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article imageAmazon announces lawsuit against over 1,000 fake reviewers

By James Walker     Oct 18, 2015 in Internet
Online retailer Amazon has filed a lawsuit targeting over 1,000 people alleged to have posted fake product reviews on its website. The company says that the false reviewers can '"significantly" undermine the trust that consumers place in its listings.
The Guardian reports the lawsuit was filed in Seattle, Washington, on Friday. It is targeted at 1,114 defendants who allegedly sell fake reviews for $5 (£3.25) on the freelancing start-up website
In the past, Amazon has asked Fiverr to remove advertisements that promise to get fake reviews onto its website. Now, it is taking a more aggressive stance against the "root cause" of the issue. Whereas before it has directed legal action at the websites where the advertisements appear, it is now looking towards the people directly selling the services.
Fiverr does not dispute the allegations and is not itself involved in the lawsuit. The company said in a statement it is working with Amazon to resolve the situation and "remove services that violate our terms of use."
The BBC writes that the 1,114 defendants — all referred to as "John Doe" as Amazon has yet to establish their real identities — are being sued for writing "false, misleading and inauthentic" product reviews designed to make products sold on Amazon appear more popular than they really are. The company's investigation into the issue found fake review sellers using multiple Fiverr accounts from different IP addresses so they could work without detection. Amazon established that the sellers could successfully place the reviews onto its website by using staff members to hire some of them itself.
In its lawsuit filed with the King county superior court, the online retailer wrote: "A very small minority of sellers and manufacturers attempts to gain unfair competitive advantages by creating false, misleading and inauthentic customer reviews for their products on Amazon. While small in number, these reviews threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon, thereby tarnishing Amazon's brand."
Reviews on products sold on Amazon can be written by anybody, regardless of whether they have bought the item or not. The company's stringent terms and conditions make it clear that it is forbidden to write misleading, false or sponsored reviews but in practice it has always been possible for such actions to continue.
Amazon said the decision to bring the lawsuit was based on customer protection, writing "Amazon is bringing this action to protect its customers from this misconduct, by stopping defendants and uprooting the ecosystem in which they participate."
The case is thought to be one of the biggest legal actions to date in which the aim is to uncover intent to artificially manipulate and falsify online product ratings. In the future, Amazon is looking to decrease the impact that fake reviewers can have on listings by introducing a new "intelligent" reviews system powered by machine learning.
First announced back in June as a trial confined to the U.S, all reviews will be passed through a weighting system that will prioritise newer, more useful reviews written by verified customers and give those authors more impact in the overall star rating. It is thought that this will eventually help to keep fake reviews hidden at the bottom of the page with a negligible impact on the star rating.
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