February 8, 2023


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Haveltherme in Werder deletes bad Google reviews from visitors

Haveltherme in Werder deletes bad Google reviews from visitors

The Hotel Haveltherme in Werder advertises relaxation in its “Premium Spa”. However, some of the guests weren’t happy with the show:[E]A few loveless artificial palm trees and (…) dirty showers never allow for that luxurious spa taste during our visit. (…) The only bright spot was the friendly and hardworking staff,” wrote one visitor in a review on the Google platform. Soon after, he reported publicly on the Internet, received a letter from the owners and had his rating removed.

Another visitor also complained via Google review that he was not allowed in the pool. He states that he then received a message from Google asking him to prove that he had been to Haveltherme. He asks, “What if I don’t show up?”

This also happened to the employee of Tagesspiegel Nantke Garrelts: she left a critical review and, although she also highlighted the positive aspects of her visit to Haveltherme, received an email from Google: “We ask you (…) to detail your experience report as well as background, Such as the period in which I had the experiences described, as concretely as possible,” the letter stated. “Also, please address the complainant’s individual points expressly and send us the evidence,” the report continues.

Delete revisions as a business model

It is clear that there is a great need for companies to remove unwanted cash from the Internet. Many agencies and attorneys advertise that bad ratings will disappear. “Are you afraid of harming your image through negative reviews on Google or other portals? (…) Deleting the rating removes negative comments about you and helps you maintain your reputation in the long run,” says one website.

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Legal action? says Bjorn Steinreuter, junior professor of information technology law and media law at the University of Potsdam.

“In general, the interests and rights of the person being assessed should be given the same consideration as the Internet user assessing the right to freedom of expression,” says Steinroeter. According to IT lawyers, there is also a public interest in the information and economic interests of the platforms. In principle, it would be unreasonable for a platform to check all user-generated content in detail before it is published on the Internet.

complex legal situation

But the disagreement between legal experts is reasonable. The procedure that emerged was that the platform, in this case Google, defines the mode, in which a statement is also requested from the respective user. But there are also criticisms of this measure, says Steinreuter: Aside from the fact that the platform has become a judge, this approach creates an incentive to delete a post in case of suspicion, “since it takes a very long time to check the illegality of the content.”

Haveltherme may allow unauthorized deletions

Google’s Germany press office upon request states: “If a review goes against the guidelines, it can be flagged for review so that it can then be examined against our guidelines.” According to Google, the reviews are made by machine systems and human vetted employees, but the platform also responds to specific complaints.

In fact, there have been reviews from people who have not visited the thermal baths.

Andrew SchwerManaging Director of Haveltherme

“In fact, there were reviews from people who had never been to thermal baths. That and the subjective reviews led to a request to Google for an examination,” says Andreas Schauer, managing director of Haveltherme, about his company’s approach. Then Google examined user reviews and decided how to proceed. It cannot be ruled out that this also led to unauthorized deletions. “We’re investigating this and will report it to Google,” Schauer said.

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The visitor Garrelts could easily prove her visit to Haveltherme, she ordered the tickets online. When I went to the spa in person to complain about how cash was handled, I was given two coupons. But she doesn’t want them back.

“No, I’m never going there again,” Garelts says. “I actually think the facility is nice, but anyone who hires a law firm or agency to remove unwelcome comments has, in my view, an understanding of freedom of speech which has faltered in the GDR.”

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