Amazon Lawsuit Fingers Facebook Groups Recruiting Fake Reviewers

A lawsuit against administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups alleged to be part of a network of brokers for producing fake product reviews was filed Tuesday by Amazon.

In its lawsuit, Amazon alleges that administrators attempted to orchestrate the placement of false reviews on Amazon in exchange for free money or products. He added that the groups are created to recruit people to write fake reviews on Amazon’s online stores in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan.

Amazon said in a statement posted online that it would use information uncovered in the lawsuit to identify bad actors and remove the reviews they commissioned from the retail website.

“Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they are ever seen by customers, and this lawsuit goes one step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President of Services. sale to Amazon partners, in the press release. “Proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of the many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable.”

Against meta-politics

Facebook owner Meta condemned the groups for installing fake review mills on its infrastructure. “Groups that solicit or encourage false reviews violate our policies and are removed,” Meta spokeswoman Jen Ridings said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld.

“We are working with Amazon on this issue and will continue to partner with the wider industry to fight spam and fake reviews,” she added.

According to Meta, it has already taken down the majority of fraudulent groups named in Amazon’s lawsuit and is actively investigating others for violating the company’s policy against fraud and deception.

He noted that he had introduced a number of tools to remove infringing content from his service, tools that use artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision to analyze specific examples of content that breaks the rules and identify patterns of misconduct on the platform.

Is Facebook doing enough?

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy for Which?, a consumer advocacy group in the UK, praised Amazon’s action but questioned whether Facebook was doing enough to prevent the abuse of its platform.

“It is positive that Amazon has taken legal action against some of the bogus review brokers operating on Facebook, an issue that Which?’s investigations have repeatedly revealed,” it said in a statement. “However, it raises big question marks about the proactive action Facebook is taking to crack down on bogus review agents and protect consumers.”

“Facebook needs to explain why this activity seems to be prevalent, and the [U.K.] The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) must challenge the company to provide evidence to show that the action it is taking is effective,” he continued. “If not, he should consider stronger action against the platform.”

“The government has announced plans to boost the powers of the CMA to protect consumers from an onslaught of fake reviews,” he added. “These reforms of digital markets, competition and consumers must be transposed into law as a matter of priority.”

In 2019 Which one? published a report that estimated that 250,000 hotel reviews on the Tripadvisor website were fake. Tripadvisor called the report’s analysis “simplistic”, but a year later, in its own “transparency” report, the travel site found that nearly one million, or 3.6%, of the reviews on the site were wrong.

No time for deep dives

“Most consumers don’t have time to dig deep into reviews,” observed Ross Rubin, the principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology consultancy in New York.

“They see star ratings as a way to instill trust in a product and if people are compensated for posting fake reviews, it undermines trust in the review,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Fake reviews not only trick consumers into buying an inferior product, but they also make it harder to determine the differences between products,” he added.

“If you have an overwhelming number of products in a category with four-and-a-half or five-star reviews because so many of them participate in these bogus review programs, then the value of the reviews themselves is diminished,” he explained.

He acknowledged that fake reviews were a problem all over the internet. “But,” he continued, “because Amazon has such a strong position in online retail and is often the first website consumers go to, it tends to be targeted so disproportionate by these fake opinion groups.”

Review factories have also used robots to complete product reviews, but Rubin noted that the technology lacks the efficiency of using human beings. “The reason these groups use people instead of bots is that bots are easier to detect,” he said. “Amazon uses machine learning technologies to identify when companies are using bots.”

“Generalized” manipulation of reviews

In a report published last year by Uberall, an online and offline customer experience platform, Amazon review manipulation was described as “pervasive”.

Amazon claims that only 1% of reviews on the site are fake, but the report disputed that. He cited a 2018 analysis from Fakespot which found that fakes outnumbered genuine reviews in certain product categories such as nutritional supplements (64%), beauty (63%), electronics (61%). ) and sports sneakers (59%).

“Even if we reduced those numbers by 50%, there would still be a chasm between what Amazon said and what Fakespot reported,” the Uberall report notes.

What can be done to eliminate fake reviews?

Uberall reported that Amazon and a few others are using “verified buyer” labels to signal greater trust in reviews. “It’s an approach that needs to be used more widely,” he noted, “although it’s not foolproof, as Amazon has discovered.”

“Apart from specific anti-fraud mechanisms,” he continued, “false reviews are a problem that needs to be addressed more systematically and vigorously.”

Among the paths identified in the report to find a solution to the problem is using greater technical sophistication and aggressive enforcement to reduce single-digit review fraud, by adopting a review framework that is structurally more challenging. to cheat and allowing only real verified buyers to write reviews.

“These are not mutually exclusive approaches,” he explained. “They can and should be used in combination with each other.”

“There are huge challenges for businesses of all sizes with online reviews,” the report states. “More and better reviews translate directly to online visibility, brand equity and revenue. This creates powerful incentives for businesses to seek out positive reviews and remove or delete negative reviews.


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