“I WILL post awesome review on your amazon product,” bess98 declared on Fiverr, a website where individuals sell freelance services for $5 or more. On October 16th Amazon charged that bess98 and more than 1,000 others were illegally hawking customer reviews. The case comes just six months after Amazon sued the operator of four sites peddling similar stuff, including the subtly named buyamazonreviews.com.
Like Amazon, other websites have fought fakes with lawsuits, carefully honed algorithms and even sting operations—Yelp, a popular review site, has had undercover staff answer ads from firms seeking glowing write-ups. Yet the problem persists.
For as long as there have been online reviews, there have been fakes. The motivation is clear: for example, one extra star on a restaurant’s Yelp rating boosts revenue by 5-9%, according to Michael Luca of Harvard Business School. Mr Luca and Georgios Zervas of Boston University have shown that restaurants seeking fake acclaim are likely to be independent—online reviews matter more to them than to chains with established reputations. So some businesses ask friends to post raves, seek reviewers-for-hire and offer customers discounts in exchange for praise.
For websites that claim to be an impartial resource, such practices are troubling. “While small in number,” Amazon contends in its new suit,…Continue reading