Reputation Protection on Online Rating Sites

31 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2017 Last revised: 27 Sep 2018

See all articles by Anne S. Y. Cheung

Anne S. Y. Cheung

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Wolfgang Schulz

Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research; Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Date Written: September 15, 2017


The 21st century has witnessed a blossoming of rating, evaluation or even blacklisting sites. Namely, teachers, lawyers and doctors are rated openly by their students, clients and patients. We are living in a ‘reputation nation,’ where our conducts are evaluated often by anonymous individuals in different aspects, entailing the dangers of shame sanctions. This reputation rating system is far from being a system of formal adjudication. It may carry false or incorrect information, and may not allow an individual to correct such information. Relying on defamation law may not be helpful to the victim targeted as the defendant maybe an anonymous individual expressing his honest opinion. Equally, invoking privacy law may be a frustrating experience when the information is of legitimate public interest and it is already in the public domain. In the absence of satisfactory legal solution and remedies, some have resorted to alternative methods of “reputation management.”

What has yet to be addressed is the issue of how to develop a new procedural layout that can accommodate social norms, technological advancement and the legal right to protect reputation on online platforms. This article returns to the fundamental rationale behind the protection of reputation, and argues that reputation is an inherently social and relational concept that serves a significant signaling function in society. Drawing on judicial jurisprudence in the US and Germany on online rating sites, this article advocates for a new regime that requires online rating sites to have appropriate netiquette and information policy, including the right to reply amongst other requirements. This is essential not only to protect individual’s reputation but also for establishing a reliable system for civility.

Keywords: reputation, online rating sites, defamation, personality, Germany, US

Suggested Citation

Cheung, Anne S. Y. and Schulz, Wolfgang, Reputation Protection on Online Rating Sites (September 15, 2017). 21 Stanford Technology Law Review 310 (2018). , University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2017/026, Available at SSRN: or

Anne S. Y. Cheung (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Wolfgang Schulz

Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research ( email )

Rothenbaumchaussee 36
Hamburg, 20148

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society ( email )

Bebelplatz 1 | 10099

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