Amazon claims fake reviews are social media’s fault

Amazon warehouse facility in Houston, TX.
Amazon claims the fake reviews on its platform are the fault of social media companies (Picture: Getty)

Amid criticism about the proliferation of ‘fake reviews’ on Amazon’s website, the tech giant has sought to shift the blame – to social media companies.

The Jeff Bezos-founded Amazon argued that ‘bad actors’ coordinated on social networks like Facebook to buy and sell fake reviews outside the purview of Amazon’s watch.

Amazon claimed it had removed more than 200 million suspected sham reviews before they were published last year alone.

Yet the Seattle-based online shopping goliath has come under increased criticism for its hosting of fake reviews, which users say make it difficult to distinguish good products from bad.

While Amazon has directed its ire at social media companies, a Which? investigation earlier this year found websites unaffiliated with social media offering fake reviews for sale.

Consumer group Which? found fake reviews for Amazon Marketplace being sold ‘in bulk’ for as little as £5 each.

Which? also said it found 10 sites offering the service that can be bought by third-party sellers who use Amazon’s services.

Even though the practice is firmly against Amazon’s terms and conditions, the investigation appeared to show the fake review industry thriving.

All of the 10 sites offering review manipulation services in the investigation were found easily on the first page of Google search results for terms like ‘make money from reviews’ or ‘get free products’.

FILE - Jeff Bezos speaks at an event before unveiling Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander in Washington, in this Thursday, May 9, 2019, file photo. Amazon's Jeff Bezos will be among the people on Blue Origin's first human space flight next month. The company said in a post Monday, June 7, 2021, that Bezos will be joined on the flight by his brother Mark and the winner of an online auction.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Jeff Bezos’ company has profited from the review section of its website (Picture: Getty)

Which?’s investigation hinted at the vast scale of the fake reviews industry – with 702,000 product reviewers across just five of the businesses it looked at.

For sellers looking to buy reviews there was an array of different packages they could purchase to boost their products on Amazon – and Which? saw several examples of products where these tactics appeared to have paid off.

But Amazon insists that the blame for these websites should still lie with social media companies, arguing that companies like Facebook were slow to act to remove fake reviews.

‘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 wrote in a company blogpost.

‘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.’

Though Amazon didn’t specifically name Facebook in its ‘social media’ criticism, Facebook has been previously criticised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for failing to ‘better identify, investigate and remove groups and other pages where fake and misleading reviews were being traded, and prevent them from reappearing.’

While the CMA accepted Facebook had now made ‘significant changes’, it added it took too long for them to fix the issue.

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