back to article Amazon sues 10,000 Facebook Group admins for offering fake reviews

Amazon is suing over 10,000 administrators of Facebook groups that offer to post fake reviews on the online souk's website in exchange for products and money. Merchants selling items on Amazon are more likely to appear first in search results if their products are highly rated by previous purchases. Some vendors therefore …

  1. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Windows

    The original soon of Web 2.0

    You make use of user-generated data — for free — sans you get what you paid for...

  2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Maybe I'm being thick, but wouldn't it help massively if they restricted reviews to people who had actually bought the item on Amazon, instead of letting anyone who has an Amazon account post a review of anything?

    1. Tom Chiverton 1 Silver badge

      Then there would be less reviews, reducing share holders value, so illegal

    2. Kevin Johnston

      I see your thinking but then we would never get the viral hit that is the Three Wolves Moon T Shirt...

      https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Three-Wolf-Short-Sleeve/dp/B002HJ377A/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

      1. Paceman

        Are you honestly telling me that they are not all legitimate purchasers?!

        Damn, I hate the internet, can't believe anything anymore.....

    3. Kit_

      Verified Purchase

      Amazon publishes all reviews, but it will only 'count' the reviews from people who purchased that item (which you can see visually tagged with Verified Purchase). However the fake reviews are done in a way where people purchase the item and then get a refund from the fake review organisers.

      In general only 1-2% of real buyers leave a review (whether for products on Amazon or games on Steam) - and that is a key reason that fake reviews have such a strong impact, because if you keep buying fake reviews you can keep a low quality item appearing as a high quality one.

      1. Blazde Silver badge

        Re: Verified Purchase

        In general only 1-2% of real buyers leave a review

        Better incentives from Amazon (rather than the seller) for real buyers to leave genuine reviews would help a lot, but right now with lack of competition and any relevant legislation Amazon have no motive to divert a significant slice of their margin to that. They would also point out their reviews are read by consumers who end up purchasing the item elsewhere so perhaps an industry-wide independently-incentivised review database is the answer. Would also require splitting Amazon into separate retailer and marketplace companies, so the marketplace side of them could independently manage reviews about Amazon's own products.

        Even if they committed to all that Amazon's quote about achieving the goal of "Permanently ridding fake reviews" is worthy of a good chuckle.

        1. Jamesit

          Re: Verified Purchase

          They could add a tag to verified purchases, I've seenthat done on other sites.

    4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      people who had actually bought the item

      You'd think that would be a requirement for the reviews to have any weight. seems not.I'm revising the order of sympathry the author told me to think about.

      Fake reviewers 4 cash - criminals

      Facebook - Fagin-esque aiding and abetting in criminal activity

      Amazon - letting their own market place be polluted with that shit because presumably its more profitable to fence cheap shitty products than offer a reliable quality control

      .

      ...really cant work out whose the worst here !

      1. Flywheel

        Amazon - letting their own market place be polluted...

        Actually, look at the number of reviews that end with the statement "at that price I can't be bothered to return [faulty item]".

        It's getting so bad now that I usually look for reviews on other, more credible sites before I spend money with Amazon.

        1. MrDamage Silver badge

          I look at the 2 and 3 star reviews. They're the stupidly honest reviews.

          "Brilliant product, 5 stars, but taking 3 stars off because it arrived a day later than expected."

          or

          "Get what you pay for. Cheap tool that can be used for a couple of jobs before you chuck it."

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            as with any public review feedback section , you have to take a large sample and average out .

            ... and discount the pure crazy ones .

        2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          ""at that price I can't be bothered to return [faulty item]".

          For me thats a good review.

          Did exactly that with £5 HDMI switcher and immediately ordered same exact one again cos i liked its features.

          next one worked, all good , only £10 spent

    5. Paceman

      I thought exactly the same. If they were really that bothered about it, that's what they would do. Even if companies are paying for products and then getting refunds - the number of reviews would still go down. They'd also know if a product was returned - 5 star review + product returned = flag review. Pretty sure there is some kind of AI that could help with that.

