Japanese doctors demand damages from Google over ‘groundless’ reviews

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. derogatory / dɪˈrɒg əˌtɔr i / (adj.) – showing a critical or disrespectful attitude toward someone/something to express insult

    Making derogatory comments about someone’s appearance is not acceptable.

  2. fraudulent / ˈfrɔ dʒə lənt / (adj.) – involving deceit, trickery, or dishonesty, especially with the intention to deceive or gain something unfairly

    The company was accused of selling fraudulent products that claimed to cure serious illnesses.

  3. spite / spaɪt / (n.) – a feeling of anger or resentment resulting from being treated unfairly or insulted

    The candidate’s speech was filled with spite against her critics.

  4. refute / rɪˈfyut / (v.) – to prove that something is false or incorrect, especially by providing evidence or arguments against it

    He wants to refute the belief that success is determined only by luck.

  5. plaintiff / ˈpleɪn tɪf / (n.) – a person who brings a case against another in a court of law

    The plaintiffs hope to achieve justice with the help of their lawyer.


Read the text below.

A group of Japanese doctors has filed a civil lawsuit against U.S. search giant Google, demanding damages for what they claim are unpoliced, derogatory and often false comments.

The lawsuit, filed on April 18 in Tokyo District Court, demands 1.4 million yen ($9,400) in damages for 63 medical professionals.

Google said in an emailed statement on April 19 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 lawsuit claims groundless negative reviews have been posted on Google Maps, a very popular app in Japan that allows people to write ratings of various institutions and their personal reviews.

Some comments are irresponsible and appear to be written out of spite and the “word of mouth” remarks take on a life of their own and are nearly impossible to refute, according to the lawsuit. It said Google has done very little to fix the problem, despite complaints.

“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.

Some Japanese say they rely on what people say online about hospitals, including how long the wait was or what kind of care they got, rather than official sites. But those online comments may be inaccurate and even detrimental to health care, those behind the lawsuit say.

Japan boasts a relatively widespread and affordable healthcare system, making the medical sector a hot topic in one of the fastest-aging societies in the world. Class actions are relatively rare in Japan, though Google has been sued in the U.S. and various other nations, accused of misleading advertising, violations of privacy, and other problems.

The lawsuit in Japan is intended to highlight the potential dangers of Google’s technology, the lawyers for the medical professionals say.

The damages they are seeking are symbolic, about 23,000 yen ($150) per plaintiff.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Yuichi Nakazawa mentioned the substantial damage suffered by individuals due to online comments. He said that he and his team do not believe that Google is not responsible. What do you think about his statement? Discuss.
  • Do you believe lawsuits like this one in Japan will lead to changes in how platforms manage and moderate user-generated content globally? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • What responsibilities do users have in contributing to accurate and fair online reviews (ex. honesty, objectivity)? How do you think we can encourage more responsible reviewing behavior (ex. clear guidelines, incentives for quality reviews)? Discuss.
  • How much do you rely on online reviews when making purchasing decisions? Discuss.