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05/09/2022

Amazon shuts down fake review brokers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon continues acting against providers of phony product reviews.

Amazon is scoring some victories in its continuing struggle against bogus product reviews showing up on its site.

According to the e-tail giant, three major "fake review brokers" that targeted Amazon customers have ended their fraudulent schemes targeting its customers. In February 2022, Amazon took legal actions against what it says are major fake review brokers Fivestar Marketing, Matronex, and AppSally.

[Read more: Amazon targets fake reviews with new lawsuits]

All three brokers had been targeting Amazon customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. As a result of successful legal action, the company says nearly 350,000 people who had been using their websites to write fake and misleading product reviews are no longer incentivized to do so on Amazon.

According to Amazon, AppSally had been selling fake reviews for as low as $20, and instructing bad actors to ship empty boxes to people willing to write fake reviews, and to provide AppSally with photos to be uploaded alongside their reviews.

Amazon is also now taking legal action against what it says is another major fake review broker, Hong Kong-based Extreme Rebate. According to Amazon, Extreme Rebate has been trying to get misleading reviews posted onto Amazon stores in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Canada.

The e-tailer has filed lawsuits against Extreme Rebate in the U.S. and Germany to shut the company down and compel it to provide information about who hired it. Since Amazon introduced customer reviews in 1995, it has had policies that prohibit reviews abuse, including paying for reviewing and soliciting only positive reviews.

Amazon uses a combination of machine learning technology and human investigators to analyze each review before it’s displayed. According to the company, over 99% of products viewed in its stores contain only authentic reviews.

Amazon has been filing lawsuits against alleged fake review posters as far back as 2015. In 2021, Amazon said it “relentlessly innovates” to allow only genuine product reviews in its store. However, due to its continued improvements in detecting fake reviews and accounts associated with them, the company says it is seeing an increasing trend of fake reviews being solicited outside Amazon, particularly via social media services.

Amazon regularly reports this fake review activity to the social media company where it occurred, and says in first three months of 2020, it reported more than 300 groups to social media companies. This number rose to more than 1,000 groups reported to social media companies in the first three months of 2021.

According to Amazon, social media took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate fake reviews in the first three months of 2020. This improved to a median response time of five days in the first three months of 2021.

“Our goal is to provide the best shopping experience for our customers and selling partners,” Dharmesh Mehta, VP, customer trust and partner support, Amazon, said in a corporate blog post. “We are committed to keeping reviews trustworthy in our stores; this strategy of shutting down fraudsters is working.”