Google Ordered to Publish Reviewers' Details in Dutch Child Center Case

The Amsterdam Court has ordered Google to publish the details of the users responsible for four spurious reviews about a child care center, which took legal action after claiming the posts damaged its business.
One of the products offered by Google is Google Maps, a map and route planner service. Within Google Maps, the service Google Reviews is offered. Internet visitors are able to write reviews - with the help of this service - on locations they have visited. These reviews are immediately published on the Internet by Google and can be seen by everyone.

Through the review function on Google Maps, critical messages appeared about a child care center in 2015. The board was able to prove these reviews were false. Google refused, however, to remove the wrongful reviews and chose the following point of view:

"Google+ local hosts third party content. It is not the maker or intermediate for that content. We advise you to solve disputes directly with the individual who posted the content. If you cannot come to an agreement and decide to take legal actions against the individual who posted the content, and if these actions lead to legal orders that the material is unlawful or has to be removed, you send us a court order in which the removal is demanded. In cases in which the individual posted the content anonymously, we can pass on user data to you on the grounds of a valid summons of third parties or a different legal procedure against Google Inc."

With this, the board of the child care center took legal action. Shortly after the preliminary injunction, it turned out Google had removed three of the four reviews after all, because of "spam."

Negative reviews cause damage

On February 29, the preliminary relief judge in Amsterdam pronounced that the fourth review, which violated image rights by using a false random portrait picture from the Internet, now also has to be removed. Besides this, Google has to pass on the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the people who are behind the spurious reviews on the child care center. Google has been ordered to give the computer IP addresses from which the fake reviews were published.

Through the Google Maps function, visitors are able to write reviews on locations they've visited.

The center has made it clear that it suffers damages from the negative reviews. According to the judge, the center's interest to tackle the wrongful reviews is of greater importance than the right to freedom of speech and expression to be able to publish evidently spurious reviews.

Review function stays

The board of the child care center also demanded the removal of the review function completely from Google, as well as any reference to the child care centre's business. The preliminary relief judge rejected this request. According to Google, this is technically impossible, but of more importance is the fact that this would be too great an infringement on the freedom of speech of Internet users. Moreover, there are more platforms on the Internet that allow users to vent their opinions on a certain business.