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07/19/2022

Amazon files suit against alleged Facebook fraudsters

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is identifying thousands of reviews it says are fake on Facebook.

Amazon is taking legal action in response to what it says is a major effort to place fake reviews on its site.

On July 19, 2022, Amazon filed a lawsuit against the administrators of more than 10,000 private Facebook groups that the e-tail giant says attempt to orchestrate fake reviews on its site in exchange for money or free products. According to Amazon, these groups are set up to recruit individuals willing to post “incentivized and misleading” reviews on its online stores in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan.

Amazon says it will use any information it discovers to identify bad actors and remove any fake reviews they may have commissioned which haven’t already been detected by Amazon’s anti-fraud technology, human investigators, and automated monitoring.

[Read more: Amazon spent over $900 million to stop brand fraud in 2021]

“Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they’re ever seen by customers, and this lawsuit goes a step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon VP of Selling Partner Services, said in a corporate blog post. “Proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable.” 

According to the retailer, fraudsters behind these groups solicit fake reviews for hundreds of products available for sale on its site, including car stereos and camera tripods. One of the groups identified in the lawsuit is “Amazon Product Review,” which had more than 43,000 members until Facebook parent Meta took down the group earlier in 2022.

Amazon says its investigations revealed that the group’s administrators attempted to hide their activity and evade Facebook’s detection, in part by avoiding certain phrases commonly associated with false reviews.

Fake reviews pose real problem
As a matter of policy, Amazon prohibits fake reviews and has more than 12,000 employees around the world dedicated to preventing online fraud and abuse, including fake reviews. A dedicated team investigates fake review schemes on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, and reports the abusive groups to those companies. 

Since 2020, Amazon says it has reported more than 10,000 fake review groups to Meta. According to Amazon, Meta has taken down more than half of the groups for policy violations and continues to investigate others.

Amazon has been filing lawsuits against alleged fake review posters as far back as 2015. In 2021, Amazon said it “relentlessly innovates” to allow only genuine product reviews in its store. However, due to its continued improvements in detecting fake reviews and accounts associated with them, the company says it is seeing an increasing trend of fake reviews being solicited outside Amazon, particularly via social media services.

In the past year, legal action from Amazon has shut down multiple major review brokers targeting customers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

[Read more: Amazon shuts down fake review brokers]

“(T)he nefarious business of brokering fake reviews remains an industry-wide problem, and civil litigation is only one step,” Amazon said in the corporate blog post. Permanently ridding fake reviews across retail, travel, and other sectors will require greater public-private partnership, including collaboration between the affected companies, social media sites, and law enforcement, all focused on a goal of greater consumer protection. Amazon remains eager to continue to partner with all the relevant stakeholders to achieve that mutual goal.”