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Businesses The Courts

Amazon Lawsuit Aims To Kill Fake Reviews (theguardian.com) 125

Mark Wilson writes with a story at Beta News (relying on this report at The Guardian) that Amazon is suing more than 1,000 fake reviewers for their misleading, paid-for reviews: The ability to read reviews of products before making a purchase is one of the great advantages of online shopping. But how do you know that what you're reading is a genuine review and not just glowing praise planted by the seller or manufacturer? Fake reviews are a serious problem, and Amazon is trying to do something about it. The retail giant has filed a lawsuit against 1,114 individuals for writing 'false, misleading, and inauthentic' reviews. Amazon says that the fakers are tarnishing its reputation, and the attempt to clean up the site is something that will be welcomed by consumers. From the Guardian's version of the story: Amazon said there had been misleading five-star reviews and comments about products, such as: “This has lit up my life” about a USB cable. A bogus comment said “definitely buying more I was impressed with how bright the lights on the cable are”, while another reviewer gave a product top marks and added the comment “cool charger”. Amazon is not suing Fiverr, a startup that raised $30m from investors last year, as the company says in its terms and conditions that advertising for services such as writing bogus reviews is banned.
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Amazon Lawsuit Aims To Kill Fake Reviews

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  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @01:07PM (#50754225) Homepage

    > "false, misleading, and inauthentic"

    Like, advertising?

    And before you say, "yes but we know advertising is advertising, and this is masquerading as something else"...

    Consider the reality of "Native Advertising", the advertising industry's response to ad blocking: http://bit.ly/native_adverts [bit.ly]

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @01:18PM (#50754275) Homepage Journal

    What about reviews written tongue in cheek for humor? Amazon seems to actually embrace them:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/featu... [amazon.com]

    How is the USB cable review different than the ones in the link above?

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @02:15PM (#50754505)
      they do, however, regulate paid endorsements. See the difference?
    • Yeah George Takei posts a lot of those. I was hoping Amazon would ban him, but I guess not.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      What about tongue up arse IMDb reviews tens of thousands maybe even hundreds of thousands, of 10 out 10 reviews, making IMDb probably the most jacked up and totally utterly pointless review site on the internet. In fact IMDb seems to have been purposefully set up as a fake review site in order to maximise media sales. Perhaps readers are a lot fussier and angrier when it comes to get sucked in by fake reviews.

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        Are those fake? I always took the view that there really are that many dimwitted people out there that actually enjoyed Transformers 3 and think that it's appropriate to vote 10/10 to boost the average score nearer to the level they think it should be.

        For evidence, read the comments sections on any popular film - lots of people 'tactically' voting because they're selfish shits that want to damage the usefulness of the site for everyone else.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @01:21PM (#50754291)
    A+++++
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They are THE MOST accurate reviews I have ever seen or heard of! AAA++++++++++++++ accuracy! Would read them again!!!!!!! Top value!

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @01:27PM (#50754321)

    1. Generally, I only put stock into the ones from verified purchasers - mainly because of all the people trying to game the reviews.

    2. There is a growing, serious problem with reviews submitted people who've been given a product discount and "asked" to write a review. Interestingly, they apparently are required to state that fact in the review itself, which makes it easier for me to flag all such reviews as "unhelpful".

    3. Amazon has its own ludicrous program for sending free products to people expressly so they'll review the items ("Vine", I think). These are also well worthy of being flagged as unhelpful, which I try to do whenever I'm exposed to them. Come on, Amazon... I only want to hear the experiences of people who purchased the product because they needed / wanted it. I couldn't care less about the opinion of someone who received the product just because they're considered a good reviewer in general - what a dumb concept!

    • I couldn't care less about the opinion of someone who received the product just because they're considered a good reviewer in general - what a dumb concept!

      It's generally a good idea. When a product first shows up on Amazon, it starts with no reviews and won't get much notice. Seeding the reviews section, by people known to write good product reviews, is helpful to everyone. Of course, AFTER there's plenty of reviews, that process should stop, but sellers keep handing out free products to keep their prod

      • Actually, under the circumstance you mention - a brand new product with no reviews - I will concede it's a decent approach. I would argue that those reviews should be removed once a statistically significant number of other reviews from verified purchasers has been received, though - leaving those early, sponsored reviews in place opens up another avenue for gaming the system.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @04:35PM (#50754925)

          I'm indifferent about it. The reviewer should be required to disclose that they received product or a promise for compensation for writing reviews.

          Once they do so, their product reviews should be tagged with a Review by Paid Reviewer tag.

