Glassdoor is a website where users can look for future jobs, as well as post reviews about companies they've worked for to help others determine if a company might be a desirable employer or one to avoid. What allows reviewers to be as brutally honest as possible is the fact that the reviews are anonymous—which is why a ruling last week by a US court has some nervous about just how anonymous they really are. Per the Guardian, the decision handed down on July 11 by Magistrate Judge Alex G. Tse of the Northern District of California mandates that Glassdoor must provide the name, or names, of those who wrote "six scathing reviews" of New Zealand toymaker Zuru, labeling the company's management "incompetent" and the workplace culture "toxic."
Zuru insists the claims are false and now wants to file a defamation lawsuit in New Zealand, where the company was founded. Tse agreed in his ruling that the reviews made Zuru "sound like a horrible place to work," and that it's New Zealand's more rigid defamation standards that should be adhered to in this case, as that's where the complainant(s) ostensibly worked. "Glassdoor wants to safeguard anonymous speech on its website. Zuru wants to protect its reputation. Both interests can't simultaneously be accommodated," Tse writes, ultimately siding with Zuru, which claims it has had to "expend money, time, and resources in combatting the negative publicity [and] negative perception" that grew out of the bad reviews.
Fortune notes that as Glassdoor's Zuru entry currently stands as of Friday afternoon, the reviews for the company are mostly of the thumbs-up variety, though there are some negative reviews. An alert also appears in the middle of the page. "This employer has taken legal action against reviewers and/or Glassdoor for the reviews that have appeared on this profile," the warning notes. "Please exercise your best judgment when evaluating this employer." Glassdoor—which notes in its FAQ that it will "object to and resist subpoenas we receive" regarding user ID—isn't the only site that leans on anonymous reviews like this: Google, Reddit, and Yelp are among those who similarly incorporate them "as a central part of their model," notes the Guardian. (Read more Glassdoor stories.)