    6. DS999 Silver badge

      Presumably they know who the "real" people are

      I've had Prime for years, order a variety of stuff and sometimes return things. I stream Amazon Prime Video content a couple times a week. I have only written a handful of reviews in that time, either because something was really terrible or I was surprised was good (i.e. taking a flyer on buying something cheap/shady where I have low expectations and am assuming there's a better than even chance I'll be returning it)

      Someone creating an account for fake reviews is going to have an account that's only been around a short time, only order certain products (i.e. nothing name brand) and write reviews on just about all of them. They will not use that account to watch videos or listen to music.

      Limit the reviews to ones they can confidently establish are real and they'd raise the quality of reviews dramatically. Or at least raise the bar significantly for those trying to game the system since they couldn't just create new accounts and start writing reviews on day one.

    7. razorfishsl

      No...

      becasue you get Chinese supplier giving away products for free as "purchases" to get round this situation.

      or sending out "fake" products as sales

      it's an old game.

      remember all the seeds they were sending out to get postal tracking data.

  3. Colin Bull 1
    FAIL

    On the other side of the coin ...

    Trustpilot cannot be trusted because they remove reviews that are critical of their paid clients even if you prove the purchase and are invited to do the review with a personal email.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the other side of the coin ...

      A big problem with Trustpilot is that the scale only goes up to 5, so an awful lot can be wrong before you have to stop boasting about your '5 star rating'

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: On the other side of the coin ...

        Another problem with review sites like Trustpilot is the amount of personal information they want before you can post a review. I get that they need to appear to do all the can to ensure genuine users, but I’m not signing up. Same for Tripadvisor.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Not new

    Whilst the web has enabled this kind of manipulation of reviews to explode in size, it's not new.

    Back in the 80s, there were all sorts of allegations that the advertising department would lean on the editor to write favourible articles so they could sell more advertising space to the advertiser.

    Some (slightly) ethical rags put up chinese walls between the editorial & commercial sides of their business to try to fend these acusations off.

  5. DJV Silver badge

    Re: 10,000 fake review broker groups

    "Over 10,000 fake review broker groups have been reported to Meta, and half of these have been taken down, we're told."

    The real question is: so, why haven't Meta taken down the other 5,000 as well?

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: 10,000 fake review broker groups

      Maybe because "Metà" means "half" in Italian?

  6. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Sir Tim Berners Lee

    I absolutely feel sorry for this man, he gave us an amazing tool, and it’s being trashed by commercialisms, and all the dumbf**kery that entails

    I am of course referring to The David Dimbleby Lecture

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000bj15

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Reviews Business

    I bought a shitty phone screen protector on Amazon long ago. As I don't like to be screwed, I wrote a review for this item. A couple of weeks later, I received mails from the vendor asking me to remove my review in exchange of $. I warned three times Amazon about this corruption attempt. The only answers I got were automated generic answers. The vendor is still selling on Amazon

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reviews Business

      I had a mattress company call after I wrote their only review, a 1 star review. They gave me a full refund and I got to keep the sinking mattress in exchange for deleting the review.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Reviews Business

        What an excellent way to incentivise buyers to give a one star review.

    2. Wade Burchette

      Re: Reviews Business

      I wrote a 3 star review on Amazon, and I was quickly contacted by the company who sold it. They were trying to convince me to up it to a 5 star review. Of course, I didn't. But what I did do is edit my review saying what happened.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Reviews Business

        I never give a maximum score on any of these sorts of scales because perfection or "above and beyond service" is incredibly rare and the only time anyone deserves full marks. As far as I'm concerned, a middle ranking is "doing your job as expected". Systems which have scales of only 3 or 5 stars means most vendors should be averaging 2 or 3 stars.

        On the other hand, I've seen plenty of manipulative scales ranging from "good" to "excellent" with no options for anything less than "good". Rankings only offering 3 scale points are probably the most insidious since the only real options of "poor", "average", "excellent" and they complain if you give anything other than "excellent".

        I did one recently which had a scale of 1-9. I gave 5-7 for most of the items and then was informed later that anything below 7 was considered "poor" despite my being honest in my belief that I was giving quite good scores to the questions asked. This was supposed to be an "open, transparent and anonymous" corporate-wide survey, yet they did not make clear how the scoring worked befoirehand.

