As online commerce continues to rise, some of the key challenges in providing transparency, and maintaining consumer trust, have become more pressing concerns of late, in various ways.
Case in point – with some 93% of consumers utilizing online reviews in their purchase process, the impact of fake reviews has become increasingly significant, which is why the bigger players in the space are now launching legal action to establish new precedent to prosecute fake review sellers.
Meta filed a lawsuit in California over the use of fake reviews on Facebook back in March, and now, Amazon is launching its own legal action, which also targets Facebook, in the form of Facebook groups that organize and solicit fake Amazon product reviews.
As announced by Amazon:
“Amazon today filed legal action against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups that attempt to orchestrate fake reviews on Amazon in exchange for money or free products. These groups are set up to recruit individuals willing to post incentivized and misleading reviews on Amazon’s stores in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan.”
Amazon says that these groups are responsible for fake reviews for hundreds of products listed on its platform - from 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 Meta took down the group earlier this year. Amazon’s investigations revealed that the group’s administrators attempted to hide their activity and evade Facebook’s detection, in part by obfuscating letters from problematic phrases.”
In some ways, the legal action could be viewed as a criticism of Meta’s own inaction to address this element – though Amazon does note that it’s reported more than 10,000 fake review groups to Meta since 2020, with more than half of them subsequently being taken down for policy violations as a result.
So Meta is working to address this type of misuse. But with many of the groups being private, and finding other ways to evade detection, Amazon’s hoping that this action will help it uncover more of the people that are running these scam review rings, in order to then take more definitive, and punishing, legal action.
“Amazon will use information discovered in this legal action to identify bad actors and remove fake reviews commissioned by these fraudsters that haven’t already been detected by Amazon’s advanced technology, expert investigators, and continuous monitoring.”
Meta can’t reveal any specific information like this without a subpoena, which is part of the reason for Amazon’s new legal push.
It’s an important move in the battle against online fraud, especially now, as noted, due to the role that such elements play in the modern purchase process.
Due to variations in how existing regulations can be applied online, and across jurisdictions, some online scams can be difficult to pin down, and without tough penalties to act as a deterrent, that makes it harder for the platforms to disincentivize such programs, especially at scale.
But if Amazon and Meta can get some big legal wins, and turn up the threat of action on bad actors, that could have a big impact on the fake review and profile industry, making it financially too risky for many of these groups to operate.
There will always be some fakes (as Twitter keeps saying), and scammers will always find ways to get around any checks and processes that the platforms put in place. But higher penalties could be a major deterrent, and it’s important for the platforms to maintain legal pressure in this sense, in order to secure the trust of their users.