Fake business reviews can now land you in court

Users of Google Search and Maps placing fake reviews may soon be sued or see their accounts suspended, the global search giant has said.  

Google has revealed that it has introduced new content policies that will filter posted reviews for business profiles.

The Maps User Contributed Content Policy will ensure that information on Google Maps is reliable in order to protect individuals and businesses from policy violations.

Google will use machine learning models to moderate millions of reviews uploaded using the Google Business Profile

It said it will use its staff to identify the subtle distinction of various expressions of individual posts. The machines will then identify patterns to determine if content is legitimate.

The machines will now flag issues including offensive or off-topic content, any Google account with a history of suspicious behaviour, places with uncharacteristic activity such as an abundance of reviews over a short period of time about a particular place or business or any place that has received recent news or social media coverage that would motivate people to leave fraudulent reviews.

The company will also remove offensive content as reported by the business, and suspended user accounts and in some instances litigation being pursued.

This comes amid an increase in fake reviews damaging companies and businesses even as a majority of consumers turn to online reviews before shopping or visiting the place. 

“We are dedicated to keeping reviews on Google Maps authentic and reliable to protect local businesses from fraud and abuse, and keep the information helpful for users,” Sharon Machira, communications and public affairs manager, Kenya said.

“Over the past couple of years, through the Local Guides program we have developed easy tools that allow people to help contribute to Maps so others can more easily and accurately explore their world.”

The Maps User Contributed Policy will be based on real-world experiences and to keep irrelevant and offensive comments off of Google Business Profile.

The move comes as more people estimated at one billion people turn to Google Maps every month to explore what to purchase and where to visit.

Local users of those places share their experiences, reviews and photos on Google Maps and influencing those who visit the online platforms – Google Search and Maps.

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