There have been a few conversations about good and bad reviews on NVN and how we might "police" them so I wanted to post my regular "this is how we do it thread" to allay any confusion.
The first thing to point out is that NVN is now SW Londons largest local media.
We are now bigger than any local newspaper, magazine or website that is specific to SW London.
Whilst this is something I am really proud of it does mean that both good and bad false reviews can have a massive impact on a local business and so we have a responsibility to try to get them right.
So this is a repeat of my last post about whether we take down posts...
One of our users just posted regarding a negative post that's been removed and I wanted to respond.
The jist of the comment was that we'd taken down a post because it was negative about an advertiser and that the only reason we'd done so was because they were a client.
So let me explain what we've done and why...
1. whenever a member is new or hasn't posted much (eg more than five posts) but does post strong negative or positive criticism of a company we ALWAYS delete that post. (when we are aware of it, we don't see every post)
It's not that we are trying to protect anyone or anything, but it is EXTREMELY common for competitors of a business to join and post "false" negative reviews. It is a *daily* occurrence.
This deletion is totally unrelated as to whether the firm in question is a sponsor or not.
For the avoidance of doubt, if a regular user posts something negative that doesn't come down. Its only new users.
The integrity of this website is based upon people being honest and false negative reviews are as damaging as false positive ones.
We also do the same for false positive reviews. I reckon I delete about five or ten a *day*.
you can see a user ask why a positive review was taken down in this quote here...
funnily enough i had posted a recommendation for a builder today but it was too positive!! As it was my first post it was understandably removed until it can be verified i'm not a business...
2. we then email the person who posted a very good or bad review and ask to talk to them. I explain that we need to talk and why. I actually have a standard bit of text that I cut and paste into the email as I do this so often
3. we have NEVER removed negative comments for ad dollars. Never have and never will. We have lost many many ad campaigns as a result of this.
4. we then discuss the topic with the poster and try to work out how genuine it is. Around 80% of all false negative review writers will not speak to us on the phone (they're obviously false) and the remaining 20% are real and after explaining the process and the laws of libel we then leave it up to the poster to decide if they want to continue.
In the last few weeks these discussions had morphed into debates as to why a user can't post anything they want. What I mean by that is why there is any restriction at all.
I think this has caused a bit of confusion so let me deal with that now.
So sorry this is post is so long!
When you post on NVN you are liable for anything you write.
It's in our Ts and Cs and it means if you defame or libel someone then they can come to you for damages. I think we've all seen that Sally Bercow had to pay a sum of money to Lord McAlpine for a comment she made on Twitter and the number of visits we have to NVN makes her followers look like a private tea party.
So when I speak to a user who wants to post something very negative I explain that they are liable for the content. However (are you still with me!) once a business has asked ME to take down a post they feel is unfairly negative then if I refuse then I am liable as I have consented to it being on the site.
That means that if you write that "Billy's Bicycle Shop killed my goldfish" and I am asked to take it down and I refuse I am now liable for the loss of business to Billy's Bikes if it was not a true comment.
So that means that I will always tell users that they can post what they want BUT they have to indemnify NVN against any costs.
At this point the discussions tend to proceed along the lines of "but he did kill my goldfish and I want the world to know" and my reply will always be "ok but you have to be prepared to take the legal consequences if it's not true."
Seeing as this post is so long I'll go the whole hog and share a recent situation with you.
A user posted something extremely negative about a local business.
A post so bad that you'd never do business with that person again. The user was credible, eloquent and seemed calm and rational. The local business suffered a 60% loss in trade in one week and once we were aware of the post we took it down so we could verify it.
It turned out that although the user had been a customer of the business that was the only element of truth in the story, everything else was a fabrication. She was upset as she felt she hadn't had the service she was promised and so went all out to ruin their business.
To be clear, she eventually admitted that even though she had been given a full refund for a product or service she felt they "deserved punishment."
Some users view our request for them to be aware of the legal ramifications of their posts as a "zero tolerance" of criticism. It's not, zero tolerance is SO easy in comparison as we'd just delete the negative comments, but what we are doing is much harder and its allowing negative posts so the site can do a good job but explaining the environment within which these negative comments have to live.
I am not saying whether it's good or it's bad, but it is the law.
I hope this helps, problems or questions please email me.