Google Sued by Japanese Doctors Over False, Derogatory Comments and Ratings on Google Maps

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
April 19, 2024World News
Google Sued by Japanese Doctors Over False, Derogatory Comments and Ratings on Google Maps
A sign in front of a Google office in Mountain View, Calif., on Jan. 30, 2024. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Google is facing a civil lawsuit from a group of Japanese doctors over false information posted on the company’s Google Maps app.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Tokyo District Court on April 18, is seeking 1.4 million yen—which equates to almost $9,500 in damages for over 60 medical professionals, who have claimed the company failed to police derogatory and often false comments and reviews related to the doctors’ offices.

Google Maps, a highly popular app in Japan, allows people to leave feedback and ratings alongside personal reviews for a variety of institutions. According to the lawsuit, multiple groundless negative reviews were posted on the app.

The lawsuit stated that the negative comments appeared to have been written out of spite, and lacked any merit. Moreover, the remarks appeared to be beyond user control, with virtually no possibility to refute them.

Despite numerous complaints, little was done by Google to address the situation, the lawsuit stated.

“The damage suffered is substantial, and the people have been powerless to fight back. We don’t agree that the platform shares no responsibility,” Yuichi Nakazawa, who leads the legal team for the plaintiffs, told reporters.

Google issued a statement on April 19, in which it said that it is working “24 hours a day” to reduce misleading or false information on its platform, combining human and technological resources “to delete fraudulent reviews.”

The Google Maps app serves as a tool for many Japanese, who say they rely on the posted information about hospitals, which includes waiting times and the quality of care they received. The rise of such inaccurate comments could prove detrimental to Japanese health care overall, according to the plaintiffs.

Japan’s health care system is easily accessible and affordable, and the medical sector is an integral part of Japanese society, making such reviews a hot topic across the country with, globally, the highest estimated share of people aged 65 years and older.

While class actions are comparatively rare in Japan, Google has been no stranger to lawsuits in other parts of the world, such as the United States and other countries, where the tech giant has faced accusations of misleading advertising, violations of privacy, and other problems.

As part of a settlement this year in a U.S. lawsuit that accused the company of illegal surveillance, Google agreed to erase billions of personal data records relating to nearly 140 million people in the United States. The records came from users who had used the Google Chrome web browser to surf the internet.

While largely symbolic in terms of the damages sought, the lawsuit seeks to highlight the potential dangers of Google’s technology, according to attorneys for the Japanese medical practitioners.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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