On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them.
But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.
OK, this is pretty old news. Terrible news, but fake reviews have been around for some time. But:
Many of these fraudulent reviews originate on Facebook, where sellers seek shoppers on dozens of networks, including Amazon Review Club and Amazon Reviewers Group, to give glowing feedback in exchange for money or other compensation. The practice artificially inflates the ranking of thousands of products, experts say, misleading consumers.
Amazon does periodic purges to wipe out those reviewers, but:
But the ban, sellers and experts say, merely pushed an activity that used to take place openly into dispersed and harder-to-track online communities.
There, an economy of paid reviews has flourished. Merchants pledge to drop reimbursements into a reviewer’s PayPal account within minutes of posting comments for items such as kitchen knives, rain ponchos or shower caddies, often sweetening the deal with a $5 commission or a $10 Amazon gift card. Facebook this month deleted more than a dozen of the groups where sellers and buyers matched after being contacted by The Post. Amazon kicked a five-star seller off its site after an inquiry from The Post.
Suspicious or fraudulent reviews are crowding out authentic ones in some categories, The Post found using ReviewMeta data. ReviewMeta examines red flags, such as an unusually large number of reviews that spike over a short period of time or “sock puppet” reviewers who appear to have cut and pasted stock language.
For example, of the 47,846 total reviews for the first 10 products listed in an Amazon search for “bluetooth speakers,” two-thirds were problematic, based on calculations using the ReviewMeta tool. So were more than half of the 32,435 reviews for the top 10 Bluetooth headphones listed.
Nice work by the Washington Post here. Just another example of everything is broken. Sigh.