It's not the first and it won't be the last time that a business is angry at Google after receiving damaging online reviews.
And very often, these businesses would like to unmask real-world identities of negative reviewers, whom they suspect of deliberately targeting their reputation with not only bad but also false and malicious reviews.
Even so, it's not every day that a brothel seeks to push back in court against what it perceives as online defamation and Google's failure to live up to its end of the bargain.
This is now happening in Australia.
The brothel in question, The Boardroom of Melbourne, is located in Melbourne and believes that several one-star reviews that came over the past months have been “fraudulent” – while managing to bring the establishment's Google rating “down to 3.2 stars” (it's unclear from the report what the starting rating was).
One of the negative reviews cited here claims that a client was fat-shamed by the receptionist, who advised him to be “happy with anything he can get” – while he described the brothel as “cheap and dirty.”
The brothel is now a client of the Matrix Legal law firm, whose lawyer Mark Stanarevic thinks the case is clear-cut.
“What we say is it's a failing of Google's duty of care to manage their business platform,” said Stanarevic, adding that by allowing anonymous reviews, the tech giant is violating its terms of service.
Other Australian media reports about the case point out that some of the bad reviews at the same time recommended a competing nearby brothel – which is probably the source of the belief that the reviews were fraudulent.
The Australian Federal Court is now asked to reveal the IP addresses of those reviewers. The legal action was launched by the business after Google said it would neither remove the reviews nor hand over personal data tied to them.
According to media reports, Mark Stanarevic is also mulling a class action lawsuit against Google bringing together several similar cases, and pointing out that the size and influence of Google means that it's not merely a website, but a competitive business platform that must adhere to rules.