If the reviews of the last absolutely necessary and totally unnecessary thing you bought on Amazon seemed like so much copy paste, there’s a good reason for it: fake reviews abound and people get paid to post them.
Amazon filed a lawsuit Monday against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups that coordinate cash or goods for buyers who want to post fake product reviews. The global groups served to recruit potential fake reviewers and were active on Amazon’s online storefronts in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Japan and Italy.
If 10,000 Facebook groups sounds like a lot, apparently it’s the sum of the groups Amazon has reported to Facebook since 2020. The company notes that previous legal action it has taken have been effective, “closing several major rating brokers,” yet here we are. They’ve been prosecuting people for this sort of thing since 2015.
The company named a group “Amazon Product Review,” which numbered more than 40,000 members until Facebook removed it earlier in 2022. That group evaded detection through the time-honored, AI-evasive strategy of swapping a few letters into sentences and get it busted.
Amazon says it will use the discovery process to “identify bad actors and remove fake reviews commissioned by these fraudsters that have not yet been detected by Amazon’s advanced technology, expert researchers and continuous monitoring.”
The monitoring may be continuous, it’s clear that thousands upon thousands of illegitimate reviews are pushing products across the online retailer’s massive digital storefronts around the world every day. And regulators are taking notice — something that will no doubt light a small fire under everyone’s favorite online shopping monolith.
Amazon has been plagued for years by reviews that artificially inflate product ratings. A Washington Post research in 2018 found that patently fake reviews dominated some product categories, including bluetooth headphones and health supplements.
At the time, the Post found a thriving cottage industry selling fake reviews on Facebook. Sellers sue Amazon shoppers on Facebook through “dozens of networks, including Amazon Review Club and Amazon Reviewers Group, to provide glowing feedback in exchange for cash or other compensation,” according to the Post.
Amazon acknowledged the magnitude of the problem in a blog post last year. “Due to our continued improvements in fake review detection and links between buying and selling bad actors’ accounts, we’ve seen an increasing trend of bad actors trying to get fake reviews outside of Amazon, particularly through social media services,” he wrote. Company.
Amazon said it reported more than 1,000 review sales groups on social media platforms in the first quarter of 2021 — a threefold increase from the same period last year. Whether that speaks to the prevalence of fake reviews or the online retailer taking the issue more seriously isn’t clear, but the company was keen to blame social media companies for their lax enforcement of those groups when they break platform rules.
In the end, fake reviews aren’t the worst kind of misleading content that internet companies don’t eradicate. But she to be another example of how, when you have a big enough money-printing (or money-burning) internet machine, systemic issues can spiral out of control as your head goes down, causing the line to go up. And sometimes those problems encourage all kinds of bad or weird things. In this case, a small industry of people cashing in to make bad products look good – and when all that is in motion, it’s hard to untangle the mess the big money machine has made.