Are businesses (or their reputation management companies) suing fake defendants in order to get rid of negative online reviews? That's the argument made by Eugene Volokh and Public Citizen's Paul Alan Levy recently in the Volokh Conspiracy.
The duo looked at 25 court cases that followed a suspiciously similar pattern. First, a self-represented company, often with ties to a reputation management firm, sues a defendant for a defamatory online review. Then, the defendants agree to an injunction which quickly results in a court order to take down the allegedly offending content. Suddenly: poof, no more bad review. But when someone tries to find track down those defendants, they're no where to be found. Indeed, they might not even exist.