          A star rating should not appear for the product, until there are enough reviews by non-compensated reviewers. Once they are, the compensated reviews should be kept separate, and an additional star rating should be shown that takes into account only verified purchasers.

    • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

      1. Generally, I only put stock into the ones from verified purchasers - mainly because of all the people trying to game the reviews.

      If you read about the case, Amazon did an investigation and they found that the sellers would send the "reviewers" an empty box so that the review would show up as a verified purchase. So they are trying to combat that.

      2. There is a growing, serious problem with reviews submitted people who've been given a product discount and "asked" to write a review. Interestingly, they apparently are required to state that fact in the review itself, which makes it easier for me to flag all such reviews as "unhelpful".

      3. Amazon has its own ludicrous program for sending free products to people expressly so they'll review the items ("Vine", I think). These are also well worthy of being flagged as unhelpful, which I try to do whenever I'm exposed to them. Come on, Amazon... I only want to hear the experiences of people who purchased the product because they needed / wanted it. I couldn't care less about the opinion of someone who received the product just because they're considered a good reviewer in general - what a dumb concept!

      What is wrong with giving people who YOU and other Amazon customers have voted as writing "useful" reviews a product and ask them to review it fairly. As far as I know there are no strings attached, you don't get into the Vine program if you write "nice" reviews, you get into it if you write

      • If the person didn't think about buying the item theirself, they may not be the proper intended audience for the item. What someone who doesn't need an X will say about X is different from what someone who needs X will say about it.

        • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

          I beg to differ. Usually a person "needing" something usually means that he/she has not something similar. A prolific reviewer who has several similar items is in a much much better position to review something by drawing from experience, whether they "need" it or not. I have read many useless reviews from people who are honest and everything, but don't realize something is not good just because it is their first of the kind.

        • Maybe the person already has an X1 (which he bought, because he needed it), and now he's being sent an X2 for free. If he actually finds that the X2 fits his needs better than the X1, he might actually discard/resell the X1 and keep the X2.

          Or maybe he didn't get any X so far, because he was hesitating between X1 and X2. Now that X2 landed on his desk on its own, he might just as well use (and review...) that one.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Sellers would send the "reviewers" an empty box so that the review would show up as a verified purchase.

        That's what I would call fraud..... the review system had specific rules, and they used a technical workaround to intentionally add a false verification of purchase, then.

        If the product was received for free, then they should be "Verified product owner", and "Reviewed in exchange for award or free product from Manufacturer", not "Verified purchaser"

    • Come on, Amazon... I only want to hear the experiences of people who purchased the product because they needed / wanted it.

      The problem with this is that it leads to a reverse halo effect. Hell hath no fury like a buyer scorned as they say. Marketing 101 says that for every positive review a person gives about a product 10 people will give a negative review as people typically don't have much to say about a product that just works, but will do their best to let as many people know if it doesn't.

      I love the concept of forced reviews for this reason. Everyone should get a discount for filling out reviews, and that may even the play

    • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @02:51PM (#50754617)

      2. There is a growing, serious problem with reviews submitted people who've been given a product discount and "asked" to write a review. Interestingly, they apparently are required to state that fact in the review itself, which makes it easier for me to flag all such reviews as "unhelpful".

      3. Amazon has its own ludicrous program for sending free products to people expressly so they'll review the items ("Vine", I think). These are also well worthy of being flagged as unhelpful, which I try to do whenever I'm exposed to them. Come on, Amazon... I only want to hear the experiences of people who purchased the product because they needed / wanted it. I couldn't care less about the opinion of someone who received the product just because they're considered a good reviewer in general - what a dumb concept!

      Huh?

      So, according to your logic, ALL traditional reviews of products that existed before the internet are a "dumb concept"? Things like Consumer Reports are a "dumb concept"? (Or do you think that the employees at Consumer Reports spend their own private money for the products they review?? They need to buy all of them?)

      There may be many things to criticize about the Vine program and similar programs. For example, I have heard (though I haven't seen this verified) that Vine reviewers are often selected not just because they tend to write "helpful" reviews, but because they tend to write disproportionately POSITIVE reviews.

      It would be like a magazine hiring a movie critic because he tended to give 4 and 5 stars to EVERY film he saw. Obviously that's dumb, and we should criticize things like that.

      But the general concept of sending an educated person a product for free and asking them what they think? That's how ALL traditional reviews basically work. I've never received a free product from Amazon or anything, but I HAVE written book reviews for professional journals based on books I received for free. I'm generally asked to review them because (1) I'm an expert in the field and (2) I have written quality reviews and articles in the past.

      Do you think it's unethical for me to do this?

