Vigilante Social Justice Supported By Lack of Online Identity
A while back I wrote about how online reviews are basically useless because the reviewers have no stake in the game, and there is no notion of verified online identity to distinguish legitimate reviews from shills and fake competitor reviews. I would like to amend my previous assessment of online reviews as being useless.
I would now like to say they are worse than useless.
Reviews have become the modern-day version of mob justice. Recently, a dentist by the name of Palmer killed a well-liked lion in Africa. That went viral. Cue the vigilante justice and outrage. I'm certainly not here to defend him. From what I have seen, he has few redeeming qualities. Let's say for the sake of argument he is a terrible human being. But is vigilante justice how we want to handle that?
At the time of this writing, the Google review of his business has almost 4,000 reviews, almost all negative, talking about the lion incident. His Yelp! review has pretty much the same thing. His Facebook page (down now) is similarly trashed. Most of the reviews are something like this:
Yelp and Google will try to remove the fake reviews, but the mob is very persistent. In effect, his business is drowned out by the angry mob. He will almost certainly go out of business and his 11 employees will lose their jobs. This will likely hurt them more than him (he was able to afford a $50,000 safari, after all). No one would behave this way if they had to face him in person. We know how to figure out trust in-person.
And this is not the only time this has happened. Memories Pizza was slammed after they said they wouldn't cater a gay wedding (who caters a wedding with pizza anyway?). Their current reviews are 2.5/5. Maybe their pizza really is awful. Or maybe the mob is still at it, and we can't tell whether reviews are real or not. People want to vent about their frustrations; they want to do something. I get that. But this is not the way to do it.
Without trust online, or a way to check identity, not only do we have useless reviews, we have anonymous mob, out with pitchforks and torches, destroying lives.