Amazon blames social media for fake reviews

Published on: 18th June 2021

A Which? investigation found companies claiming to be able to guarantee Amazon’s Choice status and others offering to provide top reviews.

AmazonAmazon has blamed social media companies for the problem of fake reviews on its website, arguing that “bad actors” turn to social networks to buy and sell fake product reviews. The online retailer claims that managing this issue is beyond the reach of its own technology.

The company says it removed more than 200m suspected fake reviews before they were seen by customers in 2020 alone, but nonetheless has faced continued criticism for widespread fake and misleading reviews that are posted on the platform.

This year a Which? investigation found companies claiming to be able to guarantee ‘Amazon’s Choice’ status on products within two weeks. Amazon Choice status is an algorithmically assigned badge of quality that can push products to the top of search results. Other websites discovered by Which? claimed to have armies of reviewers numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Amazon says the blame for such organisations should lie with social media companies, which it says are slow to act when warned that fake reviews are being solicited on their platforms.

“In the first three months of 2020, we reported more than 300 groups to social media companies, who then took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate abuse,” Amazon claimed in a blog post. “In the first three months of 2021, we reported more than 1,000 such groups, with social media services taking a median time of five days to take them down. While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding, to address this problem at scale it is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them.”

While Amazon did not name any specific social network, Facebook has been repeatedly criticised for failing to clamp down on such activity. In January 2020, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority secured an agreement from Facebook to “better identify, investigate and remove groups and other pages where fake and misleading reviews were being traded, and prevent them from reappearing”. However, following a further investigation in 2021 the CMA was forced to take action for a second time.

Facebook responded at the time: “Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. Our safety and security teams are continually working to help prevent these practices.”

Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the CMA said: “After we intervened again, the company made significant changes, but it is disappointing it has taken them over a year to fix these issues.”



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