Google ordered to lift the anonymity of two Internet users by French justice

A bed and breakfast in Saône-et-Loire had attacked the American giant, after two negative opinions left on its Google Maps page.

Google Ireland, the European headquarters of the American giant Google, has been ordered by the Dijon Court of Appeal to reveal the identities of two people accused of having issued “false opinions” on a guest house, it has been said. learned Tuesday from the parties.

The court, acting in summary proceedings, ordered on June 21 Google Ireland to give the identities and contact details of two people who, in 2018 for one then in 2020 for the other, had published a star rating on Google Maps, no comments (two stars out of five and one out of five) concerning the Château de Balleure, a bed and breakfast in Etrigny (Saône-et-Loire).

Google is also ordered to pay legal costs, as well as 2,000 euros to the guest house, according to the judgment of which AFP obtained a copy. On the other hand, the court does not condemn the deletion of the messages, which will be examined later during a trial on the merits.

Identification of authors

Overturning a judgment of first instance of the court of Chalon-sur-Saône, of July 20, 2021, the court considers that the guest house has “a legitimate reason” to obtain from Google any element allowing “the identification of the author (s) disputed notes” in order to be able, during a subsequent trial on the merits, to determine whether they actually came from people who were not customers of Château de Balleure.

According to the guest house, these two reviews were “false” because they were issued by people who had never visited the establishment. “The most likely hypothesis results from the feature called ‘push’ of Google Maps”, estimates Raoul Salama, owner of the Château.

The “push” function asks Google Maps users passing near an accommodation or restaurant to give their “opinion”, “but without implementing adequate controls that would ensure that these Internet users have actually used the services of the establishment”, estimates to AFP Mr. Salama, who now intends to sue Google on the merits.

“In our opinion, Google has not respected a certain number of legislative texts” and in particular the European directive, known as “Omnibus”, which came into force at the end of May, which prohibits “to affirm that opinions on a product are disseminated by consumers who have actually used or purchased the product without having taken the necessary steps to verify it”.

Asked, Google referred to the Maps rules which ensure that “contributions must be based on real experiences and information”. Disputes for “false reviews” are increasing around the world. The UK Competition Authority (CMA) is currently investigating Amazon and Google over concerns the two groups “have not done enough to tackle fake reviews”.

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