Fake online reviews cater to no one’s taste
The Future. As consumers, we turn to reviews to make informed decisions about where to spend our money — which has led to a growing urgency to weed out the false posts from the real ones. The more review sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp are flooded with inauthentic or problematic posts, the more misguided consumers may become, and the more likely the reputation of a business may suffer.
A real piece of work
The NYT shines a light on the ubiquity of fake online reviews.
- In 2020, Tripadvisor took down nearly one million reviews it deemed fraudulent, according to its 2021 transparency report.
- In 2022, Yelp removed more than 700,000 posts that violated its policies, including many that were abusive or deceptive.
Despite the prevalence of fake negative reviews, false positive ones are actually more rampant online. And they come from anyone — including paid writers and patrons incentivized (or bullied) by businesses to post raves. The things people will do for a gift card… or under pressure.
Cutting to the chase
Fake reviews have legal consequences, per the NYT.
- In 2018, the owner of PromoSalento, an Italian company that wrote paid reviews of hospitality businesses, was sentenced to nine months in prison after he was found guilty of using a fake identity to post false reviews on Tripadvisor.
- Last November, Google filed a lawsuit against dozens of companies for selling “fake or worthless services,” including “the option of flooding a competitor’s business profile” with fake negative reviews or ratings.
- The FTC already prohibits “unfair or deceptive” business practices, but it’s rewording its language to specify exactly what’s prohibited.
The more you know
Despite the lengths Tripadvisor and Yelp will go to delete fake reviews — using computer algorithms to detect fraud and even hiring detectives to conduct sting operations — crowd-sourced sites are still at the mercy of the public, who’ll always find ways to get their paid or unpaid messages across.