Amazon sues operators of 10,000 Facebook groups over fake review schemes

Amazon’s long-running campaign against fake reviews just enjoyed some success. TechCrunch reports that Amazon has sued the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups for attempting to coordinate fake reviews in exchange for free products or money. The group operators tried to recruit people in the US, UK, four European countries and Japan. One of the larger examples, Amazon Product Review, tried to avoid detection by “obfuscating” letters in phrases used to detect activity like this. Meta pulled the 43,000-member earlier this year.

The legal action comes after roughly two years of pinpointing rogue Facebook groups. Amazon said it would use info obtained during the discovery process to identify the perpetrators and pull fake reviews stemming from these communities.

Amazon has been suing fake review peddlers since 2015, and ramped up its efforts in recent years. The online shopping giant reported over 1,000 paid review groups to social networks in the first quarter of 2021, or three times the volume it reported a year earlier. The company argued that reports and lawsuits weren’t enough to stop fake reviews, however. It believed that a more permanent solution would involve a stronger “public-private partnership” between online shops, social networks and law enforcement.

Whether or not Amazon can meaningfully deter fake reviews is another matter. This latest bust underscores the scope of the problem — it’s easy to create a social media group that goes undetected for long enough to do significant damage. UK regulators certainly aren’t convinced Amazon is doing enough, and have opened an investigation into the firm’s approach to bogus review content. Amazon is fighting a battle that might be difficult to win under ideal circumstances, and it’s not clear if the company’s existing strategy is effective.

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