Earlier this month, a Japanese court ordered Google to remove two reviews from Google Maps. This was because critical reviews had been left of a medical clinic, which were allegedly false. The doctor who treated the patients in question has denied the criticism and signed an affidavit saying that the reviews were false. The clinic has also reportedly sued the previous patients for defamation.
As a result of this, the Japanese District Court has asked Google to remove the results from both Google Japan and its global reviews. This is evidently where the issues are apparent. The problem, here, is the same as that with the Right to Be Forgotten in Europe – the courts are trying to impose local authority on Google’s global index.
What’s more, issues of freedom of speech come into play once again. What’s more important, freedom of speech or protecting privacy? In the cases where countries are less focused on freedom of speech as the likes of Japan, it seems that the answer may be the latter. This is obviously a problem when freedom of speech may be considered more important in other areas of the world, since Japan want to impose the removal on global results too.
If this wasn’t controversial enough, reports also suggest that the doctor simply denied the allegations (although formally) so in theory anyone could sign a similar affidavit even if they were lying.
The implications of this kind of removal? People may not write bad reviews for fear of this sort of court action, rendering the review process pretty pointless. If applied globally, there are some serious issues with regards to freedom of speech, which is evidently why Google are reluctant to do so in these cases.
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