If you use on-line review sites (and in reality, who doesn’t), there was a startling revelation recently announced by the website Yelp.
They reported that about a quarter of their reviews may be faked in attempts by companies to influence consumer opinions.
Yelp say that they have introduced automated filters to try to stop this, though admitted that this approach was not foolproof and genuine reviews may be filtered out.
Amazingly, New York authorities set up a sting operation, created a fake company and hired Search Engine optimization (SEO) companies to boost the fake company’s on-line presence. they then fined 19 companies over $350,000 (about £217,00 at time of writing) for posting fake reviews on websites such as Yelp.
This is a common tactic for SEO services, known as ‘astroturfing’ ~ Fake grass roots level reviews.
The Harvard Business School conducted a report in to the amount of fake reviews over a number of years and concluded that fake reviews to Yelp in particular had risen from just 5% in 2006 to a whopping 20% in 2013, this includes those that were filtered out already.
This does not just mean positive reviews either. The report analysed more than 310,000 reviews of 3,625 establishments and discovered that the numbers of negative reviews increased as competition increased. Obviously attempting to weaken reputations.
So next time you decide to read reviews for your next holiday, gadget or restaurant, bear in mind that someone may have been paid to write the review ~ good or bad. If it helps to discern the fakes from the genuine; fake reviews tend to be greatly positive or negative in their tone.