Facebook groups are recruiting fake Amazon reviewers - here's what to watch out for

Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 9:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 10:23 am

by Rhiannon Williams

Facebook is failing to prevent the creation of groups on its platform dedicated to recruiting people to write fake reviews on Amazon products, despite being ordered to clamp down on the practice by the market regulator.

An investigation by consumer watchdog Which? uncovered dozens of groups created to hire people to write fake or incentivised reviews, where reviewers receive free products in exchange for glowing reviews.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned Facebook and eBay to crack down on what it called a "thriving marketplace for fake and misleading online reviews" hosted on the platforms in June.

With more than three quarters of UK internet users estimated to consider online reviews when choosing purchases, false reviews are leading to poorly-informed choices, it said.

'Misleading reviews'

Fake and misleading reviews are illegal under consumer protection law, as traders are required to exercise "professional diligence" towards customers.

While eBay appears to have largely eradicated listings offering five star reviews in exchange for money in the month since the warning, the number of people signed up to fake review groups on Facebook has grown sharply.

This rise in membership is likely to be down to an influx of new members joining as other review groups get closed down, with one group receiving 4,300 new members during July - a 75 per cent membership increase.

Which? witnessed 3,511 new posts generated in a single day across 10 review groups on Facebook, totalling more than 55,000 posts across a 30 day period.

A number of suggested groups recommended by Facebook's algorithm made it "unnervingly easy" to find and join other similar fake review groups (Photo: Shutterstock)

The true number of posts is likely to be higher, as Facebook caps the number of displayed posts, and the total number of groups is likely to be in the hundreds, it estimated.

A number of suggested groups recommended by Facebook's algorithm made it "unnervingly easy" to find and join other similar fake review groups, with some administrators listing alternative groups to join if the present group was removed.

“Our latest findings demonstrate that Facebook has systematically failed to take action while its platform continues to be plagued with fake review groups generating thousands of posts a day," said Natalie Hitchins, head of products and services at Which?

"It is deeply concerning that the company continues to leave customers exposed to poor quality or unsafe products boosted by misleading and disingenuous reviews."

A Facebook spokesperson said, "We don’t allow people to use Facebook to facilitate or encourage false reviews. We have removed 9 of the 10 groups Which? reported to us and are investigating the remaining group.

"We continue to improve our tools to proactively prevent this kind of abuse, including investing in technology and increasing the size of our safety and security team to 30,000."

This article originally appeared on our sister site, inews