Fake Reviews Starting to Get Mainstream Media Attention

The latter part of this otherwise lame ‘expose’ about deceptive hotel marketing practices from NBC’s 2/24 Today show highlights the issue of fake reviews.

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Certainly the issue of fake reviews is both more pervasive and more common than the report indicates. Our industry has been reporting on cases of fake reviews for a long while.

While there has been a few cases of state and national government enforcement (contrary to the reporting on NBC), it has been extremely light.

Services promoting less than ethical review practices have sprung up. Even in the hinterlands, fake, purchased reviews are showing on Google with the ability to purchase reviews available through a number of channels.

While Google, Yelp and Tripadvisor have implemented some measures to limit fake reviews, the efforts have only been partially successful. Given the increasing media coverage of the issue, it seems probable that the FTC and State’s Attorney Generals are likely to pursue more aggressive enforcement going forward.

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Fake Reviews Starting to Get Mainstream Media Attention by

20 thoughts on “Fake Reviews Starting to Get Mainstream Media Attention”

  1. Hi Mike-

    I was under the impression that if a reviewer only writes one or two reviews, that the reviews will disappear or go away…

    What about IP addresses?

  2. @Chris
    At Yelp that is the case but at Google the algo is more nuanced than that. We don’t really know what causes some of the reviews to be taken down….

    Clearly IP is a key data point for most review spam algos.

    @Zelick
    We have not seen an update on most since 2/18 but they still are showing.

  3. I don’t doubt that regulators will be motivated to stamp out fake reviews but I think their efforts are likely to be unsuccessful. Fingers crossed that I am wrong.

  4. @Ted

    They would be unable to stamp them out but

    1)I think that they will show up with suits more frequently as the public profile and complaints rise

    2)Regardless, more high profile cases would shut down the obvious avenues and low lifes and make agencies take note

  5. I hope so Mike but its not like the fake reviews providers are hard to find and nothing (of substance) has been done to date. Maybe a few high profile suits will slow down would-be fake reviewers/purchasers.

  6. “FTC doing the best they can to police the web”. Ha, I’m sure this is their one priority.

  7. Well, it’s certainly interesting to hear this being reported in that expose-style, sensationalist voice. My job suddenly feels so…mainstream? Good catch, Mike. I hope people saw this segment. I started a thread about this issue at Cre8asite a few days ago, coincidentally, and people did want to know about the FTC. It feels to me like the problem is too overwhelming for any one index or agency to deal with.

  8. As long as web sites are able to hide behind the grossly misnamed Common Decency Act and post unverified comment from users who have total anonymity this problem will never go away. We need legislation for the social media age. If like a journalist posters or the web sites had to make their identity available, then the victims could take appropriate legal action. That is the only method of enforcement that will work. IP adresses and alogorythms are not hte answer.
    As a by product users of review web sites would actually be able to believe what they read. Everybody wins when the legislators wake up.

  9. @Frank

    I agree that the Communications Decency Act (section 230), while having protected ISPs and online services from unreasonable lawsuits, does provide way too much protection for both the site AND the poster. This is particularly the case when the review is proven to be untrue. In Europe, for example, if a some posted online content is proven to be untrue, the online service is required to pull the content down. Not so in the US. Even after a statement has been proven false the online services can leave the comments in place with no consequences or legal obligations… it is an act that is clearly very strongly in favor of big business.

    I do believe that legislators were wide awake when it was created and given large corporate support for the bill as it stands, it is unlikely to change.

  10. great catch Mike….and yup, seen that only too too often in the past say 4 to 5 months up here in Canuck land too….

    Yelp.ca was an easy one to game….and while I cant’ monitor it all day long (shouldn’t Yelp have someone doing that might be the question) I know that when I reported over 70+ spam phony reviews all attempting to send new customers to a local locksmith — it took Yelp almost a week to finally squash same.

    But that does mean at Yelp.ca at least, they “DO” read flagged reviews and “WILL” act….

    Doesn’t it?

    And as @earl and @miriam commented, Kim’s cre8asiteforums.com is a great place to hang out…as the folks there KNOW SEO eh!

    :-)

    Jim

  11. Oh boy regulators coming in to fix this mess. Can’t wait to see what kind of new tax structures they can devise to fix the problem. I have posted before and I will post again if websites did not rely upon reviews for placement and rankings the problem would go away on its own.

  12. Anyone have any idea why I have Google Placings listings that have been PIN verified since January but still are not showing up in search even when I search business name???

  13. This is really getting to be a huge problem. I have seen that Yelp does a pretty good job of getting rid of reviews that it thinks are fake.

    One of the trainings that I took for Google local pages actually told us not to spend much time with Yelp when we were putting legitimate comments on for our Google Local clients because even though they are legit Yelp may see them as fake and pull them off.

    Interesting how that works!!! :)

    Kathy

  14. I like this reporter’s style – no need to go and visit the hotel in L A that had a cropped picture of their pool. No this guy focuses in on …”a luxury resort in Costa Rica promising sweeping views of the oceans. So we went to Costa Rica, one of the most popular vacation spots in the world to check it out for ourselves…” And this Billy guy – OMG! what a creep. Fake reviews are a real issue and I do hope Places can learn to deal with them in a efficient way. I’m not a big fan of Yelp though, its filters are wacky.

  15. @Andy
    One would hope that spam abatement all around but particulary at Google will improve. At the present it seems to catch as many good reviews as bad.

    Interestingly Google recently noted in the forums that in their spam abatement efforts they were effectively blocking owner responses…. how weird is that?

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