Medical Justice Caught Posting Happy Reviews Of Doctors; Claims It's Just Helping Patients

from the uh,-yeah dept

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...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Bill, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 3:03pm

    I think

    If I were a lawyer, that I'd sue the doctors who have false reviews up, claiming that Medical Justice is acting as their agent and perpetrating a fraud. I'd also use the crappy "computer fraud" laws that can be interpreted to mean this fake stuff with throwaway emails is a computer crime. Of course I'd also go after medical justice, but that would me immaterial, because it wouldn't take but a few quickly settled lawsuits to put this bunch of crooks out of business.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    ScytheNoire, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    Sounds legit to me. (that's sarcasm)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Jeni (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Stole my thunder (lol)

    "I'd also use the crappy "computer fraud" laws that can be interpreted to mean this fake stuff with throwaway emails is a computer crime."

    Yup! That's exactly what I was thinking! LOL - great minds...

    It never ceases to amaze me that people who pull shenanigans like this always come up with such lame excuses that make everyone else sound like idiots i.e., "it's simply helping patients post their reviews, since it's too difficult for them to do it themselves."

    Time to ban all ratings on the Internet and shut down any and ALL sites 'round the world that participate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Stole my thunder (lol)

    "Time to ban all ratings on the Internet and shut down any and ALL sites 'round the world that participate."

    Until told otherwise, I'll just assume that was sarcasm.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 4:46pm

    "... it's simply helping patients ..."

    I'm sure it is helping some patients decide whether they should seek a different health care provider.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Jeni (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Re: Stole my thunder (lol)

    "Until told otherwise, I'll just assume that was sarcasm."

    Yes, it was...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 6:04pm

    "...several of them appear to be known MJ clients."

    Puff Puff Pass man!

    Yet another reason to go to a green card state... or maybe Canada.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    aldestrawk (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 6:16pm

    impersonation or fictional?

    The MJ blog post, "thou shall not impersonate others on the internet", refers to a case where a professor was impersonating another actual professor in postings on the internet. That is not what is happening in the reviews coming from MJ which are likely from fictional people. Thus, the blog post is not closely related and I wouldn't bother trying to read nefarious motivations into their removal of it. Tim Lee's story references a lawsuit brought by NY State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, against a cosmetic surgery company in 2009 for not only writing and posting many self-serving positive reviews about themselves, but actually creating their own review website without revealing who they really were. The suit was settled for $300K in penalties. From the press release:

    These tactics constitute deceptive commercial practices, false advertising, and fraudulent and illegal conduct under New York and federal consumer protection law. The settlement marks a strike against the growing practice of “astroturfing,” in which employees pose as independent consumers to post positive reviews and commentary to Web sites and Internet message boards about their own company.

    I would hope that MJ is hit with such charges under consumer protection law rather than some DA or Attorney General trying to extend computer fraud law to apply in this case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    aldestrawk (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 6:31pm

    talking to patients

    MJ cannot release the names of patients to any journalist without being in violation of HIPAA. In the comments to the ARS article, Tim Lee addresses this by saying he asked MJ to have patients contact him. The fact that no one did cannot be construed to mean that all the patients are fictional. Maybe none of them wanted to talk to a journalist about it.

    Neither Tim Lee, nor anyone else, can really conclude that MJ is astroturfing. I think there is enough evidence for law enforcement to investigate and I would expect that to happen soon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Any Mouse (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 11:45pm

    Re: talking to patients

    The fact that they are blatantly in violation of Yelp's TOS, that all postings have a 5-star rating, and they are using fake, throw-away email addies pretty much puts the nail in the coffin so far as public opinion goes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    James Robinson, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 2:26am

    Just another Fraudulent Law Firm

    I noticed that they are doing that on MyDocHub.com another popular doctor rating site too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Sneaky Booger, Oct 12th, 2011 @ 4:34am

    Reveals the Achilles Heel of rating sites

    To me, this just shows how lame these ratings sites are. Face it, one angry person can ruin someone else's reputation with the stroke of a keyboard. And no one here is any the wiser.

    Many use it to trash the competition. It's free advertising.

    Think about it, those who are happy with someone's service won't take the time to go to some website to rate them. However, those who are unhappy will go everywhere and anywhere to anonymously trash others.

    It's the internet, not a statement under oath.

    Yelp's TOS? How many people have actually even read them? 1% of their subscribers? And 99% of those are the neurotic ones.

    Techdirt should be ashamed of producing such lame one sided propaganda, as this isn't good journalism. Who works there? McDonalds not hiring? Seriously...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Dr. Marina Gafanovich, MD, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 1:42am

    Re: Reveals the Achilles Heel of rating sites

    Excellent point. I am a general practice doctor in Manhattan @ 1550 York Ave, New York NY 10028 212-249-6218. I have a dedicated team that manages all the online presence. Every single week we discover a brand new obviously fake review by a "patient" whom I have never seen. The competition is very greedy when it comes to professional field. Yelp is the most bogus service of all. They filter out all the positives leaving me with the image of a bad practice. What a lame approach. The only good service of date seems to be ZocDoc who verifies users and asks them to leave review AFTER I actually see them. No doubt, I have all 5 stars there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This