Amazon sues 10,000 Facebook group admins over fake reviews

Amazon is taking legal action against the admins of more than 10,000 Facebook groups for generating fake reviews.

The groups offered money or free goods in exchange for reviews being posted on Amazon.

The admins recruited individuals willing to post misleading reviews on Amazon’s stores in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan.

Once the people in the group had purchased selected products and left their reviews, the administrators would refund them. A wide range of goods was involved, including car stereos and camera tripods.

One of the groups called ‘Amazon Product Review’ with 43,000 members, was removed earlier this year by Facebook’s parent company Meta.

Large numbers of reviews, especially positive ones, boost sellers’ visibility on Amazon’s platforms and boosts them up on search engine results.

Amazon sellers can legitimately pay for services that promise to boost their ratings online, without necessarily knowing that this will be carried out in the form of fake reviews.

Amazon’s investigations revealed that the group’s admins managed to evade Facebook by hiding letters from problematic phrases.

They used disguised key phrases that would otherwise have been flagged by Meta’s automated tools designed to seek out rule-breaking. For example, a Facebook post offering ‘R*fnd Aftr R*vew’ (refund after review) went undetected.

Around half of the groups were taken down by Meta once they were reported by Amazon. However, Amazon told the BBC the administrators of all of them were being targeted.

Amazon has more than 12,000 employees dedicated to protecting its stores from fraud and abuse, including fake reviews.

‘A dedicated team investigates fake review schemes on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and regularly reports the abusive groups to those companies,’ said Amazon.

‘Pro-active legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable,’ said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon vice president of selling partner services.

‘Groups that solicit or encourage fake reviews violate our policies and are removed. We are working with Amazon on this matter and will continue to partner across the industry to address spam and fake reviews,’ said Meta in a statement.

In February, consumer group Which? claimed that fake reviews for Amazon Marketplace was being sold ‘in bulk’ for as little as £5 each.

A UK consumer body is cracking down on fake reviews to shield the public from being scammed with proposed legislation against it. If implemented, it could become illegal to pay someone to write or host a fake review.

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