      In general, the idea of sending people free stuff to review is that they are MORE likely to look at the product from an unbiased perspective. When you look at reviews from people who only "purchased the product because they needed / wanted it," you tend to get disproportionately positive reviews as long as the product satisfies a minimal standard for most people. They needed a thing, and if that thing does the basics, they're happy -- it the thing didn't do the basics, they wouldn't have ordered it. Also, they probably were already biased in favor of the brand or specific type of product in choosing it. A reviewer who receives a product he/she didn't ask for instead has to ask, "Is this actually something I would find useful at all? Does it have interesting features? Should anyone else buy it?"

      Again, I'm NOT saying the Amazon Vine program necessarily achieves these goals well or in an unbiased manner. But I think your idea that we should discount reviews from everyone who didn't NEED that specific product is ludicrous.

      • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @06:53AM (#50757099)

        Or do you think that the employees at Consumer Reports spend their own private money for the products they review?? They need to buy all of them?

        No, they spend Consumer Reports' money on all of them. Consumer Reports has a policy that they never accept vendor-funded review copies specifically to avoid this conflict of interest, and also to ensure that they in fact get the same product that's being shipped to customers.

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      . Come on, Amazon... I only want to hear the experiences of people who purchased the product because they needed / wanted it. I couldn't care less about the opinion of someone who received the product just because they're considered a good reviewer in general - what a dumb concept!

      Almost every video game review I've watched has been this case. The game company sends a free copy to the reviewer, because people watch that reviewer. I don't see any problem with tis as long as it's disclosed (and disclosed boldly, in a way no viewer could miss, which seems to be the legal requirement).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Automatically marking a review "unhelpful" when it is well written, thorough, and EXPLICITLY STATES that it's a review of a product that was received for free (and down-voting it for that reason alone) is just plain stupid, period.

      What a dumb concept! You'd rather hear from idiot Joe, the axe-to-grind former employee of the company that makes the product and is now on a mission disparage the company with negative reviews, or Sally the underhanded paid reviewer who writes the review for a payment having nev

      • There is a good reason to down vote these reviews. Even without malice, there is a tendency towards positive reviews from this sort of reviewer. This need not be the reviewers intention, but the manufacturer's will tend to select people who they think will write positive reviews regardless of the reason. As a reader of these reviews, being wary of them makes sense. They are, inherently, less useful.

  • When there's a product that ships from China and has only a single, 5-star, over-the-top, broken-English verified-buyer purchase, I know to avoid the product. And all the vendor's products have similar ones... I guess we'll lose that filter.

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @01:50PM (#50754399) Journal

    Far more serious are real reviewers, who are happy to give a 4 or 5 star review to anything they get for free:

    http://www.amazon.com/forum/am... [amazon.com]

    Amazon explicitly allows this, which I guess is better than driving it underground, but does nothing to account for this heavy reviewer bias:

    "if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback. If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact."

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/help... [amazon.com]

    I've seen MANY products whose 4.5 star averages are purely because the seller sends out tons of free samples in exchange for positive reviews. Meanwhile, products that are considerably less expensive but don't bribe their customers unfortunately get less prominently featured in search results because their average rating, sales counts, and review numbers are so much lower.

    • I agree. The overwhelming positive reviews for stuff you know can't be 5 star (cheap bluetooth speakers, etc.) has made me completely ignore any of the "paid for with free product" reviews. Those reviewers often go into great length writing about product descriptions or packaging and ultimately aren't worth a damn. The real reviews that have ratings and reviews that aren't gushing are the ones I trust. The whole free product for reviews system needs to die.
  • as long as they don't stop bad reviews / sue people for posting bad reviews

  • 1 Star Reviews (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2015 @01:57PM (#50754431)

    They should also do something about the fake 1-star reviews, the ones that tarnish a products or person's reputation. It is rampant in the e-book community, as are the 5-star reviews.

  • If you review a product on Amazon, that will follow you until the day you die (ok, not based on experience). Not just at Amazon but all over the web.

    Also, Amazon, how about fixing your search results. More than once, I've been caught by results that don't meet the search criteria. For example, a 3.5 inch drive mixed in with the results for a search that specifically states 2.5 inch. I know I should read the description completely but, for some reason, I'm biased to expect the returns to match the criteria

  • They must mean me. I always give overly enthusiastic comments and answers when Amazon bugs me to do so, in the hope that they won't ask me again.

