responsible for this.

At the end of any legal proceedings, the “smart foxes” mentioned at the beginning are sometimes evaluated. Although completely without stars, but with a text and not at all a pseudonym: in the form of a court ruling.

Robin Nocon

I am happy to first rate your status or ratings as part of a free “Initial Evaluation”. You can find comprehensive insight into the topic of “Deleting Comments” here: Delete reviews on Google and Co. All-round lighting.