Hate fake reviews? Amazon says blame social media

Amazon has been fighting the scourge of fake reviews with takedowns and lawsuits for years, but they remain rife across the platform. One might imagine the fault lies with Amazon itself, yet it says social media companies are just as much to blame.

Amazon writes that it has 300 million active customers and over 1.9 million selling partners worldwide, which means there are lots of reviews on the site, many of which are fake; the retailer removed more than 200 million of them last year before they were seen by users.

A large number of these fake reviews come from companies that claim to have thousands of reviewers at their disposal. The firms sell positive reviews to unscrupulous product makers, often with guarantees of being able to secure an item the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” seal of approval.

Amazon says these organizations use social media to solicit fake reviews, but platforms such as Facebook, which wasn’t named in the blog post, are slow to act when warned about the activity. Amazon is using techniques that include machine learning to try and identify connected entities, though it remains a difficult task.

“In the first three months of 2020, we reported more than 300 groups to social media companies, who then took a median time of 45 days to shut down those groups from using their service to perpetrate abuse,” Amazon said. “In the first three months of 2021 we reported more than 1,000 such groups, with social media services taking a median time of five days to take them down.”

“While we appreciate that some social media companies have become much faster at responding, to address this problem at scale it is imperative for social media companies to invest adequately in proactive controls to detect and enforce fake reviews ahead of our reporting the issue to them.”

Amazon notes that it also holds bad actors and the service providers that provide the reviews accountable. It has previously launched lawsuits against those who purchased reviews and the service providers, including this case from 2015. However, the company says it needs coordinated assistance from consumer protection regulators around the world.