My wife and I run a referral site for professionals in the childbirth industry where past clients can post testimonials (reviews) of their experience working with the professional. We are trying to figure out how to handle negative reviews that the professional wants edited or removed. We had a recent case where the professional asserted that some of the facts in the review were lies.
We want our site to be viewed by consumers as a high-integrity unbiased source of information that supports their decision to hire the right professional. And we have tension from the other direction in that we are going to start charging the professionals to have a listing on the site...so they might feel justified in saying "hey I'm your customer, cater to my needs and remove the bad reviews that are full of lies".
Negative reviews are very rare so far...out of about 1,000 reviews posted so far less than 10 have been negative. And overall the review feature has been very successful, making professionals come back over and over to check their reviews. Some of them are quite competitive with their peers on reviews, which has made the site much more "sticky" for them and is promoting lock-in for us.
We do remove things when the consumer tells us to do so.
Some options we are considering are:
Are there other approaches we haven't considered or recommendations for handling this policy question? Our objectives are to be fair, to promote transparency/integrity by having some negative reviews, and to minimize our effort and risks.
Are your reviews tied to any concrete proof that the two groups worked together? i.e. did the consumer come to your site, and through your site hook up with the service producer, and then come back and write the review? If you can guarantee that the two actually did business, then I'd be weary of removing negative comments.
That being said, you could have some time-decay on bad ratings (ebay will show the feedback from the most recent X days). So your scores might "forget" a bad review after some time as passed.
If you've only received 10 bad reviews out of thousands, chances are that this might be an actual bad experience, which you do not want to hide from another potential customer who might get taken advantage of.
My two cents.
I think a combination of the second and third options would work well.
That is, allow the professional to post a rebuttal to any comment on their profile, and, should the original poster choose to remove their comment, the rebuttal would be removed as well. If, however, the original poster does not remove the comment, other people visiting the site would be able to see the two sides of the story, without editing.
That being said, there should be the ability to remove posts when they've been determined to be factually inaccurate. If there is an investigating body, then the post could be removed with reference to the external ruling. If it had gone to court, the court ruling could be used as the basis for removal. Difference of opinion as to what happened, though, should remain on the site, since you don't know what actually happened and are relying on hearsay.