Eliminating Fake Reviews (thank goodness)

I watched with interest the NBC Nightly News last evening as Lester Holt reported about a big lawsuit. Amazon is making giant waves by suing over 1,000 people for offering to write fake product reviews on the site in exchange for monetary compensation. This is the first time a website that relies on this type of user generated content has ever done such a thing.

Over two years ago, I wrote extensively about how much I appreciate crowd-sourced review sites, especially TripAdvisor and Yelp. Now 30 months later my gratitude has not changed. Although I reference Yelp much more these days, I still hold both sites in high regard. The service provided is just so useful and relevant when it comes to everyday decisions.

I applaud Amazon for making the move to sue these folks who write fake reviews. For those new to this story, these review posers are running their scam on Fiverr. Yep, that other site that I also still hold in high regard. These people are so bold that on their Fiverr accounts they straight up say they will write a fake review for $5. Actually, saying the word “write” is giving them way too much credit. Often they will just ask the other schmuck scheming for fake praise to write the review on his or her own. The scammer will then just copy the content and paste it from his own account.

The main reason why Amazon is making this move, and the top point of joy for many users, is to prevent against fraud. It is unfair for sellers, businesses, destinations, etc. to enhance their presence on crowd-sourced review sites via bogus reviews. It is unethical to trick folks into buying a product or booking a hotel room because of scribble that someone wrote who had never used the watch or stayed at the Comfort Suites in Greensboro. Unfortunately for the cheats trying to make $5 at a time, the major company is coming after them instead of the groups who actually pay to have the deed done.

I personally don’t care who Amazon is going after, both sides are dishonest. However, I have a different source of happiness from the lawsuits, one that is different from what the media is glorifying. For me personally, I am ecstatic that spam on these sites is about to be dramatically reduced.

For people who check these websites frequently or who just have a good degree of common sense, the fake reviews stick out like a sore thumb. Last night on the Nightly News Report, Lester Holt gave some guidelines on how to spot a fake review. It was Stating the Obvious 101. If you visit Yelp or hop on Amazon you can pretty much tell after glancing at the structure of the comment and reading the first sentence whether it is garbage or not. The vague language, lack of voice, and broken language always give it away. It can work the other way too. I laugh at the comments that are so descriptive they practically name every member of the hotel staff or recite full conversations with the waiter. Immediately you know it was someone from the inside who wrote it.

It is not that I will ever be tricked by these pathetic reviews, it is just that they are popping up more and more that it becomes very annoying. These fake testimonials (which I just call spam) can give someone just looking for an honest appraisal a headache. I am glad that Amazon is going to begin the big clean up. I hope the other sites do the same. Don’t Blink.