GoDaddy, Google May Face Subpoenas in Review Removal Scheme

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By Michaela Ross

Oct. 31 — A consumer review website may serve subpoenas to internet domain name registrar GoDaddy.com LLC and Alphabet Inc.'s Google to identify unknown parties involved in a scheme to remove negative reviews from its site, a federal court has ruled ( Consumer Opinion Llc v. Frankfort News Corp, 2016 BL 360773, N.D. Cal., No. 16-cv-05100-BLF, 10/28/16 ).

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said Oct. 28 that the subpoenaed parties would likely be able to unmask the identities of the parties that the plaintiff seeks to sue.

Consumer Opinion LLC, which operates the consumer review site pissedconsumer.com, claimed in a court filing that the unknown parties copied and backdated its consumer reviews onto fake news sites registered with GoDaddy.com, Wild West Domains, LLC, Enom, Inc., Domains By Proxy, LLC and Webair Internet Development, Inc. The missing defendants allegedly then demanded Google take down the negative reviews on the consumer site for infringing on the fake news sites' copyrights, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The plaintiff's efforts to identify the missing defendants had been unsuccessful because most of the domains used a privacy service to protect the name of the registrant, according to the ruling. Consumer Opinion is seeking to sue the individuals or organizations that operate the fake news websites involved in the scheme.

Randazza Legal Group, PLLC represents Consumer Opinion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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