If you feel that the Amazon reviews of the last item you purchased were a bunch of copypaste, it’s because there are fake reviews and people get paid to post them.
Amazon filed a lawsuit Monday against administrators of over 10,000 Facebook groups that coordinated cash or goods for buyers who posted fake product reviews. These global groups were used to recruit fake reviewers. They operated on Amazon’s online stores in the U.S., UK, France and Germany as well as in Japan, Japan, Spain and Italy.
Although 10,000 Facebook groups may sound like a lot, this is the total number of groups that Amazon has reported to Facebook in 2020. It notes that it has taken past legal action and shut down “multiple major review brokers” in the past. Yet, here we are. Since in 2015, they have been suing individuals for this stuff.
One group was named by the company, Amazon Product Review. It had more than 40,000 members before Facebook removed it in 2022. This one was able to evade detection by using the AI-eluding, time-honored strategy of changing a few letters in phrases that would catch it off guard.
Amazon claims it will use the discovery process to “identify bad actor and remove fake reviews commissioned from these fraudsters by Amazon’s advanced tech, expert investigators and continuous monitoring.”
Although the monitoring is ongoing, it’s evident that thousands to thousands of fake reviews are pushing products through the huge online storefront. This happens all over the world. Regulators are paying attention — this is bound to ignite a little fire under everyone’s favorite online shopping platform.
Amazon has been plagued by fake reviews for years. In 2018, a Washington Post investigation found that fake reviews had dominated certain product categories, such as bluetooth headphones and supplements.
The Post discovered a lucrative cottage industry that sold fake Facebook reviews at the time. According to the Post, sellers target Amazon customers on Facebook through “dozens of networks,” including Amazon Review Club or Amazon Reviewers Group. They offer glowing feedback in return for money or compensation.
Amazon admitted the severity of the problem in a blog entry last year. The company stated that they have noticed an increase in bad actors trying to solicit fake reviews via social media, mainly because of our continuous improvements in detection of fake reviews, and connections between bad-actor selling and buying accounts.
Amazon reported that it had reported over 1,000 review-selling groups to social media platforms during the first quarter 2021, three times more than the previous year. It’s unclear if this is due to fake reviews, or whether Amazon took the issue more seriously. However, the company wanted to blame social media platforms for not enforcing rules when these groups violate them.
Fake reviews are not the most misleading content internet companies fail to eliminate. They are yet another example of how systemic problems can spiral out-of-control when there is a large enough cash printing (or money-burning), internet machine. This could lead to line increase. Sometimes, these problems can encourage all sorts of weird or bad stuff. This is the case of a small industry that makes bad products look good. Once this happens, it can be difficult to unravel the mess made by the big money machine.