Two Which? investigations have found fake reviews are still ripe on Facebook and an issue on Twitter. These platforms must take responsibility for their users’ safety.
Here at Which?, we continue to be fed up with fake reviews.
In the latest in our investigations into online platforms, we’re disappointed to have found that not only are the practices of trading free items for fake reviews continuing, assurances of a crack down on this activity by some of the tech giants don’t appear to have had an effect.
Fake review factories
Late last year, a Which? investigation uncovered 18 Facebook fake review groups with more than 200,000 members between them. These groups target Facebook users by offering free refunds for Amazon products in exchange for five-star reviews.
Within minutes of joining these groups, our investigators were offered hundreds of free Amazon items in exchange for reviews – everything from hats and gloves to headphones and webcams.
In a separate investigation, we found that fake review issues were also rife on Twitter. Using a fake Twitter profile to pose as a potential Amazon product reviewer, our investigators discovered dozens of review agents, and received requests for reviews on thousands of products and brands.
Take responsibility for user safety
It’s vital that consumers can trust the reviews they read. According to research from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), as much as £23 billion each year of consumer spending is influenced by online reviews. What’s more, trading, or facilitating the trading of, fake reviews, is a practice which is likely to be in breach of consumer law.
It is especially disappointing to see these groups continuing to exist. Some of the fake review groups our investigators found on Facebook have been operating since as far back as 2011 and 2014.
Despite repeated commitments to the CMA in January 2020 and again in April 2021 to crack down on this type of activity on its platforms, these groups still exist.
Tech giants need to take responsibility for their users safety, and live the commitments they make. Facebook must now explain why this fake review activity appears to continue, and the CMA must challenge the company to demonstrate the actions it is taking are effective.
The regulator should also consider investigating Twitter over incentivised and fake reviews.
The government too should play its part. Having previously proposed measures for tackling fake reviews as part of its consumer and competition reforms, it should bring forward legislation to address these practices as soon as possible.
Do you agree with our call? Let us know in the comments below, and sign our petition calling on tech giants to take responsibility for their users’ safety.
Watch out for fake reviews
Here are some tips for avoiding fake reviews:
⭐ Read a mix of reviews, not just the top ones.
⭐ Check the most recent ratings, not just the top reviews.
⭐ Look for patterns. If a lot of positive reviews are posted at the same time, or if they use unnatural or overly celebratory language, you should be wary.
⭐ Look for signs of incentivisation, for example users mentioning being offered a gift card in their review, or sharing a large amount of photos of a product.
Have you taken part in a fake review group? We’d like to hear your experience – feel free to share in the comments below, or if you’d rather not post publicly you can contact us via our webform.