A Japanese court, last week, ordered Google to take down two reviews from Google Maps that were less than flattering of a local medical clinic. There was a doctor there who worked at the clinic and allegedly treated some patients (who inevitably wrote the negative reviews) who signed an affidavit swearing that their reviews were not true. Not only were the reviews false, but they were also allegedly defamatory as well.
The first to report the decision was TechCrunch, and according to them, the clinic sued the individuals for defamation. The Japanese District Court is requiring Google to both remove the reviews from Google Japan, but its global results as well. Doesn’t this remind you a little of the Right To Be Forgotten in Europe?
Even though the company faces a modest potential fine of about $2,500, the bigger question is, what will this mean for other countries that don’t have much in the way of free speech laws?
According to the TechCrunch article, “neither review violates the policies that Google has in place for user generated content within the Maps service.” It’s possible that Google might appeal the decision.
This scenario could cause a domino effect, as the doctor-plaintiff was able to issue a formal denial, which was enough to support the court’s decision. It’s possible that this could gain more traction with other Japanese companies or businesses, where if a critical review pops up, similar procedures could occur here as well, causing negative reviews to get removed.