Tim Lee has been doing a wonderful job dismantling
the highly questionable claims of Medical Justice, the sketchy company that signs up doctors to give their patients forms that claim to hand over the future copyrights on any reviews that are written. Medical Justice insists that it only takes down "fraudulent or fictional" reviews, but if that's the case, then the copyright wouldn't make any sense. The latest is that Lee has turned up evidence that Medical Justice doesn't just try to take down reviews, but it posts a bunch itself as well
The first to notice the trend was John Swapceinski of RateMDs.com. Between November 2010 and March 2011, six IP addresses registered to Medical Justice collectively submitted 86 ratings to his site. They reviewed a total of 38 doctors in Florida, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, Hawaii, Texas, Illinois, and seven other states. Several of them appear to be known MJ clients. At our suggestion, Yelp reviewed its logs and found that those same six IP addresses had also been responsible for numerous favorable doctor reviews on Yelp.
Oops. Medical Justice defends this practice by claiming it's not making up
fake reviews, it's simply helping patients post their reviews, since it's too difficult for them to do it themselves. Basically, Medical Justice gives doctors forms they can give patients to fill out reviews, which are then entered into these review sites by Medical Justice staff. Now, that seems a bit strange, but perhaps it's legit... until you realize that the only reviews that Medical Justice staff seems to post are ones that are entirely and absolutely positive
, with ratings of fives across the board:
There are a lot of unanswered questions. For example, every one of the 86 reviews posted to RateMDs.com gave five stars in every category. Did MJ or its clients filter out more critical reviews? It's hard to say without more details.
Also, different review sites have different rating scales. Yelp has a single 5-star scale, RateMDs.com solicits ratings for "staff," "punctuality," "helpfulness," and "knowledge," and other sites have still other scales. Does MJ ask patients to choose ratings for all of these categories? Or does it "help" users out by filling in those fields itself? Unfortunately, MJ wouldn't talk to us about it.
The deeper Lee looks, the worse this looks. Apparently, rather than be upfront about this, Medical Justice uses "obviously one-off, throwaway" email addresses with each account. Furthermore, it refused to let Lee talk to any of the patients who apparently filled out one of these forms. In other words... the whole thing sounds pretty sketchy. It also appears to violate at least Yelp's terms of service, which says that you cannot create an account for anyone else. Amusingly, Tim Lee also found an old blog post on Medical Justice's site, which it has since removed, in which it claimed "thou shall not impersonate others on the internet
. Apparently, Medical Justice only feels that way when those impersonating people rate their doctors poorly. Even more amusing, is that the blog post highlights how impersonating others online can result in criminal liability. No wonder Medical Justice removed the post...