The reviews we saw in 2004 are no longer the reviews we see today 10 years later. What was once an objective review of the movies we wanted to see or the books we wanted to read or even the toasters we wanted to toast our bread. Review sites have mutated and warped into an extortionist wet dream and perhaps the largest and most pervasive scam ever perpetrated online.
Companies that ask for people’s complaints as if they were interested in doing something beneficial for the consumer, which they don’t. Companies (most times the same company) that charges a fee to have negative reviews removed from the site that promoted or even produced the negative material. We are not the first to call attention to this loophole in the law. Where the website is not responsible for the content on the site. This means that disgruntled ex-employees and rival companies can legally slander and outright lie about a company that they are angry with for reasons that often have nothing to do with an actual consumer experience with the company which they are attacking.
The internet was touted as the great equalizer but the balance has shifted to the shifty and shiftless and away from the truthful and honest.
Like all things the pendulum swings and at the apex of each swing is the extreme, but the bad news is that the pendulum has not reached the apex yet. We may only at the beginning of the abuse of our right to free speech. Regardless if we understand the genesis we are better able to appreciate where we are. The genesis is really a couple of guys that realized that if they owned your name they could rob you blind.
This was first illustrated by domain squatters who bought up URL’s that were associated with an actual business. (I.e. Some guy buys “Coke.com” and tries to sell it to Coca-Cola while the only Coke he has ever sold was from a vile dangling from a gold chain.
The next cyber squatters didn’t focus on your domain but the results found when your name was searched by others. They focus on owning your name indirectly by promoting others to anonymously complain about you on their very search engine friendly website. The interesting thing is that the people who are the first to throw stones are also the ones that will most likely be hurt most when the tables are turned. This is because the slander is getting more personal each day. By more personal we mean less corporate and more focused on the individual. Look up someone and see what happens. Search “Bob Costas” and see the suggestion bar and how it prompts you to “Bob Costas Plastic Surgery” and other rather negative options.
Search “Rick Santorum” and if you are like most people you will be surprised what has been done by some clever techies who were able to own his name on Google and redefine his name as a foul and disgusting expression for something that could only be created by unusually cruel and callous people. Yet they own “Santorum” online more than the man himself. A man who ran for President and who served as an US Senator. If anyone thinks that they are not a potential target, don’t fall under the gaze of an angry ex-employee, scorned lover or a business competitor. If you think you are immune to the cyber extortionists, start a business online or own a business online and you will feel the wrath of those that want to take what you have by any means possible.