Rogue reviews are in the news again. This time Amazon has sued hundreds of freelancers for selling fake reviews, accusing more than 1,100 people of offering to post positive writeups of ebooks and other products for fees of as little as $5. Amazon isn't the only one feeling the pain.
Wikipedia in September banned editors from 381 blackhat user accounts who were paid to post and maintain promotional content to the online encyclopedia after the site's CheckUser group identified "sock puppet" editors creating promotional articles, and inserting promotional external links.
It's Amazon's second lawsuit this year to battle fake reviewers. This time the company observed fake review sellers trying to avoid being spotted by using multiple accounts coming from unique Internet Protocol addresses.
In Amazon's latest case, the defendants sold their freelance services on the Fiverr. The Web site allows people to sell services like editing resumes, and creating Facebook fan Web pages. Most promised very positive or five-star reviews.
It's a challenge for marketplaces, retailers and brands to fight fraudulent online ratings and reviews. Better reviews help a product or brand rank higher in search engine query results pages. To post a verified review, where Amazon verifies the person posting item purchased on Amazon, some of the reviewers allegedly ask for a promo code to get the product for free.
Yes -- the most authoritative local search annual studies show "Review Signals" comprise about 8.4% of the Google local ranking algorithm now in 2015. (Review quantity, Review velocity, Review diversity, etc.). One would assume that Bing is similar.
Brian Krebs, former reporter for The Washington Post, now runs a blog "Krebs on Security." He reminds readers not to be fooled by fake reviews, and points to a piece about Full Service Van Lines, a moving company that had mostly five-star reviews online but whose owners and operators had a long and very public history of losing or destroying their customers’ stuff, along with other bad things. He says that last week federal regulators shut down the company.
He also points to Bryan Seely, another cybersecurity expert and former Microsoft employee. Seely is working on an as-yet unpublished book highlighting black SEO practices and how they relate to fake companies online with different business names, addresses and phone numbers. The calls to each of these phony firms are eventually all routed back to the SEO company, which sells the customer lead to one of several companies that have agreed in advance to buy such business leads. No doubt he got fodder for the book from his escapades in February 2014.