Photo: AP

Google has updated its Maps policies to ban certain business reviews left by former employees. In a new section of the Google Maps “User Contributed Content Policy,” Google now labels reviews “about a current or former employment experience” as a “conflict of interest.” Originally, only current employees were barred under the policy. The new rules, quoted below, went into effect on December 14th [emphasis ours].

Conflict of Interest

Maps user contributed content is most valuable when it is honest and unbiased. The following practices are not allowed:

- Reviewing your own business.

- Posting negative content about a current or former employment experience.

- Posting negative content about a competitor to manipulate their ratings.

As Search Engine Land reports, the reasoning behind the ban is straightforward, as disgruntled employees may leave bad reviews solely because of issues with their ex-bosses. Online reputations can make or break small businesses, and more than once an internet mob has gamed review sites to tank a business’s score on sites like Yelp or Google Maps. Frustrated business owners have started threads in the Google forums asking how to block or remove reviews left by ex-employees. Generally speaking, Google has left the reviews up.

On Yelp, ex-employees aren’t explicitly banned from leaving reviews. However, business owners can ask Yelp to remove reviews from ex-employees. Google’s policy specifically outlaws “negative content about a current or former employment experience,” but doesn’t indicate if positive content about an employment experience is acceptable, or if other types of negative posts are allowed. We’ve reached out to Google to find out what types of reviews from current or former employees are allowed on Maps business listings.

There are numerous legal protections blocking businesses from trying to scrub away negative reviews. The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes it illegal for companies to threaten lawsuits to stop negative (but nonetheless, accurate) reviews. That said, ex-employees aren’t typical consumers, at least not as defined by the CRFA or Google. So while potential customers may want to know if a business treated their employees unfairly, Google and Yelp probably aren’t the best places to find out.

[9 to 5 Google via Search Engine Land]

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