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A lawsuit was filed by Amazon on Tuesday against administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups accusing them of being part of a broker network for churning out fake product reviews.

In its lawsuit, Amazon alleges that administrators attempted to organize the placement of fake reviews on Amazon in exchange for money or free products. It said groups have been set up in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan to recruit people to write fake reviews on Amazon’s online store.

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

Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s Vice President of Selling Partner Services, said in the statement, “Our team intercepts millions of suspicious reviews before they are seen by customers, and this trial goes a step further to uncover criminals operating on social media.” ” “Proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways to protect customers by holding bad actors accountable.”

against meta policy

Meta, which owns Facebook, condemned the groups for setting up fake review mills on their infrastructure. “Groups that solicit or encourage fake reviews violate our policies and are removed,” Meta spokeswoman Jen Riding said in a statement to TechNewsWorld.

“We are working with Amazon on this matter and will continue to partner across the industry to address spam and fake reviews,” she said.

According to Meta, it has already removed most of the fraud groups cited in Amazon’s lawsuit and is actively investigating others for violating the company’s policy against fraud and deception.

It noted that it has introduced a number of tools to remove infringing content from its service, tools that use artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision to analyze specific instances of content that violate rules. Break down and identify patterns of abuse across the platform.

Is Facebook doing enough?

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

“It is positive that Amazon has taken legal action against some of the fake review brokers operating at Facebook, which is a problem the investigation has uncovered time and again,” he said in a statement. “However, it does raise a big question mark about Facebook’s proactive action to crack down on fake review agents and protect consumers.”

“Facebook needs to explain why this activity is prevalent, and [U.K.] The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) must challenge the company to show that the action it is taking is effective,” he continued. “Otherwise, it should consider stern action against the platform.”

“The government has announced that it plans to give stronger powers to the CMA to protect consumers from the avalanche of fake reviews,” he said. “These digital markets, competition and consumer reforms should be legislated as a priority.”

Which one in 2019? released a report that estimated that 250,000 hotel reviews on the Tripadvisor website were fake. Tripadvisor dismissed the analysis in that report as “simplistic,” but in its own “Transparency” report a year later, the site found nearly one million, or 3.6%, of the reviews were fake.

no time for deep dives

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

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

“Fake reviews not only encourage consumers to buy a substandard product, but they also make it more difficult to differentiate between products,” he said.

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

He acknowledged that fake reviews were a problem everywhere on the Internet. “But,” he continued, “because Amazon has such a strong position in online retailing and is often the first website consumers visit, it is disproportionately targeted by these fake review groups.”

Review mills also use bots to pad product reviews, but Rubin said the technology lacks the effectiveness of using a human. “The reason these groups are using people instead of bots is because bots are easier to detect,” he said. “Amazon uses machine learning techniques to identify when companies are using bots.”

‘Comprehensive’ review manipulation

In a report released last year by Uberall, an online and offline customer experience platform, review manipulation on Amazon was termed “pervasive.”

Amazon claims that only 1% of reviews on the site are fake, but the report disputed that. It cited a 2018 analysis by Fakespot that found the number of fake reviews in certain product categories such as nutritional supplements (64%), beauty (63%), electronics (61%), and athletic sneakers (59%) is more.

“Even if we reduce these numbers by 50%, there will still be a gap between what Amazon and Fakespot report,” Uberall’s report said.

What can be done to curb fake reviews?

Uberall points out that Amazon and some others use the label “Verified Buyer” to indicate high trust in reviews. “It is an approach that needs to be used more widely,” it noted, “though it is not foolproof, as Amazon has discovered.”

“Despite specific anti-fraud mechanisms,” it continued, “fake reviews are a problem that needs to be addressed more systematically and vigorously.”

The paths identified in the report to address the problem include using more technical sophistication and aggressive enforcement to bring review fraud down to low single digits, adopting a review framework that is structurally difficult to defraud and Only genuine verified buyers are to be allowed. Write a review.

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

“With online reviews there is a huge amount at stake for businesses of all sizes,” the report said. “More and better reviews directly translate into online visibility, brand equity and revenue. This creates powerful incentives for businesses to pursue positive reviews and suppress or remove negative reviews.”