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Amazon and the problem of fake reviews

Amazon and the problem of fake reviews

When we’re looking for a
product on Amazon, most of us have got into the
habit of checking the reviews beneath it. This is what Saoud
Khalifah was doing when he started to
notice something strange about the
products he was buying. So I got interested
in online reviews when I actually was finishing
up my master’s degree, and I ordered a few
things off Amazon. They were five-star rated. There were hundreds of
reviews, and they were all really, really positive. I received the product, and
there was something completely off with the products. The quality was really low. It did not last at all. So I went back,
read the reviews, and noticed there was
a lot of red flags within the reviews themselves. There was a huge trend
of fraudulent activity within the reviews, and I
could tell that they were fake. Mr Khalifah now runs a
New York-based company called Fakespot, one of
several new businesses which claim to be able to
help you spot a fake review. The very existence
of such companies highlights a looming crisis of
faith in online reviews, which are now at the very heart of
how internet shopping works. In the UK alone, they influence
an estimated GBP 23 billion of transactions each year. Most internet users
are aware of the fact that they have to read reviews
before doing a purchasing decision. And without any reviews
there, most products won’t get any sales. That’s basically it. So most of these sellers
know that reviews are a very critical
part of their business. Faced with these
pressures, some companies are now encouraging customers
to leave a positive review in return for a free item. Others opt for more
cynical tactics, targeting competitors
with negative feedback. In a statement, Amazon
told us that “any attempt to manipulate customer reviews
is strictly prohibited” and that it suspends, bans,
and takes legal action on those who violate its policies. The US firm added that it
“invests significant resources to protect the integrity
of reviews in our store.” This includes “teams of
investigators and automated technologies to prevent and
detect inauthentic reviews” at source. The US company
has filed lawsuits against more than 1,000
defendants for reviews abuse. But Amazon is an enormous
global platform for selling, and so any attempt
to monitor wrongdoing comprehensively is going
to be seriously difficult. It is a cat-and-mouse game
between the platforms, for example, Amazon
and the sellers that are on those platforms. So they constantly find
new angles, new ways, to exploit their system
and find new ways of detecting fake reviews. So it is definitely
a cat-and-mouse game. When it comes to
smaller sellers, reviews can be a matter
of life or death. Kevin Williams
founded Brush Hero, a company that sells
brushes used to clean cars. Reviews have an incredible
effect on revenues. We went through a
period in the last year where we had a number
of negative reviews that weren’t necessarily fair
but appeared on our listings, and it immediately
had a 20 per cent to 30 per cent impact on
the individual unit sales. But worse than that, it affected
the relevance of those products in the Amazon search engine. For Utah-based Brush Hero,
there is a tipping point for negativity. Even a few critical fake
reviews could encourage genuine customers to pile on. Once the review level drops
below, say, a 3.5 out of 5, we’ve noticed a vast
increase of negative reviews that start occurring because
it’s just easier to pile on. What that leads to is not
just a loss of sales on Amazon and a loss of
velocity on Amazon. It also impacts sales
all over the place because consumers
are relatively savvy. They’re looking
for review scores when they’re buying
off Amazon or Amazon. So it decreases the
efficacy of our advertising through Facebook, through
other social media channels, through Google, whatever it is. There is also a sense that
the source of the reviews is difficult to address. Amazon can do a lot to
improve its review system. I don’t believe that they’re
doing a great job in tracking where reviews are coming from. It seems to me
that Amazon should have the statistical ability
to identify those bad reviewers and vet them out of the
system, and they haven’t yet. So where do the bad
actors come from? For Mr Williams, the problem
has one obvious source. The sense is that it’s
coming from China. When Amazon started to solicit
Chinese sellers directly, it seemed to open the floodgates
to a mountain of bad actors. Despite his
experiences, Mr Williams is himself a devoted
user of the platform. Absolutely, it’s changed
the way I look at reviews. I’m highly analytical about it. I am an avid Amazon shopper. I have to admit that
even though I’ve had lots of problems
on Amazon, it’s a major sales channel for me. And as a consumer, I purchase
things nearly every day on Amazon. The tangled web
of online reviews is a challenge for Amazon,
the companies that sell on it, and those of us buying. But it’s also just one part of
a bigger story, the difficulty we now have trusting
anything we read online, even as we spend more of our
time in front of computers.

21 thoughts on “Amazon and the problem of fake reviews

  1. First view, like and comment! I might have fallen victim of this phenomenon without knowing it myself. Let's hope the big companies incorporate these methods into their sites to curb this.

  2. A couple years ago, there was an ad on Craigslist under the “Jobs” category, for a writer. The job was to write positive reviews on Amazon for toys and products you would never touch. You would get a list of toys and you were to write positive reviews as fast as possible. Then you would get paid approximately $25 per review. Whomever placed the ad was very upfront about it. I felt sad to see it because trust is a thing of the past.

  3. The fact that Amazon has been so negligent in vetting the reviews should make everyone VERY mistrusting of them. What they do with your data (or don’t do enough to secure), what they’re listening to with their echo in your home, why they charge a membership fee, etc. To me, all the big tech players should be looked at with the same bad reputation facebook has garnered for itself (but worse because I’m sure there’s much more behind the scenes). Amazon might be the worst one of them all…considering it seems to have left it’s retail side of the biz in the dust in lieu of AWS (and we all know how much retail loves to get hacked)

  4. Yeah, but this happens on eBay and Google as well. Whenever you Google search for a buying guide or the top 10 washing machines or whatever, often the first page of search results are all paid by the brands. But obviously most people are oblivious to this. So why all this Amazon bashing nowadays?

  5. Been a seller on Amazon for three years . Fake reviews are absolutely rife. What these people do is… buy a generic product like a power bank, put their logo sticker on it and market it as their branded product. They then pay Amazon to "sponsor" their listing so for a brand new item with no credibility is at the top of the search area. They then pay for fake reviews to make the item look more genuine in the eyes of the buyer, who makes the split decision whether to buy it…

  6. Here is a dilemma. If small sellers do not buy reviews, they lose out. If your rivals buy reviews and you don’t, you lose out. I’m doing e-commerce in China. We small sellers really really hate it, as it increases cost. You are forced to be one of the rule-breakers. I hope those e-commerce platforms better identify cheating sellers, give more penalty to cheating behavior and make such conducts unaffordable for alllllll sellers.

  7. i only ever read the negative reviews that's how you get a better understanding of wether the product is good or not

  8. I read the reviews. Many negative reviews are from people that don't know how to use the product and are angry and vindictive. Others are valuable and you can usually tell from those descriptions if the guy actually knows what he is talking about. The people that just simply "love" the product are easy to dismiss. Noting that many people find the product "true to size" or not is valuable for shoes and clothing. And whether Amazon is responsible is another question.

  9. The bigger problem is with the FT pushing fake news. Fake information.
    For example that the UK national debt is 1.6 trillion. A complete lie. The state owes 8.6 trillion just for the state pension. 1.6 trillion for civil service pension, that's on top of the 1.6 trillion borrowing.
    The FT pushes fake news.

  10. iTunes does this on movies. Ive bought some awful movies that have had 5 stars reviews. Instead of buying them now straight away, i do a bit of research of the movies on the internet to see which ones are genuinely good movies. And try to sort the bad ones from the good ones. Amazon is not the only place with fake reviews, its everywhere now. Shame really, people don’t know what to trust when they’re buying things….

  11. Google not only allows false reviews, they allow their local business listings to get overtaken with national scam service companies, they use fake names, verify false address to appear local, and use VOIP phone numbers to have local area codes, false reviews, etc…Google claims that only .5% of local listing are fake but it's more like 75% where I live. These companies will offer a $29 or $39 service call and then rip customers off big time.

  12. This is why I am very hesitant about buying products with just 5 star reviews. I have known about this for a while and it is very fristrstomf because I now look at some products differently and think if they are genuine or not..

  13. Unfortunately Amazon is now like a storefront of China Direct. They have to just limit all these junk products and vet the sellers.

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