Forget fake news. Amazon is fighting fake reviews
posted at 5:41 pm on November 28, 2016 by Jazz Shaw
If you’re one of those people who tends to write a lot of product reviews at Amazon you may find that you’ve got a bit more free time now. The online retail giant may not know anything about “fake news” on social media sites, but they are fed up with fake product reviews in their store. With that in mind, you will be limited in the number of reviews you can submit… unless you buy lots of products, of course. (BBC)
Online marketplace Amazon has placed a limit on the number of reviews shoppers can leave on the site.
In a bid to put a stop to false feedback, people can now write only five reviews a week of items not bought via the online store.
The change applies to most products and is part of efforts to clamp down on people selling positive comments.
The change is Amazon’s latest step in its battle to ensure users trust its listings.
I suppose the problem of paying for reviews is real enough, though it was completely predictable. I still recall the earlier forms of popular review sites and the immediate trouble they generated. The idea itself was great, of course. It would be nice to be able to visit a site where you could find out information about movies, restaurants or products and get the unvarnished opinions of people who had actually tried them rather than relying on advertising. But that immediately opened the floodgates to both positive spin and malicious attacks in a competitive capitalist environment.
Yelp ran into problems right away with business owners, their friends and family members flooding the listings for competitors with bad reviews, often from people who had never even patronized the places they were reviewing. Similarly, with a bit of organized effort you could bump up your own rating with a bunch of five star reviews. That problem became even worse when it at least appeared that Yelp would helpfully allow you to buy your way out of bad reviews for a while.
The same problem showed up at sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, where people would organize to give high marks to films which most actual movie goers found to be real dogs. It’s a great, free way for producers to get some buzz going about their film, but doesn’t do much to help the actual consumers looking for reliable feedback. The fact that it’s been happening at Amazon shouldn’t come as a surprise with those sorts of stories as background.
The phenomenon of companies actually paying people to write fake reviews is a bit more recent, but I don’t think the legal codes have caught up with this aspect of modern living so I doubt we’ll see anyone going to jail over it. In the meantime, Amazon is just limiting the damage, not eliminating it. And I wish I had some suggestion to offer as a solution, but there doesn’t seem to be one. When a system is this easy to cheat with little or no consequences, people are going to do it.