The SF Weekly News story Doctoring the Web exposes some doctors’ and their marketing agencies’ use of phony “patient comments” on doctor rating sites to drive business to their practice. Moderators of the rating sites, such as RateMD, are aware of the practice (called “medical astroturfing”) and remove such comments when they can identify fraudulent postings; for example, when they can trace multiple postings back to IP addresses owned by the physician’s practice. However, sheer volume of traffic (1.1 million visits per month at RateMD) and technology that promotes anonymity (such as free throw-away email addresses at GMail, Yahoo, etc.) make it difficult to determine where postings originate. Would-be patients are advised to check reputable sources such as the state medical board.
I hadn’t heard of the SF Weekly News, so I checked it out — using Google, of course. It’s an alternative weekly newspaper located in San Francisco, distributed free on Wednesdays. I found articles about SF Weekly News in Wikipedia and Mondo Times.