Amazon blames social media for struggle with fake reviews

Amazon has blamed social media companies for its failure to remove fake reviews from its website, arguing that bad actors turn to social networks to buy and sell fake reviews outside the reach of its own technology.

The company says it removed more than 200m suspected fake reviews before they were seen by a customer in 2020 alone, but nonetheless has faced continued criticism for the enormous scale of fake and misleading reviews that make it on to its store.

This year a Which? investigation found companies claiming to be able to guarantee “Amazon’s Choice” status on products – an algorithmically assigned badge of quality that can push products to the top of search results – within two weeks, and others claiming to have armies of reviewers numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Amazon says the blame for those organisations should lie with social media companies, who it says are slow to act when warned that fake reviews are being solicited on their platforms.

“In the first three months of 2020, we reported more than 300 groups to social media companies, who then took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate abuse,” an unsigned Amazon blogpost said. “In the first three months of 2021 we reported more than 1,000 such groups, with social media services taking a median time of five days to take them down.

“While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding, to address this problem at scale it is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them.”

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While Amazon did not name any specific social network, Facebook has been repeatedly criticised for failing to clamp down on such activity. In January 2020, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority secured an agreement from Facebook to “better identify, investigate and remove groups and other pages where fake and misleading reviews were being traded, and prevent them from reappearing”. However, a follow-up investigation in 2021 forced the CMA to intervene a second time.

“After we intervened again, the company made significant changes, but it is disappointing it has taken them over a year to fix these issues,” said Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the regulator, in April.

A Facebook spokesperson said at the time: “Fraudulent and deceptive activity is not allowed on our platforms, including offering or trading fake reviews. Our safety and security teams are continually working to help prevent these practices.”



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