Google Censorship and “Review” Sites Like Yelp

February 9, 2012 10:38 pm Published by

Dentists and doctors are increasingly reliant upon the internet in general and search engines in particular.  The power that search engines exert upon private practice has reached an alarming level.  Free speech exists for an anonymous “patient” to criticize a doctor online while search engines employ censorship without explanation.  Many doctors don’t know that they are breaking the law in many states by offering discounts on coupon websites.  It is time for a national discourse on internet dentistry and medicine.

Censorship is a timely topic as evidenced by the recent SOPA-inspired Google and Wikipedia blackout.

In America, great power incurs great responsibility.  On the internet, Google yields great power.  Some would argue it is a monopoly deserving the fate that befell Microsoft in the prior decade in the U.S. and Europe.  Google should therefore avoid corporate policy that puts it at risk for government intervention.

“Democracy… Is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty… Is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Google is not Coke.  Coke’s secret formula has no impact on millions of American businesses; Google’s secret algorithm does.  The “review” sites like Yelp or the bottom-dwelling, Doctoroogle, are not any better.  Yelp’s algorithm only displays “reviews” if the “reviewer” has written many other “reviews” and has many Yelp friends.  This tends to censor (“filter”) reviews from older, busier and probably wealthier consumers whose opinions may matter most in certain market segments like luxury items.

I suggest the following definitions:

Censorship – the illegal delisting of a website without proper notification and without access to an impartial review board.

Suspension – the legal delisting of a website with proper notification and with access to an impartial review board.

Search engines like Google should properly:

1) send notification to a website that it deems worthy of delisting and provide contact information for an impartial review board.

2) create an impartial review board where the delisted website owner may adjudicate the delisting without disclosing it’s algorithm.

“Review” sites need to be held accountable for how “reviews” are shown online.  Bad “reviews” should not be disproportionately displayed in order to force a doctor to become an advertiser.  I understand the issue of Free Speech on the internet but extortion is extortion.  Doctors have rights too.

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This post was written by Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman