Amazon Suing Fake Reviewers
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Reviews can be sought out for anything these days. You go to Yelp for food, Tripadvisor for travel, and Amazon for, well, everything else. But, as anyone who has visited Amazon knows, not all reviews are created equal. Or, to put it another way, too many reviews are. This past Friday, Amazon filed a case against over 1000 reviewers who commission fake, paid reviews. Amazon started the campaign against the fake reviewers when they hired members of the website Fiverr, where reviews were being sold for as little as $5, to collect information for their claim. Some reviewers would ask to receive payment for their review as well as the product for free, in order to avoid detection by Amazon and be marked as a verified review.
By filing this claim, Amazon is attempting to send a message to fake reviewers, warning them that they will be prosecuted for their actions. The practice is not legal, according to Amazon, because, as Amazon customers, the reviewers agree to their terms of service, which does not allow fake reviews. They argue that Amazon’s brand is being tarnished by the fake reviews. Amazon is also using AI to combat fake reviews and inflation in star ratings, weighting verified customer reviews and those reviews that have been marked as helpful by other users. This is not the first time Amazon has taken legal action against fake reviewers: in April they sued a number of websites where fake reviews were being sold, claiming that together, these websites were damaging Amazon’s brand by making it’s reviews unreliable.
An estimated 10–15 percent of all online reviews are false, and so it is no surprise that Amazon is not the only website suffering under the phenomenon. But what can be done to stop the practice? Yelp warns their customers with a “consumer alert” badge on the given company’s Yelp page for 90 days whenever a suspicious review is detected, while Tripadvisor employs a large team to weed out fake reviews as soon as they appear. The hope is that Amazon’s latest bid to stop fake reviewers will scare most of them away, but as long as small and large businesses continue to profit from their reviews on sites such as these, the practice known as astroturfing will continue to exist.