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Amazon targets fake reviews with new lawsuits

Amazon is taking legal action to stop what it says are fake reviews.

Amazon is stepping up efforts to prevent bogus product reviews from being posted on its site.

The e-tail giant has filed lawsuits against fake review brokers who orchestrate the posting of incentivized and misleading product reviews, in exchange for money or free products. The lawsuits are specifically aimed at shutting down what Amazon says are two major fake review brokers, AppSally and Rebatest.

According to Amazon, the two companies had their members try to post fake reviews in stores such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy. Amazon prohibits incentivized or fake reviews.

Amazon plays long game against fake reviews
The company 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. To proactively prevent fake or incentivized reviews, Amazon has developed and deployed machine learning technology which it pairs with expert human investigators.

However, Amazon says that due to its continued improvements in detecting fake reviews and accounts associated with them, it is seeing an increasing trend of fake reviews being solicited outside Amazon, particularly via social media services. Amazon regularly reports this fake review activity to the social media company where it occurred, and says in first three months of 2020, it reported more than 300 groups to social media companies. 

This number rose to more than 1,000 groups reported to social media companies in the first three months of 2021. According to Amazon, social media took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate fake reviews in the first three months of 2020. This improved to a median response time of five days in the first three months of 2021.

“Fake review brokers attempt to profit by deceiving unknowing consumers and creating an unfair competitive advantage that harms our selling partners,” said Dharmesh Mehta, VP of WW Customer Trust & Partner Support, Amazon, said when Amazon released this set of fake review data. “We know how valuable trustworthy reviews are to our customers. That is why we are holding these review fraudsters accountable. While we prevent millions of suspicious reviews from ever appearing in our store, these lawsuits target the source.”

Amazon says its most recent legal action comes after an in-depth investigation into these review brokers, which taken together claim to have more than 900,000 members willing to write fake reviews. According to Amazon, AppSally sells fake reviews for as low as $20 and instructs bad actors to ship empty boxes to people willing to write fake reviews, and to provide AppSally with photos to be uploaded alongside their reviews.

Amazon also accuses Rebatest of paying people writing five-star reviews after their fake reviews are approved by the bad actors attempting to sell those items. Most recently, in late 2021, two fake review sites in Germany and the U.K. were closed down following successful legal action by Amazon in those countries.

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