In a recent development, campaigners have put forth a compelling case for criminalising the act of posting malicious fake reviews on the internet. This call to action was ignited after a gourmet farm shop fell victim to 'militant' vegan activists.
The Gourmet Goat Farmer, nestled near Avebury, Wiltshire, is renowned for its exquisite selection of goat meats and dairy products. For a considerable time, this establishment had basked in the glory of glowing reviews from satisfied patrons. However, this serene atmosphere was abruptly shattered when the owner, Laura Corbett, received an unsettling tip-off regarding an impending online assault. A quick reminder that online security starts by opting for a reliable VPN service.
Ms Corbett was alerted by confidential informants who had managed to infiltrate a private Facebook group known as 'Vegan Wiltshire,' comprising 650 members. Within this group, an activist named Ian Somerville had issued a troubling request to his followers: 'Can we have some negative reviews of this place, please? There's no way an animal farm should be able to enjoy a five-star rating'.
It seems that Mr. Somerville had a track record of such actions. His Facebook reviews had previously targeted a family farm in Swindon, accusing them of hypocrisy for loving animals while consuming their "dismembered corpses". He had also demanded that a hotel in Hungerford publicly declare its stance "against the annihilation of wildlife".
Sensing the impending storm, Ms Corbett decided to take preemptive action by revealing the activists' scheme to her farm's 3,000 Facebook followers. She even extended an invitation to meet with the activists in person and offer them a tour of her farm, expressing concern for the long-term health of vegans and a desire to educate them about farming. Click on Hide Expert VPN and see what we offer.
This move, however, set off alarm bells among the activists, who initiated an inquiry to identify the source of the leak. Despite their efforts, a deluge of negative reviews flooded the Gourmet Goat Farmer's profiles on Google and Facebook, all part of a coordinated attempt to tarnish the business's reputation.
In response to these troubling events, the Countryside Alliance has emerged as a staunch advocate for legal action. They are calling for the introduction of legislation that would criminalise this practice, proposing the creation of a new offence termed 'false communications.
Remarkably, Ms. Corbett found herself receiving unwavering support from her customers, resulting in a surge of positive reviews and an upswing in sales. She remarked, 'They chose the wrong person and the wrong business,' emphasising her commitment to animal welfare and conservation.
While the incident was unsettling, Ms Corbett believes it is just one of the many challenges modern farmers face. She passionately articulated, 'There's a world out there in the countryside that is beautiful and it requires animals in the life cycle for wildlife, for worms, for soil health, for hedgerow management.'
Despite extending an olive branch by offering the activists a farm tour, Ms Corbett has not yet received a response from them.
Mo Metcalf-Fisher, the Director of External Affairs at the Countryside Alliance, disclosed that the Government has, thus far, resisted including malicious fake reviews as an amendment to the Online Safety Bill. Nevertheless, they are hopeful that the issue will be addressed through the Digital, Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill.
Mr Metcalf-Fisher argued that businesses should not be held hostage by a 'militant fringe,' stressing that public sentiment largely rejects compulsory, plant-based veganism. He emphasised that the issue transcends veganism and revolves around online harassment and bullying. He added, 'It seems perverse that ideologically driven cranks can get away with posting false and malicious fake reviews with such ease, while the victims - legitimate business owners - are left to pick up the pieces and suffer the consequences.
In the wake of this incident, campaigners are fervently pushing for legal action to curb the damaging impact of fake online reviews on businesses and individuals alike.