False reviews on the internet, a still flourishing business

Fake reviews photo

Consumer reviews are increasingly influencing purchasing decisions and weighing on the image of a business. Hence the “fake review” business, which does not seem to be going to end anytime soon.

Nine months in prison and 8,000 euros in damages for having written false consumer reviews on TripAdvisor: this case dates back to 2015, but the severe sentence imposed on an Italian last September is a first. It reflects the war waged for 5 years, all over the world, against “fake reviews”.

Fictitious evaluations, which help boost your digital credibility, are the subject of real business. If platforms like Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Yelp and Google My business have in recent years strengthened their moderation systems thanks to very active dedicated teams and “fake” detection algorithms, many agencies and many sites still offer to buy fake reviews.

19 euros for the false comment

Since 2015, the site “Buy-des-Avis.com” sells for example Google reviews at 19 euros per unit, and reviews “for all types of sites” – between 29 and 39 euros per unit -, so de, hold on tight, “gain credibility”. If the name of this platform means something to you, it is probably not for nothing: it is in fact a branch highly publicized in 2017, and specializes in selling fake Twitter followers and fake Facebook fans (but of course, the service in question promises that they are “real” people).

Another, more dubious site, “Achat-des-Avis-Positifs.com”, offers Google or TripAdvisor reviews for 9.99 euros each, as well as reviews on sites like Cdiscount, Airbnb, AliExpress, Amazon, PriceMinister, PixMania and La Redoute.fr. Much like the fake fans or fake followers that are easy to buy at a low price, all these fake reviews, of course illegal ones, are written by an army of little hands, “click workers” based in “farms”. clicks ”, located in the Philippines, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Colombia, and Mexico. It has also become very easy for these services, thanks to algorithms, to automate the posting of fake reviews in mass.

According to Le Monde, e-reputation agencies (in France, in particular) also promise, but in a more discreet, if not hidden, way to their customers to publish “positive content” – in parallel with the traditional management of referencing and presence on social networks.

Finally, for a short time (4 or 5 years), platforms like TripAdvisor and Google My Business have therefore been doing their best to remain credible: they therefore lead a real hunt for fake reviews, with a lot of algorithms. For its part, France has legislated since 2010 so that fraudsters risk big by resorting to a “deceptive commercial practice”: two years in prison and a fine of 37,500 euros. Tools also exist to allow Internet users to spot false reviews themselves, such as the ReviewMeta and Fakespot sites, which use algorithms and AI to analyze the reliability of reviews surrounding a product offered for sale online.

But will all this goodwill be enough to stop the fake review business? “Can laws and best practices be enough to eradicate fake consumer reviews? For that it would be necessary that the fraudsters stop having of the imagination … However, in the game of the gendarmes and the thieves, it is well known that the thieves are often one step ahead ”, writes the salesman of Cloud solutions for Diabolocom contact centers, on his blog. Because yes, TripAdvisor and Co, with their heads plunged into the war on fake reviews, tend to forget that just like Lerna Hydra, for every “click farm” neutralized, two news stories probably crop up almost at the same time.

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