Authored by Robert Mann of Worldwide Intelligence Network. Over the past few years we’ve been asked by numerous business owners if we could identify and investigate people who posted scathing anonymous internet reviews about their establishments.  The owners wanted to reach out to those reviewers to obtain more information and to make good on any poor experience that customer had. In today’s highly sophisticated age, it is nearly impossible to identify an anonymous email addresses especially those that pay to email through anonymous email websites. Those websites specialize in protecting the true identity of the person sending the email and only by filing a law suit and serving the website with a subsequent subpoena can the real name of the person sending the anonymous email be revealed.

We have highly skilled experts who do contract work for our company that have identified numerous anonymous internet reviews over the years. I’m all for the first amendment freedom of speech but our forefathers didn’t envision a worldwide wide web and global anonymous emails. I acknowledge that everyone has a right to express their point of view and to write about good as well as bad experiences with vendors. However, there were far too many times we uncovered through law suits and subpoenas that the unhappy customer who wrote a scathing review was none other than the owner’s competitor. Now that’s not playing fair and that is what appears to be poisoning online reviews because we really don’t know who is posting a truthful or untruthful review.

If an establishment offer horrible dishonest services then we all should know about it but the reviewer should be identified and be able to be contacted so the owner could either reach out to the reviewer to correct their bad experience or to evidence that they never were in the owner’s establishment and that they are unhappy competitors. Some of the client who came to us have been in the restaurant business for decades with extremely high rating in various Food and Wine Magazines and in Zagat. Some owners have photographs taken with dignitaries and past Presidents on the walls of their establishments.  I’ve met with these people personally and it is truly a shame that they could not respond to the negative reviews in a way that would actually make a difference.

This past weekend there was an article in the Los Angeles Times about reviews posted in Yelp where Yelp has a software that designates whose negative reviews should be accelerated on the search engines or appear on page one of Google. Their criteria has to do with the frequency of the reviews written by the reviewer and if the reviewer is a paid advertiser on Yelp. Now that is simply awful and grossly unfair to the proprietors of the establishments that are being reviewed.  Does anyone remember when reviews were published by critics or in Opinion Letters send to newspapers. Seems those reviewers didn’t have a problem affixing their name to their review why should Yelp and all the other so-called review websites do the same. If someone wants to write a good or horrible review be big enough to tell the establishment where they can be reached.

Perhaps someone should create a website that permits reviewers to post their review with a hidden contact email address or phone number along with their name and then have their review be posted where they designate it to be. If the establishment wants to contact the reviewer they click on a link that sends the request back to the reviewer and if the reviewer refuses to identify themselves then their review is removed.  This is just a thought to make the playing field fair to all parties involved.