        1. Swarthy
          WTF?

          Re: Reviews Business

          I'd be more concerned about the "anonymous" part of the survey where they got back to you to critique your "anonymous" answers.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Reviews Business

            No, that was general comments and feedback on the survey results.

            If it wasn't truly anonymous, there'd be fewer people in my department now :-)

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Reviews Business

          This malarkey is exactly why I simply don't bother providing reviews anymore. They're mostly so manipulated that there's precisely zero value in actually filling them out and quite often it's actually even detrimental to someone. (Had this a while back where a salesperson selling me my new couch begged me to give at least a 7 or higher on everything as anything below that was considered a bad mark and reason for docked bonuses and even potentially sacking. Too many 7s in itself was already considered a bad thing. This in the Netherlands where giving anyone 7 or higher is usually already high praise in itself. Simply not filling out the forms was apparently not used against them, so that's what I did. )

  8. imanidiot Silver badge

    ignore 5 star reviews

    In general I ignore any 5 star review, they're generally useless and either bought or "the box looks good, will try it tomorrow" (Why are you writing a product review if you haven't even taken it out of the box!!). The 2 to 4 star range is generally where you find the real reviews, where people actually talk about the negatives and share real user experiences in a way that allows me to judge if a product meets expectations.

    In particular I also avoid buying anything from Amazon.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: ignore 5 star reviews

      I tend to sort the reviews by "Most Recent" that way you often get past the older flush of fake reviews to the more current real reviews of people who actually disliked the item for whatever reason.

  9. Wyrdness

    Amazon's sorting algorithm

    Amazon's own algorithms don't help here. You can sort by 'average customer review' to see the highest rated products. However, Amazon seems to sort by a simple mean average, so a product with just a handful of (possibly fake) 5 star reviews is placed higher than one that has gained thousands of genuine positive reviews. They really need some kind of weighted average that takes into account the number of reviews.

    1. Julz

      Re: Amazon's sorting algorithm

      Median

      1. Swarthy

        Re: Amazon's sorting algorithm

        Mode?

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Amazon's sorting algorithm

      They really need some kind of weighted average that takes into account the number of reviews.

      That would work, and i guess i'd use it, but it does seem a little unfair on smaller suppliers just starting out but providing top quality goods and service

  10. sitta_europea Silver badge

    Not necessarily saying that the sentiment doesn't resonate here, but...

    "Good luck deciding which toxic monopolist deserves your sympathy in this fight"

    ...I'm not sure that this isn't actionable.

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: Not necessarily saying that the sentiment doesn't resonate here, but...

      If you were the leadership of one of those companies, would you want to prompt any public discussion about the question "am I a toxic monopolist"?

  11. sitta_europea Silver badge

    Caveat emptor.

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they're ever seen by customers"

    See subject line. Clearly either they are still not doing enough to solve the problem or their entire system is totally broken and it's time to go back to the drawing boards!

  13. Tony W

    Dishonest trading

    Amazon knows that a substantial proportion of its reviews are fake, but makes no attempt to warn unwary customers. The fact (if it is one) that they are doing what they can to catch fake reviews is no excuse for not telling people the actual situation.

    Also they concatenate reviews from different products or significantly different versions of the same basic item, to inflate the number of reviews. They must know this but they keep doing it.

    I don't like dealing with dishonest people or organisations and I won't buy from them except on the rare occasions when they have something I need but can't get elsewhere. The Amazon cost saving is often an illusion, it takes a few more clicks to check but they are by no means always the cheapest option.

    1. YetAnotherXyzzy

      Re: Dishonest trading

      I came to say this but Tony W beat me to it. Long ago I made Amazon my vendor of last resort for the same reasons. I can't say I miss them.

  14. Matter_of_Perspective

    Pays random $10 to leave a false review - illegal.

    Pays celeb super star $8m to pretend to drink your fizzy pop that's absolutely fine.

    Wonder why that is?

    1. JWLong

      Wonder why that is?

      Because taxes were paid on the 8 million.

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Dontes $10,000,000 to Tory party funds in hopes regulations will be changed in {insert industry}

      Thats all fine too apparently

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like