Fighting Fake Online Reviews

Brook Zimmatore | July 12, 2013

Since there is an abundance of online marketplace websites that feature reviews from customers, it’s obvious that companies and individuals are going to take advantage of this and hire people to write five-star reviews about a book they’ve never read, or to put down a competitor’s products.

By 2014, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of all online reviews will be faked, according to a 2012 study carried out by IT research company Gartner. There are individuals that make a living from writing fake reviews, and even businesses that are dedicated to this sole purpose.

Though the presence of fake online reviews is growing, there are a number of things that can be done to tackle the issue head-on.

Companies strike back

Several companies whose operations are heavily based on user reviews have taken steps to combat the flurry of faked comments that are posted to their site every day.

Yelp utilizes a “review filter” to detect and eliminate fake content. TripAdvisor uses a shaming method to deter fake reviewers by placing a red badge on the pages of companies that have been found to post fake reviews. This is meant to warn users that their posts may not be genuine.

Amazon is one of several major online major businesses that have taken to hiring research teams to spot and eliminate fake reviews.

Amazon also lets customers know when reviews are genuine by placing the term “Amazon Verified Purchase” on reviews that are carried out by users who have actually purchased the product.

A research team at Cornell University has developed an algorithm that detects fake reviews with a 90 percent accuracy rate. It may just be a matter of time before all of the major sites that rely on user reviews employ the use of such an algorithm.

What can you do about fake reviews?

Misrepresenting oneself while using “freedom of speech” actually removes the right of the 1st amendment from the poster. This means, anyone who pretends to be someone else just to blemish the reputation of another can be subject to a lawsuit for misrepresentation and libel.

No one has the time to just post fake reviews on a random company. We have found through countless cyber investigations on this very subject, that most fake reviews are a carefully planned campaign to destroy the target.

So, if you are serious about resolving fake reviews you simply do this:

  • Get a well-groomed cyber forensic expert to look into the matter. They will find out who, what, where and sometimes why.
  • Collect all of the evidence and an orderly fashion. Be sure to get a signed affidavit of the accuracy and validity of your investigation.
  • Take legal action against the fake reviews. You will have a slam dunk case and even perhaps some damages coming your way.

The need for online reputation management

If the trend continues as the Gartner study indicates, fake reviews on the Internet will be something that more and more people will have to contend with while conducting business on the Internet.

Until technology to spot fake reviews becomes more accessible and widespread, there is not much that website users can do about fakery. It’s largely up to the companies to ensure that their user reviews are genuine and proactively fight defamation and cyber libel.

Ensuring the veracity of user reviews is certainly a daunting task, but it is an essential practice to manage one’s online reputation and keep credibility alive and thriving on the Internet.

CEO / Co-Founder
Brook Zimmatore is the Co-Founder & CEO at Massive.