Psychiatrist Mark Beale

Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
Libel lawsuit over West Ashley psychiatrist’s 1-star Google rating sparks First Amendment fight, more 1-star reviews; Online review sparks lawsuit over libel
July 30, 2017 Sunday
By Andrew Knapp

— Excerpt

A West Ashley psychiatrist was so offended by a poor online review that he has sued the anonymous critic and demanded that Google unmask the user’s identity.

What did the review say? Nothing.

It simply gave Dr. Mark Beale one out of five stars – a judgment that Beale said has caused him “extreme and constant distress.”

Beale insisted that it could not have come from an actual patient, making it false and libelous. His lawsuit noted that he was highly regarded on other websites. He had enjoyed 4½ stars on the popular WebMD.com…

The suit against “John Doe” was filed in March in Charleston County court, but it ratcheted up this month as Google objected to Beale’s attempts to expose what he dubbed a “spoofer.”

Beale wants Doe to pay damages and Google to take down the rating and reveal the user. But Google doesn’t want to. At least, not yet…

His lawsuit, though, came with some adverse side effects. Since word of it became public, reviewers have given him more one-star ratings, including at least 11 such assessments on Google by Friday. Someone on HealthGrades.com criticized the psychiatrist’s complaint of “extreme and constant distress.”

“Dr. Beale is supposed to be an expert in emotions and reactions,” wrote the poster, proclaiming to hail from Southern California. “I’d say that I would not have any confidence in his ability to help anyone else with their emotions and reactions in life.”…