  • Fiverr must not be trying too hard to take down these services, because a search for "amazon" turns up a phony reviewer as the first hit:

    https://www.fiverr.com/abigail... [fiverr.com]

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      I think Amazon realizes it would be like suing the road after a bank robbery. The road may have been used in the bank robbery, but suing it will lose, and make you look like an ass.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @02:45PM (#50754605)

    Not sure how many of these are legit, but they are funny as hell, since they replace sugar with some ingredient that leads to intestinal issues.

    http://www.amazon.com/Haribo-Sugar-Free-Gummy-Bears/product-reviews/B008JELLCA/ [amazon.com]

  • I'm all for them deleting fake reviews, especially those that are written in exchange for money. But they had better leave [amazon.com] these [amazon.com] comments [amazon.com] alone [amazon.com]!

  • I hope Amazon doesn't shut down the reviews for the The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee [amazon.com]

    It is pure Internet Gold!

  • He's not just an actor, he's a golden-tongued living deity with powers far beyond the mere superhuman. Proof abounds in these Amazon reviews of his finest work: http://www.amazon.com/Very-Bes... [amazon.com]

  • Just put a little popup next to the company name stating "In the past this company has paid reviewers for positive reviews. The veracity of the reviews below cannot be confirmed or denied."

    Besides the scarlet letter on the offending company, I'm guessing this will have the side-effect of scaring away any potential legitimate reviewer who would not want to be mistaken for a shill. The company learns a valuable lesson in honesty which will be forgotten in 8 seconds.
  • by Cito ( 1725214 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @09:34PM (#50755961) Homepage

    I did reviews, blog comments, forum posts, and such for extra cash for almost a year.

    There are companies that even pay forum commenters to try and argue a specific point. They even give tips how to get a poster with an opposing view that argues with you banned, with tricks to use to make the debate go from heated argument to using certain arguing tricks to incite the opponent into raging and cursing/name calling/etc, then get them suspended or banned thus making you look the victor in spreading a company or organization's propaganda even if you don't believe it yourself.

    For example you may hate Jews, or Scientology, or Coke, or Apple, Microsoft, lists go on and on and on...

    But even though you hate them, you can get paid to post pro-propaganda in a real non bot post and they give you talking points on stirring up controversy and making the thread popular and arguing with those against your side.

    Toward end, when I moved from fake reviews and 5 stars, and did paid forum posts I was arguing with posters that I personally agreed with but to get paid had to "act" like I truly believed the shit I wrote. And I personally got 3 people suspended and banned by inciting them into raging. I decided it wasn't fun anymore spreading bullshit and getting paid to practically troll.

    Forums they target are from news comment sections to kooky conspiracy forums like abovetopsecret.com, Slashdot, Reddit, Somethingaweful (once you've proven to be a good poster the company will buy your membership into some forums), list goes on and on.

    And using Tor to create multiple accounts for creating a virtual opponent so you actually debate yourself, but just enough to bait others into it, or you wind up winning your "fake debate" with yourself.

    Here's just a few examples of companies that act as the "middle man" to the corporations, organizations, and charities that pay forum posters to push specific agendas. And yes Jewish lobby is a gigantic user of these services to attack and try to get any antisemitism banned or thread locked, and political parties,SJW groups, to brand loyalty and etc. It would blow your mind how many posters on your favorite sites are actually paid shills while they may argue with you, they honestly agree with you, they get paid to incite, debate, and spread viewpoints.

    http://www.paidforumposting.co... [paidforumposting.com]
    http://kickstartyourforums.com... [kickstartyourforums.com]
    http://thecashchat.com/forum/ [thecashchat.com]
    http://www.mylot.com/ [mylot.com]
    http://www.postloop.com/ [postloop.com]
    http://talk4dollar.com/ [talk4dollar.com]

    That's just a tiny tiny sample. But they are middle-men that way the true companies, organizations, charities have deniability of using paid shills.

    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      The comical thing with this post is that you may be using the techniques you describe to kickstart a conversation in which you're replying to yourself and/or setting up a disinformation campaign.

      Or you may be legit.

      The two anonymous replies already received however.. they're fitting straight into the 'paid for' bracket.

      I shall watch this thread with interest :)

  • I was a reviewer for Newegg for a while where they would give you an item and you had 2 weeks to post a review on the item you received. That lasted for about 6 months before I stopped receiving assignments. I was always honest with my reviews, most of the items I received were useful and good in quality, though there were a few that did not work properly or had some inherent issues with their design. It's an easy problem to fix though. If that person didn't purchase the item from Amazon, they shouldn't
  • What I've determined whenever I look at the reviews of a product on Amazon (or any site) is that no product produced actually works. Every product has the people that received DOA items, or they broke on first use.

    Though my favorite is the five-star review I saw for "Box was damaged so I returned it unopened, but what I saw of it, it looked okay"

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