A Florida psychiatrist is suing the social news website Reddit, along with dozens of anonymous users, for defamation and libel over negative comments made about his practice, the Miami Herald reported.
Dr. Douglas Berger, who practices in Japan, says in the Florida lawsuit that critics accusing him of giving patients “the creeps,” misdiagnosing ailments and overprescribing drugs have cost him money and “countless employment opportunities,” according to the paper.
A Reddit thread titled, “PSA: Stay away from ‘psychiatrist’ Doug Berger,” surfaced on the website six months ago and has since garnered more than 160 comments, which are mostly negative, from users who go by pseudonyms.
Berger said he hopes to unmask the names of the anonymous users currently listed as “John Doe” in the suit. He recognizes that Reddit assumes no liability, the report said.
The psychiatrist also wants the court to force Reddit to remove the comments and search engines to delete the reviews from their search results.
Jeffrey Segal, a neurosurgeon and lawyer, told the paper that Berger might not have a case, given the fact that an “opinion is protected speech.”
“Reviews are everywhere,” he said. “Everybody relies on them, and health care... is not going to be any exception,” he said.
Segal noted that federal privacy laws, which prevent doctors from disclosing patient’s medical information without their approval, makes it difficult to respond to online reviews.
Instead, he suggested another solution that would save Berger the expensive costs of going to court.
“The solution is simple,” Segal told the paper, “more reviews.”